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  • 04.09.12

NCR Rivals PayPal As Square’s Scariest Competitor

In June, NCR is slated to launch NCR Silver, a new product that will enable merchants to accept payments via iPad or iPhone, just like solutions from Square, Intuit, and PayPal.

NCR Rivals PayPal As Square’s Scariest Competitor

Chances are you’ve never heard of NCR. But if you’ve used an ATM, a self-checkout lane at the grocery story, or a ticket kiosk at the airport, then you’ve likely used products created by the 128-year-old company. Now NCR, which did $5.4 billion in revenue last year, is jumping into Square territory.

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On the surface, NCR Silver doesn’t look too different from Square. An iPad is equipped with an NCR Silver card-swiping tool; it connects to the 30-pin connector port on the bottom of the device, as opposed to the headphone jack. The system is controlled by the iPad, and can wirelessly connect to a cash register and printer for paper receipts. NCR’s software offers inventory management services, as well as sales metrics. Nahas ticks off the various options: “You can see a snapshot of what’s happening over the last seven days or six weeks; you can see net sales, profits, the types of transactions; and you can dig in to categories such as individual sales or profits per sale.” The solution will be available for a flat rate of $79 per month.

William Nuti, CEO of NCR, says the software’s marketing tools give the company another competitive advantage. If consumers opt in to provide merchants with their email addresses, the merchants can offer deals and discounts tied to inventory. “You can send a message to someone who bought a pair of running shoes and hasn’t been back in four months; or if you’re a wine shop, and you just got a new shipment of red Bordeaux, you can send a message to everyone in your database who has bought red Bordeaux there before,” Nahas says.

“We think we have a better solution than Square does,” Nuti says, bluntly.

NCR acknowledges some of these advantages. “Square has a very interesting proposition around taking payments, and with their CardCase,” Nahas says. “We think it’s very complementary to some of the things that we’re doing. We’re talking to Square now about whether there’s a place for our two approaches to this same market to fit together.”

“Companies like Square and PayPal will probably end up being partners of ours,” Nuti says. (Square declined to comment, and NCR would not go into detail about what such a partnership might look like.)

“Even if we had only an equal solution to one of those other players like Square or PayPal, we have a huge advantage in terms of our global distribution channels,” Nuti says. “So I’ll take their market caps, add them to NCR today, and be happy with that.”

Lastly, NCR, which boasts more than 23,000 employees, believes its competitors cannot compete with the company’s customer-support network. “Think about Square and PayPal: If a customer is having trouble with a wireless network, or they can’t get the cash drawer to kick, they’re picking up the phone and hoping Square can walk them through it,” Nahas says. “We’ve got the ability to deploy a person to knock on your door, and make sure the thing works for you. If I’m a small retailer, and this is the sole location where I can do transactions–as opposed to a Target that has 26 lanes, where if one goes down, I can just shift my employee to the next lane over–then this is my lifeblood. If it goes down, I need to know that I’m going to have instant feedback–that someone is able to come out and solve my problem.”

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Still, despite those potential advantages, NCR is still very late to entering the crowded iPad-payments space. Does the company still think it can win?

“I think we have a better mouse trap,” Nuti says. “Now, the world doesn’t know that yet because we haven’t launched, but when we do, we’re going to surprise a lot of people.”

[Images Provided By NCR, and Square]

About the author

Austin Carr writes about design and technology for Fast Company magazine.

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