May 24, 2011
Square, the famous card-reader start-up helmed by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, has announced new products and plans at today's TechCrunch Distrupt kick-off. Instead of relying on its sugar cube-sized reader for mere personal transactions, the company is setting its sights a bit higher and moving aggressively into the small business sector. Keith Rabois, Square's COO, says that its iPad offering is being replaced with the Square Register app. It improves on the simplistic, receipt-storing original in many important ways, as TechCrunch's Leena Rao explains:
Now, with the upgrade, merchants can send customers a link to download an app on their mobile phone called a Square Card Case. And this gives merchants a whole new level of engagement with their customers. And data is another big component of Square’s announcement—Dorsey says merchants will have Google Analytics style data that merchants can access, such as how many muffins were sold, and to which types of customers, and more.The other piece to the puzzle, of course, is on the user end. Though the traditional reader and smartphone apps are not being replaced (their target market is slightly different), Square Register will require customers of participating merchants to download something called the Square Card Case. It's necessary to note, however, that this app will not be available to the public via iTunes, rather requiring the merchant in question to send each customer a link for the download. Once installed, says Lao,
you can fill your case with ‘cards’ of all the merchants you visit and buy from who accept Square. When you click on an individual merchant’s card, you’ll be able to see a map of where the merchant is located, contact information, your own order and purchase history, and receipts with the merchant and a daily live menu of items or services from the merchant. You’ll also be able to see what other customers are buying at the store, and merchants can serve customized offers to specific customers based on their purchase history.Also available will be the option for end users to set up "tabs" with merchants on Sqaure's back-end, making checkouts faster and easier. And, according to GigaOM, things can be made even easier still:
[W]hen a customer opens his card reader and is ready to check out, he gives the cashier his name. His face and account will pop up on the merchant’s iPad screen. He tells the cashier to charge it to his account. He will then receive a digital receipt for the purchase. The digital wallet app also allows consumers to see all past purchases online.Summarizes CEO Dorsey, “You just pay with your name. It’s really easy, it’s really magical." Provided no sensitive data is actually stored on these stores' iPads, the idea makes a good bit of paperless sense. Unless you have a disgruntled identical twin... On a side note, it will be interesting to see how this affects Apple's future NFC plans, as Square already has Cupertino's retail support.