When Square, the San Francisco-based financial services and mobile payment company co-founded by Twitter founder, Jack Dorsey, launched in 2010, many didn’t realize the profound effect it would have on the payments industry.
Though it gave the smallest sellers, like jewelry vendors and other sole entrepreneurs, their first chances to accept credit card payments on the fly, a number of people downplayed the hype surrounding the company and its services.
Over time, it proved it was a force to be reckoned with, gaining more larger merchants and expanded its services to include peer-to-peer payments, financing, and business management software.
There is no surprise that Square has now set its sights on another venture to its payment ecosystem: banking. Its application for a Utah industrial bank charter is pending.
Square’s Influence on the Industry
Square is a visible, trusted brand that has helped shift the payments industry from a commoditized one to a productized one. Part of the reason it has succeeded in re-characterizing what a merchant acquirer and card processor can be.
Instead of branding itself as an independent sales organization, though it operates very similarly to one, it bills itself as a technology company that offers financial services. Just like processors, Square allows merchants to accept debit and credit cards by pushing the transactions into the system through banks. However, its genius was lying in the fact that it promoted itself as a provider of software services focused on helping smaller businesses, specifically micro-merchants, which was very underserved in terms of opportunities for payment acceptance.
Micro-merchants welcomed Square with open arms because it offered easy-to-understand, transparent pricing packages, though they may not have been the cheapest options around. Also, instead of relying on hard-lined sales models to build up a base of merchants, it gained newcomers via the internet.
Though Square faced lots of indirect competition when it began, it offered a new perspective on electronic payments that was focused on simplifying the process. It used a much more abbreviated underwriting process than most acquirers based on the idea that the smaller the company, the lower the risk. This approach opened up credit acceptance to a whole new world of entrepreneurs.
Of course, its approach resulted in a number of companies trying to duplicate Square’s model. But, where Square really succeeded above others is that is made the merchant-underwriting process much simpler and faster.
The Highs and Lows of Square
Though Square has made a name for itself, it also has experienced failures. It abandoned a partnership it had with Starbucks, and it eliminated Square Order, which was intended to replace Square Wallet, less than a year after it was introduced. Square Order allowed consumers to place small business orders, such as a lunch or a coffee, pay online, and then, the shopper would pick up items later. It never really caught on because only a limited number of merchants in large cities offered it.
What’s New on the Horizon?
Square latest venture is with cryptocurrency. It is building a crypto team, and its Cash App already allows for the purchase and sale of Bitcoin. However, how this will impact Square’s bottom line remains an unknown.
Though Square switched up the payments landscape to make card acceptance more accessible to all, it doesn’t mean that others in the sector have made their marks, as well. All stakeholders in the industry benefit from new innovations because it forces everyone to look at their current models and readjust to give the public what they want.