When you think about Square, the first thing that comes to mind is still its first product–the tiny gizmo that turns a smartphone or tablet into a credit-card reader.
Over the last year or so, however, the company has been building a portfolio of small-business offerings in addition to its credit-card processing service. It introduced Square Feedback, for instance, which turns its digital receipts into customer-service surveys. Then it rolled out Square Capital, which advances money to companies so they can afford big purchases without resorting to conventional business loans.
And now Square is adding an utterly logical–maybe downright inevitable–new capability in the form of Square Marketing, which lets merchants implement email marketing campaigns and then verify that they’re paying off in increased sales.
As with Square Capital and Square Feedback, Square Marketing doesn’t seem to be out to compete with existing options–in this case, well-established email marketing services such as MailChimp and Constant Contact–on their own terms. It has only a handful of features, including the ability to send out announcements, special offers, and event notifications via email. You can tweak the templates that Square provides with customizations such as your company’s logo, but the emphasis is approachability rather than giving businesses every marketing tool they might ever need.
But what Square Marketing has that MailChimp and Constant Contact do not is is a direct hook into Square’s payments service. That means that merchants can send marketing emails to customers who have provided their email address in the past to get receipts, eliminating the need to assemble mailing lists from scratch. The service automatically creates subgroups such as “loyal customers,” “casual customers,” and “lapsed customers” based on factors like how often a particular person has bought something in the past. Optionally, a merchant can add additional customers and create further groups.
Thanks to that integration, once a campaign is in the field, a merchant can use the same dashboard that it does for other Square services to track the results–how many people an offer prompted to come back to a store and how much they spent. In its pilot program, the company says, offers were redeemed at twice the industry average and added up to almost $1 million in sales for customers such as Baking Betty’s, a gourmet-cookie shop in Newport Beach, California.
Like Square’s other new services, Square Marketing has the potential to be as important to the company’s own future as its customers by providing it with an opportunity to make additional money on top of the razor-thin margins that are a fact of life in the credit-card processing game. Merchants can pay for Square Marketing in two ways: either pay-as-you-go for 10 cents per message sent, or $15 per 500 contacts per month for unlimited access.
Square’s menu of services has expanded so much lately that I wondered if it no longer thought of itself as a payment processor first and foremost. Kevin Burke, who joined the company from Visa in December to head up customer acquisition, told me that the expansion doesn’t involve any fundamental redefinition of the corporate mission. “Square started as, and is still at its core, a payments and point-of-sale company,” he says. Through services such as Square Marketing, “We’re able to surface these insights that allow us to innovate on top of that core business.”
Burke says that Square Marketing will add more capabilities over time, but that it’s already designed to appeal both to itty-bitty outfits and bigger ones–such as retail businesses with multiple locations–that run their business on Square. “Every marketer needs to close the loop, to really understand the true return on their investment. To be able to deliver this to a small business who wouldn’t have access to these tools in the past, we think that’s pretty powerful.”