Let’s get right into things. Today we’re looking at Shopventory vs. Square for Retail. Why? Because if you need more inventory support than the basic Square Point of Sale app offers, they are your two best bets. Square (see our review) has been a pivotal force in the mPOS space since its beginning, but lately it has also been edging into the tablet POS market with an ever-growing number of features. Shopventory is newer, but it’s carved a niche out for itself as a supplement to not just Square, but also PayPal Here, Clover, and now even Shopify.
While Square dominates the mobile space as far as features, it lags behind tablet-based systems, particularly in terms of inventory. But now there’s Square for Retail. If you need more comprehensive inventory features, you’ll get them with an upgrade to Retail.
Shopventory is a monthly service that integrates with your Square account. While Square for Retail is a full-fledged POS, Shopventory is strictly an inventory-focused add-on for Square for Point of Sale. It replaces most of the in-app inventory management with its own web browser but it does keep the inventory lists automatically synced and generates reports.
A really quick disclaimer before we get onto the comparison: We’re not looking at the full Square for Retail app here (which I’ll also refer to as just “Retail” or “the Retail app”). We’re just focusing on how its inventory management tools stack up against Shopventory’s. It’s important to consider whether the cost of either service justifies its use. Retail offers many of the same features as Shopventory, but also includes employee management. However, it could be a more costly service given that the subscription is monthly per register. Shopventory offers monthly inventory management for three locations for less than the cost of one Square for Retail register subscription.
You don’t get everything that the standard Point of Sale app offers either, such as offline mode. In fact, the Retail app is more of a pared-down version of the POS app, but with more beefed up inventory and reporting. That’s not to say Shopventory offers all the inventory tools you could ever need, either. But it certainly seems to have the upper hand in terms of capabilities and pricing.
I think for the most part that either of this will do well. Although they might not be perfect, they’re both capable. But in the end, Shopventory has more features and more competitive pricing. I would test it out before upgrading to Square for Retail.
For more information, I encourage you to check out our full Shopventory and Square for Retail reviews. Otherwise, read on for our Shopventory vs. Square for Retail comparison and see how they stack up in the great battle for inventory management!
Features & Services
Both of these services offer enough that they merit full reviews in their own right. Our comprehensive reviews of Square and Shopventory explore the advantages and limitations of each. For simplicity’s sake, I am going to focus on three core aspects of inventory management and see how they stack up: inventory tracking, reporting, and purchase order/vendor management.
With both Shopventory and Square for Retail, merchants get the ability to count inventory and have each sale deducted from total stock numbers. Both offer location management as well. You’ll be working with Square’s standard item listings, which means you can include all of the following: product name, photo, SKU/barcode, item description, and item variants with the option to set different price points.
Shopventory Inventory Tools
Shopventory works by syncing with Square. It pushes its inventory data (item prices, bundles, etc.) into the POS app and pulls sales data from Square into its own dashboard reports and updates the inventory counts in real time. Once you get inventory set up, you manage everything inventory-related through Shopventory, NOT Square. It might take some merchants a while to get used to that, especially if they’re used to relying on the Dashboard.
Shopventory’s pricing plan, which I’ll cover in the next section, focuses on the number of locations you use, not the number of registers or products. And setting up multiple locations is actually very easy. When you log into Shopventory, the dashboard asks you to create a location and then add an integration (that is, link to your POS). It works a little bit differently for each software, but here’s what you need to know for Square.
If you have separate Square logins for each location, that’s fine and you can connect each Square account to each location. However, if you take advantage of Square’s free location management instead, Shopventory will ask you to select a location from your list of Square locations after you connect the POS. (That means you should set up your locations in Square before you setup Shopventory.) If you’re using employee management and device codes to run multiple registers, it doesn’t matter. Shopventory tracks everything at the location level.
After you’ve created your locations and linked your POS systems, Shopventory will ask you to enable two major settings: “sync items and variants” and “sync item quantities.” This will establish the connection and effectively make Shopventory your primary inventory service.
Once you’ve set up Shopventory, you’ll continue to use Square POS as usual. Just make sure that you log into Shopventory to pull inventory and sales reports. This is especially important if you’re using the Shopventory-specific inventory features like bundles. Everything is synced in real time so you can log in and check whenever.
