A few months ago, I wrote about how we needed a little bit of disruption in the online payments space, and how Square was just the company to make it happen. It seems that I — as well as many small businesses — have gotten my wish today, as Square has just announced its Square Market initiative to help companies take payments online. But for those who were hoping for a direct competitor to PayPal or other payment processors, Square Market might be a little disappointing.
Let’s just get the biggest difference out of the way first. Unlike PayPal, which can be integrated into a company’s website, Square is launching Square Market as an online directory of Web shops. This means that you won’t be able to work any kind of ordering or check-out into the flow of your company’s website. Instead, you’ll need to sell potential customers on your product or service on your website and then direct them over to the Square Market to make a purchase.
I can understand why Square went this route — it’s not unlike the “baby steps” approach Apple takes when adding new features — but I can’t help but feel a little let down. Square Market restricts companies in a way that the Square app and dongle never did. It forces them to sell in one location instead of being able to go where the people are. Maybe it’s just Square trying to ease into the space instead of doing a cannonball, but I can tell you right now that with the plethora of online shops and marketplaces out there, it’s going to be tough for small businesses to get noticed in a brand new one.
My hope is that this is the first step in a more extensive payments play for Square. I think it’s great that smaller companies who aren’t particularly Web-savvy can get their goods online and begin accepting payments, but I think it’s a long-term disservice to send customers to a third-party website to browse items and make purchases. Still, if you’re desperate to get your small business onto the Web, period, and you have products or services you want to start selling, there might not be a faster way to do it than through Square Market. If your company is more established, though, you might want to look elsewhere at this point — even if you’re using the Square dongle to accept payments in person.
We’d love to get some of your thoughts on Square Market. Do you think this is a nice tool for small businesses or do you find it lacking in some ways? Drop us a line below.