Is Square the Shape of Tomorrow?

Articles
June 02, 2010

Is Square the Shape of Tomorrow?

When rocker Huey Lewis sang to the world, “It’s hip to be square,” he doubtless wasn’t thinking of mobile phone credit card swipes.

When rocker Huey Lewis sang to the world, “It’s hip to be square,” he doubtless wasn’t thinking of mobile phone credit card swipes. 

Zip ahead about 20 years, however, and the newest Square on the retail scene has the potential to be a hit. The company’s free application and credit card swipers for iPhone, iPad and Android technology make credit or debit payments mobile.  

The implications for speed, access and payment ease seem pretty clear. Better still, The Lempert Report envisions how having such a retail capability could empower stores to rethink much about how they operate and connect with their customers. For example, multiple payment outposts (or equipped staff) across the selling floor could make supermarkets much more appealing for Quick Trips if they enabled shoppers to avoid lines at ganged checklanes. Imagine swiping for a few desired items near their display, and then being free to exit the store.

Even more impressive, Square gives retailers “just enough [information about individual customers] to recognize repeat customers and offer them incentives” upon checkout, according a Fast Company report. Loyalty is on the grid, and Square could encourage future store visits with discounts. Yet savings could be just one part of Square’s appeal: it could lead to better meal solutions and more satisfied shoppers by suggesting companion items to what is bought and help enrich the next shopping list.

Square was created in part to make electronic payments simpler to accept, more affordable and more predictable for merchants who haven’t been part of the ‘convoluted’ credit card system, the magazine said. Square charges a 2.75% plus 15 cents transaction fee with any card used.  

With retailers in perpetual heated battle over interchange fees, it’s no surprise that innovators like this surface. We understand that payment is Square’s core reason for being. Yet we also see the way retailers operate, and the way people shop, and we believe a few extra Square functions could help supermarkets break out of the box into a more inviting posture for shoppers.