Merchants in the United States have become increasingly acquainted with a new-look point of sale system – rather than a terminal with PIN pad, more and more retailers’ front desks are sporting iPads connected to the minimalist hardware and companion app of the system called Square. Canadian businesses, too, are gaining increasing access to Square as well as several other emergent, agile systems aimed at the changing needs of efficient, highly connected small business owners of the 21st century. What do retailers need to know? What options are out there for the business looking to streamline and update their point of sale system to one of these new models? Read on to find out how your small business may be able to take advantage of a reinvented approach to payment processing.

Square is the brainchild of Jack Dorsey, one of the co-founders of Twitter. Dorsey’s work in social media has changed the way we communicate – on the go, in real time, constantly forming new connections and interactions with the world around us. With Square, his aim is to bring a similar ease of use and increased connectivity to the operational side of small businesses – incentivizing the development of new and creative commercial models that can operate anywhere, anytime with just a tablet and an unobtrusive plug-in card reader about the size of a matchbook available for free to subscribers. Brick-and-mortar retailers, to whom Square is marketed as a more cost-effective alternative to standard point of sale processors, can plug into a desktop reader with elegant, Apple-style aesthetics. The model, with its low cost of entry and moderate per-transaction fee structure, has proven highly successful in the United States, where Square has even begun working with coffee titan Starbucks to simplify and speed up payment processing at its many often-crowded locations.
The appeal of such systems goes beyond ease-of-use and cost savings. At Merchant Advance Capital, we strive to understand and analyze the factors that may your business’ performance from month to month or quarter to quarter: so too can merchants use the analytical information generated by their debit/credit processor to help make key decisions. It appears that much of Square’s appeal to merchants will come from the desire to obtain these kinds of analytics directly, in an easy-to-parse format at a fair cost unrelated to the price of their merchant account or point-of-sale equipment, using the provided data to develop a greater awareness of the small iterations and changes that can help make a business more profitable and efficient.
For Canadian businesses, Square is not the only option when it comes to new ways to approach their daily financial operations. Internet-based financial service provider PayPal, now owned by eBay, recently unveiled a similar mobile payment app and plug-in card reader called PayPal Here; well-established processor Moneris Solutions is also rolling out its PAYD PRO Bluetooth-enabled reader that will be able to process debit and credit transactions. Methods like these could fundamentally change the operating parameters of small businesses – for example, a cottage industry retailer or small family business may be able to benefit from the conveniences and eligibilities usually ascribed to a larger organization (such as eligibility for a merchant advance!)
Small business merchants have a great many choices to make when setting up the infrastructure that will help them succeed. Easy-to-use and transparent point of sale options aim to simplify and streamline one of these choices, to reduce the cost of doing business, and to extend the frontiers of commercial activity to new locations – anywhere you can take a phone or mobile device. It seems clear that modern small businesses would do well to keep an eye on these technologies and how they may be able to make changes to the way they approach their payment models.