Posts tagged Square
Square, the mobile payment service that has been making strong inroads within the North American retail sector, has announced the availability of its service in Japan. The company is already processing $15 billion in annualized payments, and this move into Asia is expected to greatly increase the popularity and profitability of the service.
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Square, PayPal, and Groupon all made news today with the common goal of getting small businesses to junk their cash registers for Internet-connected devices that promise to bring the simple act of settling accounts into the future.
Change With Your Coffee
I work from home, but every morning I wake up, take a shower and go straight to work from my local coffee shop. About half of those days I stop at the neighborhood ATM kiosk to grab some cash. Call it quaint, call it archaic, but my local coffee shop only takes hard currency.
The coffee shop, 1369 in Cambridge’s Inman Square, is really the only reason I bother using cash at all. 1369 is a little old school, a little hipster. Cash sales were kind of its “thing.” That’s why I was surprised the other day when I ran into 1369’s owner, Josh Gerber, and he told me that the coffee shop was going digital with the Square Register.
To me, this is disruption personified. No longer are we talking about some abstract concept of how smartphones and tablets could change businesses at the local level. We are seeing it in action on a tangible scale on the street, in our neighborhoods and, yes, at our local coffee shops.
Mobile Reshapes Main Street
Leading the charge in this changing business landscape are companies like Square, PayPal, LevelUp, Intuit, Groupon, Revel and a variety of others. The task these companies have taken on is no easy challenge – each aims to redefine the point of sale and replace one of the most common items for Main Street business: the cash register.
The chosen vehicle to replace the cash register? The iPad.
Call it the iPad-ification of the point of sale or the mobilization of American’s businesses. We are now starting to see distinct results from several years of ecosystem growth and product releases intended to change the way that basic commerce is conducted.
Square is the leading disruptor. It was the company that made the original card-swiping device for the iPhone and, later, the iPad. With its Square Register software, it introduced one of the first connected point-of-sale solutions. Today, Square took that a step further by announcing the Square Stand, a full replacement for the cash register that holds an iPad, includes a built-in credit-card swiper and allows business to connect cash drawers and receipt printers. The Square Stand, due out in July, is available for pre-order for $299.
Not to be outdone, PayPal announced at the same time a new program called “Cash For Registers” where it will buy old registers from businesses that wish to install PayPal Here, its own iPad-oriented point-of-sale system—and it’s waiving payment-processing fees for the rest of the year.
Groupon also unveiled a new iPad-friendly version of its Breadcrumb point-of-sale software today.
Already, Revel Systems uses the iPad and Intuit can install any variety of smartphones or tablets into an effective register replacement.
Conceptual To Implementation
Four factors are driving the implementation of iPad point-of-sale systems in small and medium-sized businesses:
- Install cost: It is often cheaper to buy an iPad and a couple of accessories that it is to go through a major point-of-sale vendor like Aloha or Micros, whose devices can cost thousands of dollars apiece.
- Interchange: The classic credit-card readers often have a variety of hidden costs for the business. They take a few percentage points of the total sale and often have a monthly fee or minimum that must be reached by the merchant, driving up their take to an effective rate of 3 to 5 percent for many merchants. Square charges interchange of 2.75% with no hidden fees on swiped transactions. A company like LevelUp does not charge interchange, but rather makes money as a marketing and advertising platform, offering incentives to users.
- Mobile acceptance: A couple of years ago (even last year, when we first noticed the iPad point-of-sale trend), smartphone and tablet adoption were still in relative infancy. That has changed in a big way extraordinarily quickly. In just a few years, smartphones are now the norm. Second and third wave mainstream consumer adopters are now looking at them not as some weird fad but as practical tools for solving problems.
- Ease of use: Anyone can hit a few buttons on an iPad and swipe a credit card. Proprietary register systems pose a training nightmare.
Square’s new Stand product promises to be more durable than the older plug-in card swiper. Square merchants like Blue Bottle were known to stock multiple replacement swipers in case one went bad—but no one wants to fiddle with hardware while customers are waiting.
PayPal is taking a less prescriptive approach than Square’s integrated hardware and software, but it too is pushing iPad-based solutions. It rolled out an iPad version of PayPal Here in March, with one nice feature from its parent company, eBay: Merchants can scan barcoded inventory for easy input into the register’s list of items for sale.
“The reason the iPad is such a great device is it’s touchscreen; you can integrate it with devices like receipt printers; it’s relatively affordable,” says PayPal president David Marcus. “It’s the ideal device.”
Marcus says PayPal’s seen many merchants upgrade from the smartphone version to the iPad version.
“We just want to accelerate the inevitable,” Marcus says of PayPal’s move to offer free payment processing to merchants who take it up on the register turn-in offer. The cash register “is a dumb device,” he says, that doesn’t handle features like loyalty tracking or remote ordering.
At 1369, Gerber knew that he would eventually need to go digital, at least to the bare minimum of accepting credit cards. Yet, the average check at 1369 (or really any other coffee shop) is in the $4-$5 range. When you are processing a lot of small transactions, that interchange rate becomes painful. That is why it is good for businesses when payment processors battle on interchange and lower rates for everybody.