Here’s a quick run-down of Shopventory’s features:
- Bundles: Square doesn’t support bundling, but this feature allows you to track raw ingredients, deduct gift basket items from main inventory stock and even keep track of goods sold at wholesale versus retail. It also allows for tracking of items by partial quantities (yards of fabric or goods sold by the pound, etc.) The bundling feature even includes bundle variants. None of this is currently supported by Square for Retail.
- Low-Stock Alerts: You can set a custom threshold for each item, so you know when it’s time to reorder something.
- Automatic Restocks On Refunds: You’ll have to enable this feature, as it isn’t turned on by default. It also doesn’t work on partial refunds in Square.
- Multi-User Access: Shopventory also allows you to create multiple accounts with different permissions. Enable your managers and staff to better manage store inventory while ensuring accountability.
- Inventory Transfers Between Locations: Is one location out of a product while another has too much of it? Use the Shopventory dashboard to keep track of internal transfers of merchandise.
- Inventory History: Shopventory keeps a log of your inventory history, including when counts go up or down. When you manually adjust stock counts you can add a note to indicate why (theft, damaged goods, etc.). We’ll get a little bit more into some related features when we talk about reporting.
- Inventory Reconciliation Tools: If you’re a bit old-fashioned, Shopventory does offer an easy downloadable reconciliation sheet for inventory. Just the basic details that you need, not a lot of extra information, which you can download via printable PDF or spreadsheet. However, Shopventory has also introduced a barcode scanner mobile app for inventory reconciliations. Each Shopventory user can download the app and scan and update inventory counts through the app, and Shopventory will keep a record of when and who was responsible. This is actually a pretty awesome tool.
- Barcode And Label Printing: Shopventory lets you chose from a Dymo or Brother label printer, as well as computer printing on Avery label sheets.
Square For Retail Inventory Tools
Square for Retail works pretty similarly to Square Point of Sale. Everything is controlled from the Square Dashboard or the app, though the dashboard gives you the most functionality. Even though the app (or at least parts of it) will look very different from the free version, your dashboard should look pretty much the same and the data entry process will be the same.
If you have a lot of inventory (and if you’re looking at this article, you probably are), the odds are good you don’t want to create each inventory item one by one. That’s where Square’s Bulk Upload feature comes in. You can download the spreadsheet template, populate it with your inventory, and upload your item library all at once. Likewise, you can also export your library to a spreadsheet if you need that data elsewhere.
Your item descriptions are nearly identical to the standard Square offering. Even though Square for Retail doesn’t display photos in the app, you can upload them for viewing the back end. Check out Square’s how-to video for creating items manually.
Technically, Square for Retail gives you access to the Inventory Plus features, but these are really (mostly) reporting tools or PO/Vendor management. So some of these features are actually just Square’s inventory features.
- Low-Stock Alerts: You can set a custom threshold for each item so you know when it’s time to re-order something. (This is a standard Square feature.)
- Employee Management: Square includes employee management at no additional charge with a Square for Retail subscription. So if you have a lot of employees this could end up being a good deal for you. You can set different user permissions, track time, and more.
- Inventory Transfers Between Locations:Â Square initially required you to manually add or subtract inventory at different locations to record transfers, but that’s no longer the case with the Retail app. Now you can record merchandise transfers in the app.
- Inventory History: Another feature that wasn’t present at Square for Retail’s launch, inventory history will show you all your sales, transfers, received shipments, etc. to show why your inventory count is what it is.
- Barcode And Label Printing: Like Shopventory, you can choose to use one of two select label printers (A Dymo or a Zebra) or print from a computer onto standard Avery labels.
- Vendor Library: All items associated with a particular vendor (as well as their prices) are stored in each vendor’s data file.
Note the lack of bundling features hereÂ and all that this entails: no bundles, no raw ingredient tracking, no partial ingredient tracking. This is one of the biggest limitations to Square’s inventory.
However,Â Square also doesn’t offer any sort of inventory reconciliation. You could download your inventory for export and modify the spreadsheet, but it’ll take a bit of work on your end to make that happen.
