Despite the thousands of articles and books written by self-help experts over the years extolling the benefits of embracing change and incorporating more variety into one’s life, the truth is that trying new things can be a hard thing to motivate people or businesses to do.
But then there are innovators who tempt us with their new ways of doing things. And in an innovation-intense environment, more is usually more — and out of step and out of date are just as good as broken.
This is likely why we saw such a robust embrace of trying new things throughout the marketplace this week.
Stripe Steps Up Its Challenge To Clover With An In-Store Entry
Last week Stripe officially announced the launch of Stripe Terminal, a product that will enable online businesses and platforms to accept in-person payments with Stripe.
The Stripe Terminal will see Stripe expand its payments infrastructure to the physical world, enabling developers to build custom payment experiences for in-person transactions in the same way they have been doing it for online merchants.
Rolling out with Stripe’s in-store and online improvements are Warby Parker and Glossier. Software platforms that have signed on to use Stripe Terminal include MINDBODY (for yoga studios and fitness centers), Zenoti (for salons and spas), atVenu (for concerts and performances) and Universe (for live events and tours).
“The question is: can we make the offline world as simple as the online world?” said John Collison, co-founder and president of Stripe.
“As a software developer, you should be able to set up payments once, and have it work everywhere you need it to — on your website, in your app, in person, globally. With Stripe Terminal, we’re introducing just that: a way for internet-first retailers and SaaS companies to leapfrog legacy retailers in building highly customized payments experiences for in-store purchases that match what they’ve built online.”
The move also puts Stripe in more direct competition with First Data’s Clover product and with the granddaddy of them all, Square.
But then, Square has also been thinking expansively this week about how it can bolster its roster of services.
Banking And Gift Cards And Certified Partners (Oh My)
Square — the digital payments provider that, as of late, has sought to build out into a larger SMB ecosystem — had a lot of news to roll out this week. The biggest, and most attention getting, was the news that Square is considering moving into a wider offering of financial services through its Square Cash app.
At an industry event last week, Square’s chief financial officer Sarah Friar noted that a bigger step into banking was one of “lots of ideas” the firm is considering including. Some of those include savings products and allowing customers to trade stocks.
“Anything you do today with a bank account, you should look to the Cash App to begin to emulate more and more of that,” Friar said, according to CNBC, adding that the amount of money the average customer was storing on the app is what led to the discussions. “It’s definitely a big balance. And we’re starting to think about, are there other things we could do for our customers there? Maybe help them with their savings. How can we help them make their money work for them?”
Some analysts have reported that Square’s Cash App is growing faster than PayPal’s Venmo, and the company recently boosted its presence in small business (SMB) lending through Square Capital. That would make a larger extension into consumer-facing financial services an interesting possibility.
Outside the realm of possibility and now a part of reality, Square also announced this week it will be offering eGift cards in the U.K. to help small businesses boost revenue during the upcoming holiday shopping season.
“We are delighted to be offering eGift cards to our sellers in the U.K. in time to help them generate more sales during the most important trading period of the year,” said Melinda Roylett, head of Square in Europe, in a press release. “Square’s eGift cards are a simple and affordable way for SMEs to offer gift cards, something typically only available for larger retailers. We look forward to helping businesses using Square to compete with larger competitors, bring money into the business, increase footfall and widen their customer offering.”
When a customer purchases an eGift card, the funds are automatically deposited into the seller’s Square account. There is the standard flat processing rate of 1.75 percent when they sell an eGift card in person, and a 2.5 percent fee when sold online. There is no fee when the card is redeemed.
The eGift cards are delivered by email immediately or at a future date and never expire.
Also in the spirit of helping SMBs this week, Square announced the launch of its Square Solutions Partner Program, which will allow business owners to easily identify Square-approved agencies, resellers, or systems integrators that are specific to their business needs.
Firms can also now apply to join the Solutions Partner Program, where they will be eligible to receive early access to beta products, specialized account management and financial benefits.
“The App Marketplace now boasts hundreds of partners that help boost productivity and sales, but growing Square sellers often seek a partner to build custom solutions for their business,” said Square Global Partnerships Lead Pankaj Bengani, at Square’s annual Partners Squared Summit in San Francisco. “The Solutions Partner Program doubles down on our commitment to build a strong partnership platform. Now, sellers will have access to approved Square Solutions Partners that can help them build innovative solutions; and agencies, resellers, and systems integrators will have access to the millions of Square sellers who need the industry’s best on their team to grow and scale their businesses in new ways.”
So far the program includes 75 certified Square Solutions Partners across three categories: Mobile and Web Agencies, which help businesses create online and mobile commerce experiences through a variety of platform integrations; Systems Integrators, which help clients manage operations by connecting Square-powered points of sale or eCommerce sites with their ERP, OMS, and CMS solutions; and Resellers, which provide scalable and intuitive point-of-sale software and hardware products.
And speaking of SMB Solutions…
Amazon Expands Its Alexa Repertoire And Go Marketplaces
Amazon had some fun with the element of surprise this week with a surprise event that introduced that wide new collection of home devices that will house Alexa — as well as the latest upgrades to Alexa’s historical home, the Echo device.
The Alexa Guard was the headline advance out of the surprise event. The tool is designed to allow a person leaving their home to announce “Alexa, I’m leaving” to activate the offering. Were a problem to arise during that person’s absence — a carbon monoxide leak or smoke alarm, for instance, or the sound of glass breaking — Alexa will not only send smart alerts to that person, but turn on lights inside the house to freak out any intruder. Amazon said Alexa Guard will operate as part of select Echo devices later this year.
Alexa is also set to develop and act on “Hunches” soon.
As described by Amazon:
“As you interact with your smart home, Alexa learns more about your day-to-day usage and can sense when connected smart devices such as lights, locks, switches and plugs are not in the state that you prefer. For example, if your living room light is on when you say ‘Alexa, good night,’ Alexa will respond with ‘Good night. By the way, your living room light is on. Do you want me to turn it off?’ This feature will be available later this year.”
Alexa will also be expanding the gadgets where she lives — Amazon is rolling out a new smart microwave Amazon Basics brand.
Amazon also showed off Echo Auto, an in-car device with a dash mount, which is built to connect to vehicles through Bluetooth, Bluetooth LE or an auxiliary jack and allows drivers to access the Alexa operating system.
And Alexa isn’t the only Amazon feature scheduled for a growth spurt. This week saw the opening of the fourth cashierless Amazon Go location in Chicago — and the start of rumors that Amazon is planning to have over 3,000 Amazon Go locations up and running by 2021. Other speculation indicates that Amazon will have at least 10 Go locations open in the U.S. by the end of this year.
“We don’t comment on rumors or speculation,” an Amazon spokesperson noted on the reports.
So, what did we learn this week?
As Sheryl Crow once said, a change will do you good — and in this case, a little change is certainly good for an organization’s ability to generate headlines. How Stripe will fair in stores, Square will fair with a more consumer-facing state of mind and Alexa will fare when talking to more customers at more touch points, will be the subject of many more articles to come.
Have a good week.