You might soon be able to add cash registers and credit-card terminals to the growing technological dustbin that includes hardwired phones, CDs and cars that run only on gasoline. A mobile-transaction company named Square has announced a new iPad-based point-of-sale solution called Square Register that seeks to replace those payment devices.
Jack Dorsey, Square's CEO, said cash registers and credit-card terminals are "relics of an expensive, complicated and impersonal commercial transaction system." The company is also unveiling Card Case, an application that allows a customer's smartphone to be used for transactions and marketing with retailers who have Square Register.
Free Download, Transaction Fee
The company has been best known for a card reader that enables an iPhone or Android smartphone to accept credit cards.
The Square Register application allows businesses to manage store inventory, check daily transactions, update pricing, automate checkout, create digital receipts, and maintain virtual storefronts. It's available as a free download, and there is a 2.75 percent fee for each transaction. Receipts can be electronically sent to customers, foregoing the need for paper receipts.
A Tabs feature is the equivalent of one-click purchasing on the web. Customers use Square's new Card Case application on their smartphone, and, when they open a tab on their device, their stored identity can be validated and their purchase approved with a single touch. The transaction does not need a physical credit card.
Card Case can be obtained by a smartphone user via a download link sent by a retailer where a customer has made a credit-card purchase. The Case gets filled with virtual "cards" from participating retailers that the user has visited. Each card, or tab, contains the customer's purchase history, receipts from that retailer, featured items on sale, customized offers, and even aggregate information on what other customers are buying at the store.
The updated Register app for the iPad includes a Menus feature, through which local shops and restaurants can advertise their menus and daily specials. Menus can be received by any customer with the Card Case application on a smartphone. Google Analytics-styled data analysis allows a retailer to see stats on exactly which products were sold, types of customers, and other information.
Laura DiDio, an analyst with Information Technology Intelligence Corp, said the market Square is pioneering is a "potential bonanza and a huge greenfield opportunity for iPads and smartphones." Among other things, she said, it points to "a more personal relationship" between retailers and customers.
DiDio said she wouldn't proclaim this as the end of cash registers quite yet, since there are many retailers who won't want to abandon their infrastructure investments, and others who do not have reliable wireless coverage.
One area the company has not discussed, she noted, is security. "With everything that's been happening in terms of security breaches involving credit-card numbers and other personal information," she said, "this should always be front and center."
The company said it has shipped half a million Square card readers, conducted a million Square transactions last month, and is processing $3 million in mobile payments daily. It projects a billion dollars in payments within the next year.
Dorsey is a cofounder of Twitter, and investors in the company include Visa. At present, the Register app is being used by only about 50 merchants in San Francisco; Washington, D.C.; St. Louis; Los Angeles; and New York, and a full rollout is planned.
Posted: 2011-05-30 @ 1:26am PT
I've read also that Square makes its credit card readers available for free directly from the company, but also sells them online and at Apple Stores for a small price.