But that’s just for inventory management. We’ve still got to talk about reporting and purchase orders/vendor management.
First of all, Square’s reporting tools, overall, are pretty robust. (Check out the list of reports.)Â Shopventory’s reports exist mostly as an extension of Square’s, not a replacement for them. This makes sense given that Shopventory is an extension of Square, not a standalone app.Â In addition to some identical reports, Shopventory offers several reports thatÂ Square doesn’t — and a couple that Square for Retail doesn’t, either.
Square’s inventory reports are somewhat lacking. Specifically, something that merchants have been clamoring for is cost of goods sold (COGS) reporting. Square for Retail finally offers this feature, but thus far it hasn’t impressed. Editing the item costs isn’t easy to begin with, and the information isn’t available at key points in the Retail app experience. And all of that’s left merchants understandably upset. However, you can also keep a record of additional costs associated with a purchase (such as shipping or handling fees) that are added to your COGS tracking. That’s helpful.
In addition to COGS reporting, Square for Retail introduces a profitability report and an inventory by category report that listsÂ the value of the items, projected profit, and profit margins in each category. This last report is more a combination of several other reports, but it’s nice to see.
On the other hand, Shopventory’s COGS reporting is a bit more advanced. Accessing pricing information seems a bit easier than with Square for Retail. Shopventory also tracks lot costs in addition to default costs. For advanced users, Shopventory has a cost averaging feature.Â You can even back-fill lot costs using the default cost feature.
But apart from cost and profitability reporting, there’s another feature I like that Shopventory offers: a dead inventory report. You can print off a list of every item that hasn’t sold recently, and specify just how “recently” you want — whether it’s a week, a month, six months, etc. This is pretty handy because “slow” for one business isn’t slow for another.
It’s hard to ignore the fact that Shopventory outclasses Square for Retail in terms of reporting — it offers everything that Retail does, plus more. I’ve found that Shopventory and Square dashboards are both fairly intuitive and easy to use, so they’re evenly matched in that regard.
Purchase Order & Vendor Management
Since the upgrades to inventory and reporting tools are relatively small in Square for Retail, it’s nice to see that the additions in this category are actually pretty big game-changers. With the Retail app, it’s now possible to create purchase orders from within the Square dashboard and send them via email. You can also receive inventory from within the Square for Retail app.
If I’m being honest, Square for Retail and Shopventory are well matched in this category. There are a few differences — for one, with Shopventory you can only receive inventory through the web dashboard, not the app. But I think that, overall, their feature sets are pretty similar.
Square PO & Vendor Management
While you’ll need to use the Square dashboard to create purchase orders, you can receive stock from a PO directly in the Square for Retail app, which is nice. With Shopventory, everything has to be done from the dashboard, which is a major trade-off. However, it shouldn’t be a dealbreaker.
A few other features from Square that I like: You can create a new vendor listing from within a purchase order, whereas with Shopventory you must have all of your vendors already entered. You can also edit and cancel purchase orders as needed, and Square keeps an archived file.
I mentioned previously that Square does have an item library associated with a vendor, but I don’t think it’s the most effective display. When you add an item to the PO it is added to the vendor’s item library, but you can’t browse the item library while creating a PO. Instead, you need to search for the items you want in a drop-down menu. I know that some merchants have been frustrated that Square can’t auto-populate a PO using low inventory items. Others are also frustrated that they can’t see how many of an item are in stock. Instead, these merchants wind up flipping between tabs or screens to formulate a list of what is needed.
Shopventory PO & Vendor Management
Shopventory has a handle of the same shortcomings that Square for Retail does in this regard. Namely, you can’t auto-populate a PO based on low inventory, and you can’t view stock levels in the PO.Â However, you can clearly browse every item associated with a vendor and select which ones you want to add to it. This kind of display seems kind of obvious, and it should be, but it’s not.
This might be the one area where I think Square has a modest upper hand. For one, Shopventory lacks the ability to edit POs or archive them to clear them out of your way while preserving the information. (The company says it’s working on this last bit.) But you can save as a draft, just like you can in Square. So if you’re not sure or you’re not ready, you don’t have to send the purchase order out into the world. With Shopventory, you also need to create your entries for vendors before you start the PO.
