Square’s consumer-focused loyalty and mobile payments app Card Case, which debuted in 2011, has been pushing the envelope when it comes to the future of payments, allowing for hands-free, location-based payments, emailed receipts and more. And merchants have quietly been adopting Card Case in droves. Back in November, Square told us that 20,000 merchants had signed up for Card Case, which doubled to over 40,000 businesses in February, and is now at 75,000 businesses using the application. And today, Square is announcing a major update to Card Case, adding additional social and merchant discovery features to both the iOS and Android app as well as renaming the app “Pay With Square.”
For those of you who are unfamiliar, Pay With Square’s mobile app for iOS and Android allows you to fill the app with ‘cards’ of all the merchants they visit and buy from who accept Square. These mobile cards include locations, merchant contact info, coupons, photos, menus, comments and reviews from other customers, order and purchase history and more. The app also allows you to create a tab at a restaurant under your name without having to pull out cash or a credit card, as the app has your credit card info saved.
Last year, Square added hands-free payments in the iOS app for Pay With Square. Today, this functionality is being added to the Android app. You can opt-in to a geofencing feature in the app, when you (and your phone) are within 100 meters of a Square merchant you can simply walk into the store, say your name at checkout and you are good to go with the payment. You don’t need to pull your phone out at all or open the app.
On the backend, Square’s technology detects when you are near a merchant-enabled store, and the Merchant’s Square app will open a tab for the customer and show that customer’s account, name and photo as nearby. When the customer purchases an item, they say their name, and the cashier can verify that the photo matches the customer, and then press the transact button to send the charge through. The customer will get a push notification with the amount of the charge as well. The customer can also add a tip via Pay With Square after the transaction in case they forget.
The benefit for consumers and merchants is that it’s an extremely simple transaction—there’s no credit card to swipe, no receipt to sign, and no wallet to pull out. Square says this experience seems to be translating into meaningful revenue for some of the participating merchants using the mobile wallet. Some of the earliest businesses to accept Pay With Square increased revenue by nearly 25 percent as a result. And the trend is that Pay With Square users generally tip more using the app.
In fact, the entire UI of Pay With Square has been overhauled with an emphasis on discovering merchants around you so you can pay with your name. Square’s Director of Products, Megan Quinn tells us that when you open the app, it now features a carousel of featured merchants that are close to your location. You can also click to a map or list of all the merchants that accept Square around you, and search for merchants as well.
In the old app, you’d see the list of cards from merchants from whom you’ve bought items using the app, similar to a wallet. This redesign puts the emphasis on finding merchants and featuring the ones you buy from as well. As Quinn explains “We are refocusing the app on the discovery of local merchants…we’ve brought merchants to the forefront of the experience so customers can find them immediately. This update is about the discovery of local merchants and streamlining the payments experience.”
Another major update involves actually interacting with the merchant on the app. So when you click on a particular merchant within Pay With Square, you’ll now be able to swipe and choose to favorite a merchant, Tweet about a merchant, share a merchant to Facebook, SMS or email a link to merchant to a contact. The link that is Tweeted, emailed etc. leads to a mobile-optimized landing page that has information about the merchant, including location, hours, and pictures and more. These sites can only be accessed with shared via the app, and are updated in realtime by the merchants.
Clicking favorite for a merchant will save it in your favorites list. It’s sort of the equivalent (in the previous iteration of the app) of saving a card in your Pay With Square for easy access so you don’t have to find it again.
Besides adding additional merchant discovery features, Square is refocusing the brand of the app on differentiating between the consumer-focused experience and the merchant-focused experience. The company recently released a more full-fledged point of sale iPad app, called Square Register, which included in-depth analytics and more for merchants. Quinn explains that the new name reflects how consumers are actually using the app.
While this is just an update to Card Case/Pay With Square, you can see that Square is setting the framework for a more personalized, and interactive payments experience. You can imagine a merchant being able to serve personalized deals and offers to a customer based on previous purchase history or suggest items that the customer would enjoy. By favoriting merchants, you could also opt-in to a more personalized experience. This isn’t just about paying with your mobile phone, it’s about finding new merchants, receiving a more personalized payments experience, and facilitating an actual relationship between local merchants and consumers.
But Square isn’t the only payments company looking to connect small businesses with consumers. PayPal recently launched their Square competitor, PayPal Here, which allows merchants to accept payments by swiping cards with a thumb-sized card reader. Similarities to Square’s hardware and functionality aside, PayPal Here also allows consumers to use geo-location to find the merchants that accept PayPal in their local area. Essentially, PayPal is going after the same goal as Square, offering a competitive payments and fees structure, and eying international expansion.
Quinn commented on PayPal entering the space, saying, “Square isn’t just about accepting credit cards and building a mobile payments application. We are focused on building an ecosystem around payments and building meaningful relationships between merchants and customers and we feel like we are the only company doing that. We are continuing to focus on enabling merchants to have conversations with customers and nobody else is building a hands free payments experience.”
Square does have a leg up in that it has been innovating for well over two years, adding one million merchants using the payments experience and processing over $4 billion in payments annually. Getting to this scale, and continuing the grow is no easy feat, and right now PayPal will have to play catch-up.