After two years of stealthy development and a handful of private betas, Aldelo is announcing their new cloud POS, Express. But Aldelo isn’t new to the POS game.
Aldelo started its POS journey in 1999. “We originally launched with Aldelo for Restaurants (Aldelo AFR) in July of 1999,” says Harry Tu, Aldelo’s founder. Built on JET, a data compatible with Microsoft Access, it was lightweight enough to be useful for merchants of any size. As Aldelo found itself needing to compete with more mature systems, Aldelo launched XERA, its SQL-based POS in 2011.
XERA didn’t resonate as well as Aldelo AFR, however. “Of all the dealers we know, only a handful are committed to moving XERA,” explained one dealer. “Sometimes it’s hard to replicate an original. Have you seen sequels to classic blockbusters? Usually they’re flops.” Harry suggests that XERA was more complicated to set up due to its more robust platform, and that might have put off his channel.
Yet that didn’t slow Aldelo down. Harry and his team learned from XERA and iterated. In March of 2014 Aldelo launched Aldelo Touch, an iPad POS system based upon the XERA technology stack. But again, Aldelo was handed a relative whiff. “The problem the dealer channel had with Touch was the pricing model. Most dealers just couldn’t figure out how to make money off a smaller monthly price… we were just so used to upfront money that too many of us couldn’t get the math to work in our heads. Not sure if you can really blame Aldelo since the market was moving this way already, but a lot of dealers were just clueless,” admits an Aldelo dealer.
As noted by the astute Aldelo reseller, the POS markets were moving to cloud. Prices for hardware dropped precipitously, and software was being increasingly offered as a monthly subscription, complete with support, training, updates and remote access. As the coup de grace, in crept the model of “free POS”.
Pioneered by Harbortouch, “free POS” was a way for cash-poor merchants to get into a newer POS system. Instead of making an upfront payment on hardware and a monthly recurring payment on software, the POS manufacturer would double as the credit card processor and extend the merchant a loan of sorts. In assessing the risk of the merchant, the POS/payments provider would underwrite the risk of the merchant and provide the funds for a POS system whereby the principal (and interest) was paid back through the monthly processing fees. This can be done ethically, or it can be a SMOPP nightmare depending on how greedy the POS/payments vendor is.
Harry carefully watched the market’s reaction to cloud and “free POS”. He learned from his experiences with XERA and Touch, and ruminated the concept of Aldelo Express until he finally put it into development in 2016.
Aldelo Express is built with Swift 4, a native language for iOS apps. That means, at least today, Express is meant for Apple devices. “We wanted to launch on iOS first, but intend to make it available for Android,” Harry noted. When asked about other platforms, Harry said those are the only platforms with any material market share.
Like XERA and Touch, Express utilizes a blend of SQLite in the native app and a SQL and MySQL database on the cloud. Any data generated on Express is instantaneously synced to the cloud, and each system can operate offline for 14 days. Data is basically stored forever, and unlike some of the browser-only POS systems, Express will work without internet, doing things like printing to LAN devices. Additionally, Express utilized distributed computing, so if one terminal crashes in a multi-terminal location operation, the business can still function smoothly.
The product is made to support all shapes and sizes of foodservice as well as retail and service industries. There’s modifier logic for pizza (which is cumbersome to build), features for scales and weighing, and support for multi-locations. “Express’ features exceed our Aldelo Pro product,” attests Harry. That said, Aldelo Pro has traditionally played well the SMB segment of the restaurant market, finding themselves replaced when establishments grow too large. Harry attributes this to the central configuration of Aldelo, which Express is designed to tackle with cloud.
To get Express to market Aldelo is focused on its reseller channel. “We are reseller-first. We’ll use Aldelo.com to collect leads, but we shoot those over to our resellers. Preference is given to resellers who are exclusively selling Aldelo,” says Harry. “We want to help our dealers sell more product. We’ve made Express easier to install, train and support. We’ve also made the revenue share more lucrative. For example, we built Express so a new store can be onboarded in less than 10 minutes.” Aldelo will still sell product directly in markets without good reseller presence.
Express is following the SaaS herd and including free updates and 24/7 support in its monthly pricing. “Right now perpetual (one-time fee) licenses aren’t available. Everything related to Express is going to SaaS,” explains Harry. “Aldelo and XERA will continue to offer perpetual licensing, though.”
Aldelo is now offering its own “free POS” option with bundled payments. “The truth is that some merchants don’t want to put anything down. We wanted to give ourselves and our channel the opportunity to capture that business if it’s available. Otherwise those customers are just going to turn somewhere else.”
Whereas Aldelo previously offered API access for, in our opinion, a steep $995, Express will come with an open REST API. “We’ll have an app market and we want third parties to connect. We’ll make sure our dealers can make new revenue streams from the app market too, but we’re too early to know the fee structure yet. We obviously want to cover any certification costs we have but we need to make it easy for our merchants to connect with third parties,” Harry elaborated. Our observation has been that app stores might not be the best approach, and resellers will almost surely produce no volume, but it’s good to see Aldelo opening up their connections.
As of now, Express is in public beta to make sure the kinks are worked out. “We’ve actually been in beta for over a year. One of our beta sites is running 6,000 tickets per month on a single iPad, so we’re very excited with the speed,” Harry stated. When we asked Harry when the beta would end, he thought the first half of 2018.
Express is a move in the right direction for Aldelo. Cloud-first, open access, and a renewed focus on data stability are big pluses. Express is meant to replace Touch, which will be put to end of life if Express goes well. Yet we have lingering product concerns for Aldelo’s portfolio. Simply stated, it’s tough to see continued effort on older products that lose relevance in the market every month. Eventually, someone at Aldelo will notice, “Hey, our overhead is 4x what it should be. Let’s cut some of these products out.” Heartland has implicitly acknowledge these concerns, and Lighthouse will face the music too.
In the meantime, let’s hope Express will be a sequel of the Terminator 2 variety.