Square for Retail’s pricing is very simple: $60/month per register. No tiered packages, no add-ons, no extra fees for priority phone support.
That’s fairly competitive for an iPad-based POS system. But as we noted in our full review, Square for Retail actually removes several of the features available in the standard (and free) Point of Sale app. It’ll be up to you to decide whether the new interface and new inventory tools justify the cost.
Thinking more broadly, you’ll also need as many iPads as you have registers ($350+) and likely a Square Stand with a reader ($169) as well as any cash drawers, printers, and bar scanners you want for each device.
However, there is one caveat: Square for Retail provides employee management for an unlimited number of employees. With the standard Square plan, that cost is $5 per employee per month. So if you have 12 employees and one register, you actually break even on costs.
Shopventory’s pricing plan is focused not on the number of devices or the number of users, or even the number of transactions. Pricing is based just on the number of locations. There’s a limited free plan that provides analytics, but the paid plans start at a very reasonable $30/month.
Here’s what you can expect:
- Starter ($29/month):Â 1 location, 1 year order history, 1 year reporting
- Standard ($59/month): 3 locations, 2 years order history, 2 years reporting
- Professional ($199/month): 10 locations, unlimited order history, unlimited reporting
- Elite ($499/month): 25 locations, unlimited order history, unlimited reporting
If you want access to purchase orders, vendor management, and the bundling features, you’ll need to get the standard plan. The starter doesn’t support these capabilities at all. In addition, the higher-tier plans throw in a few other perks (free QuickBooks syncing, otherwise $30/month; access to beta features, phone support).
Keep in mind that you still need hardware and devices to run the Square app — and an iPad is the most full-featured option. But you could use Android tablets or smartphones too. You have a lot more options and no charge for using multiple devices at the same location. So at three locations, ignoring costs of hardware, you’re already saving $120 with Shopventory. (That’s the cost of 24 employee management subscriptions, by the way.)
You can also save a bit of money if you opt to pay for Shopventory on an annual plan instead of a monthly one, which is nice. I think designing an inventory system whose pricing focuses on locations is the smart option.
While I think Shopventory’s pricing is definitely better, I can’t say definitely that it’s the better value overall. For one, Square for Retail is optimized for businesses with very large inventories. And if you’re dealing with hundreds and hundreds of items you might prefer the search-and-scan based user interface that the app offers. But if you have a small inventory, or you’re not a retail business, and still want all the management tools? If you don’t care about the UI but want some of the Square POS features like offline mode or open tickets? It’s pretty obvious that Shopventory is the better solution. What’s right for you will depend on your priorities and your budget, so check out our complete reviews of both services before you commit to anything.
Web Hosted Or Locally Installed
Both of these solutions are web-hosted, which is awesome. Yay for the cloud! Don’t forget that you’ll also get some in-app reporting capabilities if you don’t want to log into a web browser, but they aren’t inventory driven, and they’re far more limited than using the web dashboard.
Customer Service & Technical Support
Apart from a small team on the Square Seller Community (a forum for online merchants), Square for Retail doesn’t have any exclusive support channels that are separate from regular Square support. So you should expect business as usual in this regard.
Square’s been plagued by complaints of shoddy customer service pretty much since the beginning. But honestly, I think most of those complaints are rooted in Square’s tendency to freeze or terminate accounts. For most technical (not account-related) issues, Square does seem to offer more reliable support. There’s email and live phone support, as well as a very comprehensive self-service knowledgebase. And the Seller Community is honestly a great resource as well.
But I find that the amount of information and how-to’s concerning Retail specifically to be troubling. There’s not a lot. Square has tons of videos but they seem to gloss over showing how to use the Retail app. If you want to know about specific features before you sign up, you should get on the Seller forum and ask. Otherwise, the only way to find out is to test-drive Square yourself.
Not only that, but it certainly seems like the process of obtaining a code to access phone support requires more effort than some merchants are willing to put forth. I get it. I loathe automated menus that make you jump through hoops to get to a real person as much as anyone else. And I’ve heard a smattering of complaints about email support. I think Square’s support is mostly good, but occasionally something does go wrong.