We are now in a phase in the Mobile Revolution where we are seeing concepts become reality. This is not just some startup CEO saying, “I am going to change the world” or a huge gadget manufacturer telling us that this is the next big thing. These are real implementations we can see, feel and touch, in our neighborhoods and at our coffee shops.
Photo via 1369 Coffee House
Owen Thomas contributed reporting to this story.
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Square updated its “pay by saying your name” app Card Case, simply renaming it Pay With Square. What’s more interesting is the photo feature: If a customer turns on the auto-open tab, which shows location, merchants will be able to see how close the customer is before they even step into the store. Pay With Square is also expanding its geofencing capabilities, making it available for Android in addition to the iPhone.
Walk into the store, and your photo will pop up. The merchant can easily identify you. Walk up to the cashier, place your order. Place your order, and just put it on your Square account. You don’t even have to touch your phone. This is the “magic” of Square. But is it going to work against us in the long-term?
The “magic” of Square and mobile payments rests on the ability to make the consumer feel like they’re not even spending money. What Square has not removed with this latest update, however, is the final consumer-business interaction: An opportunity for a consumer to interact with the cashier.
Pay With Square makes it easy to learn everything about the business you are going to before even stepping inside the door. Peruse the business’s offerings under the Items tab, send a message to someone asking if they’d like to join you. Tweet the business out to friends, see what people on Twitter are saying about the business, mail a link about the business to someone, or add it to a list of favorite places. Square also records your visits to the store. If you’d rather just go old-fashioned, go to “More Info” and hit the call button. And this is all without saying a word to the cashier, who may be the only interaction in this entire ordeal.
In Anat Rafaeli’s paper When Cashiers Meet Customers: An Analysis of the Role of Supermarket Cashiers, he investigates the influence of customers over cashiers. What he discovered is, moreso than management, customers had “immediate influence over cashiers at the time of job performance.”
Furthermore, the analysis discovered that both cashier and customer had a different view on who had an implicit right to control the service encounters. Cashiers did what they could to maintain control in the encounters. The customer may be paying for the merchandise, but it’s important to note that the cashier does not get a cut of whatever is sold. The customer is not directly paying the cashier’s salary. Pay With Square aims to give the customer back that sense of “control” back to the customer.
Sometimes interactions with cashiers are indeed quite difficult. It’s more likely that one rude or absent-minded employee will bother a customer more than slow service or honest mistakes.
“A single employee may tint a customer’s image of a service enterprise,” writes Rafaelli. “Indeed, research has documented that service employees can be important to promoting organizational goals.”
Pay With Square seeks to eliminate the possibly damaging interaction between customer and cashier, that very interaction which, ironically, can make or break whether or not the person returns. But in a world of increasingly less person-to-person interactions and more Internet-mediated posts and status updates, the opportunity to eliminate what might be a cherished, ritual-like interaction of cashier and consumer could not only be detrimental to businesses’ image, it signifies the loss of that microcosm of an interaction that could actually make someone’s day.
Obviously, the Square marketing video makes Pay With Square feel attractive, pushing the idea that it might actually become a full-fledged reality outside of San Francisco and New York. Even if this does happen, let’s hope that the art of common courtesy won’t be lost.
Image via Shutterstock.
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“We’re always looking to get as close to one touch donations as we can,” Romney Campaign’s Digital Director Zac Moffat told the LATimes.
Politico reports that both the Romney and Obama campaigns have started using Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey’s “magical” dongle, Square. Of course, you can’t pay by saying your name as you now can at select merchants – but Square still makes campaign donations much faster and easier. Staff, field organizers and campaign volunteers hook up Square to their mobile phones and accept campaign donations on the spot.
The Obama campaign personnel will be able to use either iPhones or Androids; Politico reports that staff at all levels will have access to Square card readers. The Romney campaign isn’t moving as quickly, rolling out Square in Florida only – just in time for tonight’s primary. The campaign as plans to start using Square nationally at some point in the future.
Barack Obama has been leading the way on social media, giving the most interactive State of the Union address ever on Jan 24. It featured a Twitter hashtag and a streaming of the entire speech on WhiteHouse.gov/SOTU. The White House also hosted a Google+ Hangout on Jan 30, which our own Jon Mitchell attended and blogged about. Sure, it might have been fun to hangout with the prize, but unless you were one of the five Americans who actually hung out with him live, Mitchell reports that the experience felt just like television. Barack first launched as a Google+ brand – not a profile- late last year. Not long ago, Barack joined Instagram.
Yes, it’s pretty awesome that the Obama campaign is using Square, the oh-so-popular mobile photo app Instagram, and the Google+ hangout feature. But we are at a point now where social media tools and mobile payments are hardly a novelty – instead, they are accepted and necessary modes of communication. Will Square help raise more funds for Obama and Romney? Or is it just another payment option for the few?
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Mobile credit card transaction platform Square is coming to the nation’s largest retailer. Square has struck a deal with Wal-Mart that will bring the dongle into retail stores across the country. The move is huge for Square but seems antithetical to its core business model, which is to bring mobile credit card readers to the masses.
Bloomberg Business Week first reported the story. Outside of saying that Square will now be located in 9,000 retail stores nationwide, Bloomberg does not say exactly what the use case inside of Wal-Mart stores will be. There are a variety of possibilities.
Ever been in an Apple store and made a purchase directly with the sales rep that you were working with, as opposed to going to pay at a register? Imagine that in the middle of a Wal-Mart store. Say you are shopping for clothes, or shoes or … Wal-Mart sells everything. You just want to make a quick purchase and head out of the store. In theory, Wal-Mart could arm all of the floor representatives with Square dongles and have customers in and out. It may even help alleviate long lines at the checkout.
It is also imaginable that Wal-Mart could set up in-store payment kiosks away from the registers with the Square Register. It could just be a little booth in every department of a Wal-Mart that would be designed to handle payments for a couple of items.
It would be doubtful that Wal-Mart would go to 100% Square, especially at its existing register system. One would think that it would be cost prohibitive to rip out its entire point-of-sale system and replace it with iPads and Square Registers.
Square Card Case Deal?
One of the biggest benefits for Square could be to get Wal-Mart to leverage its existing Card Case program that allows for simple payments and transaction information between the customer, the retailer and the payments platform. The Square Card Case was unveiled in May and initially only rolled out to five cities and 50 retail partners.
Square posits the Card Case as an Amazon-style “one-click buying” method, except in the real-world as opposed to digital payments. Users that download the app can set up a “card” from a retailer and see what is happening with the retailer, from new deals to changes in the menu. Wal-Mart could institute the Card Case in a variety of ways, from the national level for what is happening with all Wal-Mart retail stores, to dedicating local managers to updating the card case for each individual store.
The best use case for Square has always been the notion of bringing credit card readers to small and medium business. We often think farmers markets or taxis when we think of Square’s growth potential. Square’s COO Keith Rabois said in the Bloomberg article that will continue to be the case. In terms of that goal, the Wal-Mart adoption may have the affect of a giant marketing campaign. The greatest benefit to Square from Wal-Mart may not be actual transaction revenue, but helping to speed up the awareness and adoption of the platform.
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Now that Libya’s Internet is returning, even as that country’s rebel forces firm up their possession of its capital, Tripoli, someone has made one small, but elegant gesture, they’ve renamed a square.
More accurately, they have reversed the name. Renamed “Green Square” by Libyan dictator Moamar Qaddafi, it now shows up on Google Maps under its old name, Martyr’s Square.
Martyr’s Square was the name of the square in Tripoli before Gaddafi regime renamed it. Google says the name change was made by a user late Sunday night, as rebel forces took over the city. It was approved by Google, meaning it was visible to the public, shortly thereafter.
Google says the square’s name has been re-labeled Martyr’s Square, though map users can continue to search using either name to find the location.
Google uses a broad range of sources to keep its maps up to date. This includes public and commercial data providers as well as user contributions.
A user made the change late on Sunday, just as rebel forces rolled into Tripoli. You can search for the square under either name but on the map the square is labeled with its original name.
Names are important. They inspire. They amplify ideals. It’s a little change, but it’s big.
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Keeping up with every tech headline is hard enough for anybody, let alone busy professionals. To help, ReadWriteBiz rounds up the week’s most important tech news and insights for small- and medium-sized businesses.
Facebook has begun to roll out some of the features available with Facebook Places for owners of Pages, according to a post on Inside Facebook. Some business Pages that have a physical address listed are being given the ability to offer deals to customers and let them check-in to the location, just as business owners can with Facbeook Places set up.
Need to take notes at an important meeting but don’t want to fiddle with paper and a pen? Minutes.io is a new and very simple Web app designed for exactly this purpose. It works on desktops as well iPads and other tablets, making it an ideal solution for taking notes at meetings, assuming you can keep up with the conversation while simultaneously typing on that touch screen keyboard.
Speaking of using the iPad for business purposes, ReadWriteWeb’s own Klint Finley rounded up a couple new tools in his weekly iPad For Business Round-up. This week, he looked at two office suite apps, a patient registration app for doctors a new report on enterprise adoption of tablets and more.
In its ongoing war against content piracy, the American music recording industry is now reportedly taking aim at online file storage services like Box, which is a bit like Dropbox but geared more toward business customers.
Despite past snafus on the user privacy front, Google wants to offer expanded privacy to users of its search engines, shielding their search activity from the eyes of employers and ISPs with the SSL-encrypted version of its search engine. This feature has been around for about a year now, but Google recently began a renewed push to make folks aware of it, using this particular angle as a way of doing so.
The mobile payments space continues to heat up with mobile credit card reader Square reportedly now processing $3 million, according to Techcrunch. The mobile payments startup, which was recently invested in by Visa, is one of a few companies offering plastic credit card readers that let businesses take payments from mobile devices without incurring hefty transaction fees or dealing with merchant accounts. For small businesses, the appeal of these products is obvious. Previously, cost-prohibitive point-of-sale systems were simply not an option for many small businesses, who now have viable options to choose from like Square, Veifone’s PAYware Mobile, iZettle and Intuit’s GoPayment.
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