By Randy Smith,
Mobile Wallet Media
Friday, August 24th, 2012
I love the Starbucks Card Mobile App. It is fast, simple, convenient, fun and rewarding. However, 'Pay with Square' may have a tough time scaling as fast as other Mobile Wallets, like Google, MCX and ISIS, if they fail to simplify integration at POS.
The Pay with Square Video showcases a long overdue and brilliant customer service feature, making it much easier for hospitality employees to provide 5-Star service. I spent several years in the 80's and 90's working in guest services for luxury hotels and in the restaurant industry. Therefore, I understand very much about high-end customer service in the hospitality industry. Pay with Square is great, but it may prove difficult to get their software installed quickly unto POS systems.
Pay With Square will require custom software to be loaded onto 'Locked-Down POS Terminals' and PC's or tablets, which may or may not be unlocked. Locked means the system is 'locked-down' and access to load new software is often controlled by POS Dealers, POS Network Security Firms or POS Providers themselves. Unlocked systems are open and able to download new software without working with the dealer or POS provider. Either way, the fixed systems do not like new software on their platform, much like our bodies do not like viruses or cancer.
Systems are locked down to prevent hackers or viruses from infiltrating the POS software, stealing data and corrupting the system. A 'Secure Network' is set up by merchants to protect the communications between mobile POS and fixed POS systems, as well as the back office, central network or payment processor.
Most 'Fully Integrated Systems' are locked down and many ‘Stand Alone’ PC's are also locked down. POS tablets are less likely to be locked down, unless they are issued by a POS Dealer or POS security firm to better secure the devices.
So Starbucks, Square and all merchants running their stores on Locked-Down, Fully Integrated Systems, will have potentially huge integration challenges or equipment costs to add Pay with Square. For a merchants to accept Pay with Square the merchant has the choice of using Square Register via an ipad or integrate with the merchant's current POS system.
If a merchant wants install Pay with Square on their Locked-Down, Fully-Integrated System, they will have to coordinate the unlocking of the system. Now this would get you Pay with Square, but this would be a stand alone system. Yes, this can be done, but this does not make sense as the customer or the cashier would have need to manually enter the amount due. This leaves too room for mistakes by cashier or customer and a process of closing out the transactions with their current POS system would need to be established as well. This makes no sense to do this unless they were just showcasing a proof of concept. Since Square needs a highly scalable system, this is not the solution.
However, it might make more sense if Square separates out the 'ID recogniztion' from the actual payment authorization. Or if they could authorize transactions separately from the existing POS and then merge the transaction data back in real-time ito balance and reconcile the cash register ledger.
The most likely solution for Square is to integrate fully with POS systems, like TabbedOut, Paydiant or MocaPay have already done. They would start with the system(s) Starbucks is using and try and integrate with the top 10 systems by early next year. This too, is not a straight forward process, as connecting to each POS system is a very different process. There is another, more scalable way to do this, but I'm not at liberty to discuss publicly, as it could potentially reveal MobilePayUSA trade secrets.
Other than integrating to dozens of POS Systems, I don't see how Square will scale quickly with installing Pay with Square. This could be a very viable route if they have enough people assigned to integration. Within 3-months they could accomplish integrations, then run 3-months private pilots and be ready by Q2 of 2013 for launch of Public Beta. Many merchants have older POS systems, which they very likely would be required to replace or upgrade if they wanted to accept Pay With Square or several other mobile payments solutions. Maybe I'm wrong about all of this and Square has some unique integration method up their sleeve? But it does appear Square will still have to work within the limits of known integration methodology.
So one may ask, "Will this not lead to merchants switching over to Square Register and tablets?" Yes and no. This is a function of size and complexity of their store ordering system and size of their chain.
The larger the retail chain, the less likely they will want to swap out their current system to Square Register. It will be really hard to convince major retailers to change out their entire systems just to accept Pay with Square! We've already seen that most major merchants dragged their feet to pay for terminals with NFC. POS registers cost up to $3500 each, the POS software they run is most likely already works great and is secure.
Retailers would only want to adopt Square if they had simple ordering needs at POS, like a coffee or sandwich shop, and they were unhappy enough with their current system. It makes complete sense for new merchants with simple software needs, as the cost to get up and running with ipads and Square Register is as much as $3,000 less per register. By the way I do think Square Register has a huge potential merchant base, merchant's with fairly simple software needs, but it will have a tough time convincing 'Top Tier Retailers' to rely on Square as the platform to run their stores.
Unless a merchant is committed to being an innovator, like Starbucks, Square will truly a 'Square Peg in a Round Hole' and is not likely as scalable as NFC or QR code generation and scan like Starbucks Card Mobile. If Square sticks to Starbucks Card Mobile model and ditches or keeps their very cool, customer service tool separate from payment, they may scale at a pace equal to many current competitors.
About Mobile Wallet Media
Mobile Wallet Media is a news media, analyst, marketing and consulting firm focused on the future of mobile: payments, marketing, loyalty commerce, security, prepaid, virtual currency, daily deals and the convergence of them all with social and local. The Chief Editor, Randy Smith, was the primary founder, inventor and former CEO of MobilePayUSA, a TechCrunch Disrupt Award Winner.