First, it tackled the credit card transaction process. Now, Square wants to replace the antiquated cash register.
Today, the company co-founded by Twitter inventor Jack Dorsey unwrapped Square Register, a free Apple iPad app designed to modernize point-of-sale devices for small merchants.
"I truly believe POS, as you know it today, is dead," says Megan Quinn, director of products at Square. "This will bring Square to an entirely new, small-market audience (bricks-and-mortar stores)."
The new app extends Square far beyond just a payment-processing service. It replicates and, Square claims, enhances the features of a cash register for mom-and-pop storefronts. The app accepts cash and credit payments, lets merchants easily list menu items, and tracks the history of customers' purchases.
An analytics program, often used only by major retailers, lets small businesses slice and dice sales data so they can tailor store hours and work shifts accordingly.
Square is trying to corner the market on mom-and-pop shops, fertile ground for future mobile payments, based on several reports. "This would be ideal for food carts, small coffee shops or bike stores," says Trip Hosley, owner of Sauce Restaurant group in San Francisco and a national consultant.
About 75% of U.S. merchants intend to buy a tablet over the next year, according to market researcher NPD. What is more, half of retailers polled by the National Retail Federation said they will use a mobile POS device within a year to 18 months, compared with 6% now.
That includes merchants such as Devil's Teeth Baking here. It tested Register at Square's office, and plans to use the new app to list some 20 menu items. "It was super easy and fast," says Ruth Meza, manager of Devil's Teeth.
Square executives are framing the digital register as the next big building block in its inexorable quest to upend credit card and cash payments, as we know them.
Small merchants are often saddled with clunky POS systems that cost thousands of dollars a year to maintain, and take hours to install. However, they can download the Square Register app for free and install their inventory in less than an hour, Quinn says.
Square, which makes its money by collecting transaction fees, has helped merchants process sales for $4 billion worth of goods — double what it announced late last year. More than 1 million people are able to accept credit cards with Square. Their average purchase is $75.
The original Square card reader, a small white plastic device for accepting payments, has more than 1 million users nationwide and works on Apple and Android devices.
Square has no plans at this time to launch a version of Square Register for Android tablets.