By Ed Oswald | Monday, May 23, 2011 at 9:40 pm
There’s lots of talk today on mobile payment processor Square’s outstanding results. 500,000 readers shipped, 1 million transactions so far this month, $3 million in transactions per day.
That’s impressive. There really is a real need out there for the everyday consumer to have a method to accept good old plastic. I can tell you personally that I rarely carry cash anymore: it’s just so much simpler to swipe.
Square’s rates aren’t horrible (although not great either): 2.75% for each swiped card, or 3.5% plus 15 cents for manually entered ones. So its not surprising they’re doing well.
At the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in New York City Monday, Square announced that it was improving its iPad experience to offer businesses an alternative to the cash register, as well as offering a new feature called the Square Card Case, which would be available through participating Square Register retailers (its not available on the App Store publicly).
For businesses, the iPad app is attempting to replace the cash register. Square improved the app with tracking functionality which makes it easier to follow sales trends, and the register interfaces with the Square Card Case app to allow for quicker transactions.
In simplest terms, customers will be able to use the Square Card Case app to pay for their transactions, as well as see purchase histories. In addition, the customer will be able to place orders for products or services from the app, and receive customized offers based on purchase history.
Since Square will already have payment details, the purchase will be done without any need for interaction from the merchant’s end, and the order would be processed in that merchant’s cash register automatically.
All of this seems really interesting, but I’d hardly call it disruptive as TechCrunch’s Leena Rao says it is, or for that matter quite a few of the bloggers there. As the go-to guy on technology for a local business, I can tell you I wouldn’t buy into this system — and we’re looking for a new system. Frankly, it’s just not up to snuff for modern retail uses.
I’ve taken a look at the app and its kind of disappointing. First off there’s no barcode support at all, thus this is useless for just about any business outside of restaurants. There’s also no easy way to run end-of-day reports — something most bookkeepers will tell you that is necessary to make sure your books are straight. Businesses need point-of-sale systems to be fully functional, and Square isn’t.
The Card Case app? It’s essentially a walled garden. Only 50 businesses in the entire country use it (although more are coming, the company has said). These types of closed systems never seem to work well, especially when you haven’t built the network up first.
Square has grown impressively, but mainly among consumers. That seems to be the ideal market for this product. I’m not sure if this is a viable solution outside of that — after all, who wants to spend $500 on a tablet for a cash register when there’s plenty of cheaper options out there, including a fully functional computer that can be used for other business operations?