Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Cloud - How to Do SaaS Right

Cloud POS challenges proprietary system vendors

Cloud point of sale system developer Vend won't comment on rumoured IPO plans but CEO Vaughan Rowsell happily gives a Cloud POS primer.

The Cloud is disrupting all kinds of technology markets and the ubiquitous cash register is not immune. Cloud-based POS developer Vend now claims over 8,000 outlets use the company's software (see Kukri sport case study ).

ZDNet talks with CEO and founder Vaughan Rowsell.

ZDNet: What is Cloud POS?

Rowsell: Cloud point-of-sale is the software a bricks and mortar retail store uses to run their business. Typically POS refers to the front counter checkout, where you pay for your goods, and the POS is used to ring up the items and make payment.

Vaughan Rowsell

These days a cloud POS is also all the backoffice tools used to manage inventory, products, customers, reporting, ordering and so on.

Traditionally POS has been offline software. An application that is installed on a PC in the store, and it is not connected to the internet. A Cloud POS like Vend is all online, so you are using an App on a tablet or a web browser to use the software.

Why use it?

The benefits of using a cloud based POS are many. Ease of setup and use is a big one. Because it is all internet based, it means you can sign up, setup and manage your setup yourself. You can usually get up and running in a few hours, if not quicker.

Secondly, they are far more cost effective than traditional POS. Usually for a monthly subscription between $20 and $100 you can run your entire store, integrate your ecommerce store, manage full stock control, customer loyalty and so on. To have all this functionality on older style offline POS you would need to pay tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Lastly it is because of the integrations that are possible with your Cloud POS. Being fully online means it is a sinch to integrate your store inventory with your online ecommerce stores. You can automatically feed all your sales numbers into your online accounting application. You can plug in additional reporting applications. It is all online and really easy to connect.

How does it work?

Cloud POS works in the same way as internet banking. All the data is kept on servers in the cloud, and you sign in securely from your computer or tablet, and access your data. When you make new transactions in your POS app on your computer, these are all synchronised with your online server. This way you don't need to have your own servers in store, and you also don't need to remember to back up all your data. Your cloud provider will do this for you.

When you need to setup a new device as a POS, perhaps it is the Christmas rush and you need more checkouts, then you just sign into your online account from the new device and you are up and running in seconds. 

How disruptive is this to traditional PoS?

Cloud POS is very disruptive, as from a cost and functionality point of view the old school vendors can't compete. It also makes it relatively self serve too, so a retail store owner can set themselves up. You can literally walk down the road and buy an iPad, then setup your cloud POS like Vend on it, and you are in business.

Who are the major players?

There are only a few players in this space at the moment. You are seeing a lot of Internet and payment companies like Square, PayPal, Groupon with their own POS solutions now, but these are very lightweight and more focussed on taking credit card payments and lack inventory, loyalty or reporting.

Vend is one of the pioneers in this space, being the first on tablets even before the iPad was first released. Most of the new players are relatively small and just focus on local markets.

What do you need and how much will it cost?

To move to a cloud POS, it can cost you nothing. If you have an existing touch screen, PC, Laptop or iPad then you can sign up for a free XS Vend account. If you need to start out from scratch, then it's as simple as buying an iPad or an iPad mini from your local electronics store.

Then as you grow, you can upgrade your Vend account to a paid plan, depending on how big your store gets. If you have barcode scanners and receipt printers also, then these will most likely work with Vend too, so no need to buy new gear.

Any comment on rumours Vend will seek an IPO soon?

No comment, no. We are heads down growing the business like crazy at the moment. We are constantly assessing our options for faster growth, but no plans just yet.