Jack Dorsey sums up Square’s competitive advantage in attracting independent merchants

Square Jack Dorsey
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Just as the character limits on Twitter are getting longer, Jack Dorsey says merchants can expect an expanded suite of tools from Square following the launch of its contactless chip card reader in Canada — and he’s not worried about the competition from Shopify.

The CEO of both Square and Twitter was in Toronto Tuesday with a handful of small business owners to discuss the reader, which allows debit transactions in addition to credit card payments, a long-sought feature for Square sellers outside the U.S. Square said the company will waive all transaction fees on debit for new and existing customers for the rest of the year to celebrate the launch. The reader is available through its online store for $59.

Square is a good example of B2B firms that deliberately look outside of enterprise-sized customers to target solo entrepreneurs or those with a very small team. Another, of course, is Shopify, which last month launched its own reader for its merchant customers.

In response to a question about increased competition from B2B News Network, however, Dorsey said Square sees the reader as just one plank in its strategy.

“There have always been some differentiators, but the most important has been our cohesiveness,” he said. “We’re not just payments or POS but a suite of tools to help our sellers. The first critical thing was to enable sellers to make the sale. Then it was organizing the information to make more sales.”

Ian Baird, co-owner of Campbellford, Ont.-based lavender farm Terre Bleau, said he was particularly interested in offerings such as Square Directory, which allows small businesses to capture contact information at the point of sale.

“We have 60,000 social media followers. It’s the way that we built our business, but I don’t have access to those (people),” he said. “I’m at the mercy of an algorithm and a post and I pay it and hope that it works. It’s important that I can actually talk to those customers directly.”

Dorsey suggested that data and analytics will increasingly become a focal point of Square’s product portfolio.

“Being able to see your business helps you make decisions, about inventory and how to market,” he said, adding that creating an experience where “the hardware and software goes away” with speed and self-service is important so that businesses can focus on things that are really important to them. “The elegance of our solution is unique to us. It all works together and you don’t have to think too much about it.”

Square initially focused on the offline market because many businesses were having difficulty managing financial transactions without an expensive POS system, Dorsey said. The launch of Square marketplace has taken it further into Shopify’s territory by helping customers set up and run online stores. Dorsey said he believes the integration of Square’s product set will give it an advantage.

“What we heard from our sellers is, ‘I want online and I want it to be in one dashboard. I want to see my whole business on one dashboard so I can see what’s happening,” he said. “We do intend to make sure we are providing a seller the ability to make a sale whenever it happens, whether it’s a physical counter or a digital counter.”

Though it is ostensibly a form of fintech startup, Dorsey made it clear his firm has no intention of trying to disrupt or put more traditional financial services firms out of business.

“What the banks have works. It’s just not accessible to everyone,” he said. “Banks were not able to reach the type of sellers we were, because they had very old infrastructure that wouldn’t to be able to understand all the data that we now have access to. It allows a more calculated risk understanding. I think what we did was enable the funnel to grow much larger and allow more people into the system.”

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Shane Schick

Shane Schick

Shane Schick is the Editor-in-Chief of B2B News Network. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and was the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.