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Square Founder Jack Dorsey Advises Retailers to Find Genuine Voice

As cofounder of social networking site Twitter and of payments service Square, Jack Dorsey is at the intersection of social and commerce. After his presentation at the National Retail Federation (NRF)’s Big Show conference in New York on Wednesday, Dorsey took some time to talk to EcommerceBytes about Square and to offer some advice to merchants.

Square’s claim to fame was putting the power of the cash register into the hands of local micro-merchants through its credit card reader that plugged into smart phones, charging a flat 2.75 percent. PayPal and other payment processors had to race to catch up.

Then last year, the company released Square Market to help offline merchants sell online. You can access it on MKT.com, where you can search for items or search for merchants.

But is Square committed to the marketplace, or is it simply a tool to help merchants who use the Square payments service?

“I think what you see there today is a start,” Dorsey said. “We do intend to move it very fast and to build upon it.”

Dorsey explained that the company’s original service was Square Register, an app that allows anyone to sell offline, and through Square Market, it has broadened the original vision to enable people using the Register on their counter or on the go to “flip a switch” on any of their items so they could actually sell that item online as well.

“The merchant would still pay the 2.75% – it doesn’t matter if its online or offline. They’re still paying the same price, which we think is really important because it makes all commerce equivalent.”

But the company found it wasn’t just offline merchants using Square Market. “We had a lot of people who were traditional online merchants who were coming to the system just to purely use our ecommerce site,” Dorsey said.

Online merchants were attracted to Square Market because of the ease of use and because of the price. “We’re not charging listing fees, we’re not charging a different credit card rate for online versus offline. You can sell items in-store, over the phone or online,” he said.

A Different Approach to the Online Marketplace 
Merchants can take any item within Square Market and go to the item page and they can tweet it out, they can put it on Facebook or pin it to a (Pinterest) pinboard. And that means anyone who is viewing it can have a very simple and very fast purchase, Dorsey said.

“Just like in music, we’ve moved away from selling albums and more toward individual songs, you’re seeing merchants focused a lot on amplifying the individual item. And then when people buy that item, they actually discover the brand behind it. They discover the seller behind it.” They see a whole universe behind the unit they purchased and may want to look at that as well, he explained.

Commerce on Twitter is happening today, Dorsey said, and he believes Square is going to provide more and more of that. But it’s not just about one network. It’s wherever people are.

“A big part of our drive is meeting customers where they are. I think people want to share more of that because there’s been more of a trend towards these great crafted experiences and products that we want to amplify. People can make lists of their favorite merchants or favorite items and share that with friends.”

What Social Can Mean to Merchants 
Social is one of those words we tend to overuse and then becomes meaningless, Dorsey said. “One of the things I would advise people is to really speak in a genuine voice about your brand and about what you do. And that is engaging.”

If you make bags, talk about the process, show the process, show how you make them, show your customers in the field, show how they use their bags – that is going to build much more engagement than any other strategy – you talking about what you love, he said. “Then your customers will talk about why they love what you’re building and what you’re making.”

Twitter and social media is an equivalent of word of mouth, but more people can do it, it happens much faster, and more people can see it in real time. He advised merchants to talk about their products online the same way they talk about them to their neighbor, or to their wife or husband, or their kids or parents – “talk about them online using these tools, and you’ll reap the rewards.”

While at the NRF Big Show, Square was hearing from retailers that they knew how important it was to be online and to engage on social media, but lacked the tools. Square wants to provide retailers with those tools so their customers can share on social media – and that’s a big focus for Square going into 2014.

Fast Access to Cash
We asked Dorsey if Square merchants had any desire for P2P payment features such as those offered by some rivals. Dorsey said that since Square has the mindset that it is not going to store merchants’ money, they have not heard of any such demands from merchants.

“We’re not going to store your money. We’re going to put your money in your bank account as soon quickly as we can. And we’re going to make sure you can utilize that money for your business as quickly as possible, and that our fees are as low as we can get them.”

“Our initial sense of this was, if someone swipes a card, they should see that money the very next business morning, period. They should be able to use that money immediately to build their business.”

Visit the Square website to learn more about using Square Payments and about selling through Square Market.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.