With Clover, you can process payments, do inventory and payroll and gauge customer experience. Here’s what you need to know to decide if Clover’s products can help your business.
Running your own business is a lot like riding a roller coaster – sometimes thrilling, sometimes exhilarating and sometimes downright scary.
Even mundane decisions, like selecting a point-of-sale (POS) system, can have long-range consequences. Adding to the confusion: the same system can come with a different price tag depending on where you obtain it.
If you’re considering Clover’s adaptable POS system, here’s a little information to get you started:
A guide to Clover
What is Clover?
Clover is a cloud-based POS system that pairs with an app store to allow business owners to tailor the system to their needs.
The idea was born out of a realization that POS systems had the ability to incorporate app technology, but most weren’t using this technology, says Mark C. Schulze, co-founder of Clover and a vice president at Fiserv, the financial technology corporation that acquired Clover in 2019.The goal was to create a system that business owners could change and adapt as their businesses grew.
Similar to how consumers download apps every day to personalize their phones, entrepreneurs can select, download and install more than 450 Clover apps to customize the POS systems that serve their businesses, Schulze says.
While many of the apps in the Clover app market aren’t developed by the company itself, it tests them rigorously, does background checks on the developers, and registers the apps before they’re offered in the Clover app store, he says.
Who uses Clover?
While the makers started offering it for retail and restaurants, it’s also become popular with in-office professionals (like doctors and dentists), as well as professional services that require off-sight appointments (like air conditioning repair and lawn care), Schulze says.
“Our focus is on the small and medium-sized business,” he says, adding that the system works best for businesses with 10 or fewer locations.
One offering – the Clover Go – is aimed at microbusinesses.
How does Clover work?
Using the devices, which range from free-standing systems with a cash drawer to tablets to mini mobile card readers that can be used remotely with mobile phones or tablets, business owners can configure a mix-and-match network of devices to meet the needs of their particular business.
They can customize the POS system with software from Clover’s app store. Apps can address everything from special pricing for certain times or days (happy hour, weekend brunch), to hiring and job posting, inventory, payroll, cash management, rewards programs and gauging customer experiences.
Clover builds its own devices and uses the Android platform. But the hardware works only with other Clover hardware – business owners can’t mix and match pieces from other makers or systems.
The one exception: If business owners or managers want to keep an eye on the business remotely, there’s an app (available for iOS or Android), to allow them to work or monitor the system from their own computer or laptop.
Clover also offers 24/7 customer support for all Clover users. The company even schedules a phone appointment to talk business owners through the unboxing and installation process.
See related: How to prevent chargebacks
How much does Clover cost?
This is where Clover gets complicated. The short answer: it can vary.
Getting a POS system is kind of like buying a car. You can pick a particular make and model, but prices can differ depending on where you buy it, how you finance it and what extras the seller includes.
Here’s the price breakdown on Clover’s devices:
- Clover Station: This is a free-standing register that typically costs $1,349 to $1,500, depending on the exact model, seller and built-in features (like a cash drawer or receipt printer).
- Clover Mini: This is a smaller POS terminal that can be customer-facing. It averages $749.
- Clover Flex: This handheld card reader typically costs around $499.
- Clover Go: This is a palm-sized gadget that can be used with a mobile phone or tablet to accept payments anywhere. It integrates with the Clover system and commonly costs around $69.
Devices also carry monthly subscription costs for use of the Clover system software, says Schulze. Those vary with the provider and plan.
You can buy a Clover POS system from Clover itself. Or you can buy it from various merchant service providers or banks – including Bank of America, PNC and Wells Fargo.
Banks and merchant service providers might also give business owners the option of leasing the equipment, which can make a difference in the price – both now and over time. Some providers will require a contract or monthly fees, which vary.
“They all have the ability to price it how they want,” says Schulze. “In some cases there can be a difference in how people bundle and package it.”
See related: Best business credit cards for startups
There will also be payment processing fees, and those also vary by provider.
Another possible add-on: While some of the apps in the Clover store are free, others may come with charges or fees.
As with any digital system, you’ll also need a data plan – Ethernet, private Wi-Fi (with a password) or 3G – for the system to function.
There are various vendors, service providers and pricing plans, and business owners have the ability to configure a mix-and-match selection of devices and apps. It’s smart to get exact price quotes before making a decision, both for the one-time equipment expenses and any ongoing monthly service costs.
Those numbers can also be a nice bargaining chip to shop for the best deal, says Matt Mandell, principal with GAM Payments, a payment solutions firm that includes Clover among its vendors. “Shop around. Getting more than one bid is important. You don’t get one quote from a plumber, you get several. This is the plumbing of your business.”
What security measures does Clover offer?
The system encrypts and tokenizes customer credit card numbers, so they’re not stored in the system or the cloud, says Schulze.
Users must use two-factor authentication for certain tasks and business owners can set two-factor authentication as the system default, says Schulze. In addition, the Clover will only connect to a private network or Wi-Fi system.
If your Internet goes down, Clover can continue to process payments offline. A wireless manager app also lets business owners add backup internet services for $15 per month.
What questions should I ask a potential Clover vendor?
Before you start to look for a POS system, make sure you know what your business needs. Do you just need a cash register? Or will you also be using the product for inventory, tracking sales or gathering information on customers?
The more you pinpoint your needs, the better you can find a system that meets them, advises Larry Garvin, law professor at Ohio State University, focusing on small business and entrepreneurial finance.
Since you can get Clover products and services through a number of different vendors, make sure you know who to call if you have customer service questions about hardware, software, payment processing and merchant services – before you choose a vendor. The answer to that question can help you narrow down your options if one vendor’s customer service track record is less than ideal.
Also ask for references, says Garvin. And find out who might be using Clover near you. There’s nothing like seeing a system or device in action, talking with users and asking questions, he says.
Talk to business owners who’ve used the system, the devices and the apps you want to use. Did it meet or exceed their expectations? What were the ongoing or monthly costs, and how did that compare to what they expected? Are they happy with customer service and the attention they get if something goes awry?
Clover devices work exclusively with Clover equipment. So make sure you know who you need to contact if you have a problem with hardware or software and how long it will take to get a replacement.
“How quickly do they get you replacements, and what do you do in the meantime?” Garvin advises asking. “You always need to have a Plan B.”
Once you find the answer to these questions, make sure your vendor will put them in writing. Choosing any POS system to become the financial backbone of your business isn’t something you’ll do on a whim, says Garvin. “It takes some serious investigation.”