If you one of the merchants who’s felt frustrated at Square’s support, you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised at the quality if Shopventory’s. Phone support is only available for higher-tiered plans, but the chat option is great and the knowledgebase is extremely helpful as well. (I know. I’ve tested both.) The chat option isn’t quite live chat because it might take a few to get someone to answer your question, but once you get one of the reps to respond, it is a live conversation. I shouldn’tÂ have to say this about any customer support, but sadly I do: IÂ like that you get to talk to a helpful person who isn’t going to shoehorn you into a script.
Shopventory isn’t quite large enough to have the kind of active forum that Square has for support, but the knowledgebase is easily as detailed as Square’s. I find the video tour is super useful as an orientation to Shopventory, despite how much I absolutely hate watching video tutorials longer than about one minute.
It’s worth noting that you’ll still have to deal with Square for payment- and account-related issues if you use Shopventory. But for inventory-related issues, you can deal with Shopventory instead.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
At this point, merchants’ biggest point of contention with Retail is that in some ways is a step back from the standard Point of Sale app. A few features are lacking in the Retail app. Plus, I’ve seen complaints that features Square promised at launch (or at least showed in screenshots) haven’t actually appeared yet.
Some of the complaints about Square for Retail we’ve seen include:
- Problems With Cost Of Goods Recording And Reporting: This is a big one and it manifests in a lot of ways. Currently, the only way to update costs is to upload a spreadsheet. The app itself doesn’t allow you to manually edit individual item costs, and Square’s current reports don’t list item costs on everything. Merchants who were expecting to finally get COGS reporting haven’t been thrilled, though Square does say it’s on their list of improvement to make, so we may see some enhancements.
- Lack Of Features: Specifically, with Retail, you lose access to Square’s offline mode and the open tickets capability. You can upload images as part of the item listing, but they don’t display in the app. Merchants have complained about their removal. I haven’t been super thrilled about how Retail feels like a step back from the Point of Sale application in terms of interface and features, either. And one big missing feature that I’ve seen a lot of chatter about is the ability to auto-populate purchase orders based on low inventory (or even the ability to see the inventory count in the same window as the PO).
There’s a lot less user chatter about Shopventory overall (which makes sense with a smaller customer base). I think users who integrate with PayPal or Clover will probably be more dissatisfied than Square users, honestly. I think some merchants will dislike the same sort of shortcomings you find in Square for Retail: missing features like the ability to view inventory levels while creating a purchase order, or the ability to edit purchase orders. Overall, the comments I see from merchants are positive.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
Square gets a lot of love overall for its payment processing. Signup is quick and easy, rates are fair and affordable, and the hardware is good and fairly priced. But the Retail app seems to be less popular overall. In theory, it fills a niche that businesses with a high quantity of inventory have been needing. I know a lot of merchants were excited at the prospect when it launched, but I haven’t seen as much talk about it since then.
I don’t see a whole lot of chatter around the web about Shopventory. The website has a couple testimonials and I’ve seen the Square Seller Community talk about it, too. The discussions I’ve seen a focus on theÂ good customer service and its fair pricing.
I’m calling it a draw here. Both options are good ones and serve their purpose, but there isn’t enough of a discussion to say which one has more positive coverage.
I can’t say definitely that Shopventory trounces Square for Retail in every regard. One is an inventory management add-on, the other is a full-fledged POS with inventory management. So I can draw apples-to-apples comparisons about some things and say that yes, Shopventory has more and better quality inventory features. Its pricing is way more competitive if your only concern is inventory tracking. It will work great as an add-on to Square Point of Sale.
But Square for Retail has a search-optimized UI and free employee management tools that might be deciding factors for some merchants. So you could potentially get a better value with Square for Retail if you have a lot of employees and want easy time tracking along with the ability to manage large inventories.
The good news is we’re looking at two companies that are both committed to adding new features all the time. So in six months or a year, we could be looking at two majorly improved products. We’ll have to see how they stack up then.
Check out our complete reviews for Shopventory and Square for Retail to get a closer look at each.Â Also, both Square for Retail and Shopventory offer free 30-day trials, so you can test drive both of them (preferably not at the same time) and see which one works better.Â Thanks for reading and good luck with your search!
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