Author(s): Raghu Gopal
Square began as a company that offered very small businesses a way to accept credit card payments. Its mobile accessory and clearing service enabled merchants such as food trucks and street vendors to take card payments, needing only a smartphone or tablet. It reduced the barriers to entry for small consumer-facing companies, allowing them to provide the same payment convenience as their much larger rivals.
As a public company, Square's ambitions have grown and it has been targeting and attracting larger customers with a suite of services. Its original point-of-sale system wasn't particularly practical for larger businesses, but now its products are scaling up.
This week, at an event in New York City, Square unveiled the Square Register, a hardware system embedded with its electronic payments technology. The platform is designed to lure larger businesses that need a higher-end presence in front of their customers. With hardware and software designed in-house by Square, the company says the device is a culmination of years of feedback it has received from operating as a point-of-sale provider. The solution supports magnetic stripe cards, chip and PIN, as well as contactless payments.
Square Register is a two-part system with dual displays, one for the clerk and another showing customers a tally of charges and images of the items they're buying. If the original Square card reader seemed like a hobbyist's way to enter the world of digital payments, the Square Register resembles a modern retail system that would look sleek in any high-end shop.
The company describes the device as a "fully functioning computer" that goes well beyond the capabilities of Square's early hardware. It claims that the new register can also manage inventory, track data trends, allow for added items or discounts, issue refunds and generate sales reports.
The Square Register will cost $999 in the US, and the company will charge a transaction fee of 2.5 percent plus 10 cents per transaction. Several retailers, including Ben & Jerry's and Cafe Grumpy, in select locations in New York, tested the solution before its release.
Square's main rivals include PayPal and Intuit, both of which offer small business free mobile card readers as well as payment clearing services. Square had gained a loyal following thanks to its early market entry, smooth user experience and reasonable fees. Its new register offers a more professional-grade appearance and should allow the company to expand its addressable market. It will be interesting to see how Square's business scales as it becomes more well-rounded and moves up the value chain.