If are a techie who lives in San Francisco, you probably know what a miserable experience it is to wait in line at Blue Bottle in Mint Plaza with all the other techies in San Francisco. Well, payments startup Square wants to make it easier for you to get the cappuccino you want, and make sure it’s hot and delicious when you arrive to pick it up.
Since introducing its card reader years ago, Square has been looking for new ways to insert itself into people’s lives when they make purchases. Earlier this year, that meant launching an app designed to improve the user experience of ordering and picking up food and coffee from nearby merchants.
By introducing its Square Order app, the company enables customers in San Francisco and New York City to skip the line, place orders ahead of time, and pick them up at their convenience. The app also simplified the process of paying for those orders — rather than pay at the register, users can make payments directly from a credit or debit card linked to the Square account their mobile device.
There’s only one problem with the “order ahead” idea: For many types of food, the quality of the customer experience is linked directly to the freshness of the thing ordered, which means it should be prepared not long before its picked up. Let’s face it, this is particularly true for coffee, which is pretty crappy when it gets cold.
In earlier versions of Square Order, the app told users when to arrive to pick up their food, as a way to mitigate that issue. But that only worked so well. Customers had to shift around their schedule to get food when the app said to and sellers had to guess when the needed to start an order.
With the newest version of the app, Square will flip the model so that food will be prepared just in time for the customer arrive, thanks to a new arrival prediction feature. The technology is designed to track users as they approach a store they’ve ordered from and alert it when they’re nearby so an order can be made just in time.
By integrating with its Register app, pre-orders placed by customers will appear just like regular orders that were placed at the counter. Orders can be set to either show up on Register or be automatically printed out as an order ticket so the kitchen or barista can prepare them.
For the technology to work, sellers need to set preparation times for different items on their menu. The app then creates a sort of geofence around the business, and recognizes when a customer is nearby and someone should start on an order.
In addition to predicting when a customer is set to arrive, the app also gets to know users based on their common orders. That way, when customers open the app, it will suggest previous orders so they don’t have to go through the trouble of specifying a double cappuccino with low-fat milk and cinnamon each time.
And, as always, payment will be seamless. Customers will be able to walk in, pick up their drink, and it will be paid for through the app, with no need to swipe a card of make change for cash.
For Square, the Order app represents another way it is trying to integrate into its technology into consumer’s everyday lives. It’s also trying to get users to transfer money through its Square Cash app, which now can detect other nearby users via Bluetooth.
By diversifying its product portfolio, the company is trying to justify its $6 billion valuation. It topped that number after recently raising a $150 million round of financing led by new investor the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC).