Square is a popular and well-known e-commerce solution with a native site builder that has helped thousands of businesses get online quickly and ranks among the best website building platforms, in addition to being one of the top e-commerce website builders and the top small business website builder, via its ownership of Weebly.
“From side concerts to sports stadiums,” Square claims, the company offers payment solutions that go far beyond just accepting credit cards online, with integrated marketing, banking, and even lending.
We caught up with Katie Miller, e-commerce product manager at Square Online, to learn more about the inner workings of the payments giant, the challenges and successes the company has faced over the past few years, and how he future of online activity for companies lies in the diversification of offers and payment channels.
Can you give us a brief overview of Square Online and what it does?
Square Online is an e-commerce product that helps businesses of all types and sizes start, manage, and grow their online business. With Square Online, sellers can easily sell online, ship orders to customers, offer curbside pickup or local delivery, no matter what type of business they have, from restaurants to retail and everywhere in between.
Businesses can also quickly and easily increase their reach by selling on Instagram, Facebook, etc. With the help of our site builder, businesses can create and publish an online store quickly and easily, optimized for any device, without knowing how to code.
What has been your greatest success and why?
The e-commerce landscape is busy and can get expensive. Many companies think they need to invest large sums of money to create e-commerce experiences that meet their specific business needs. The landscape of tools, designers, and developers can be overwhelming for businesses when looking to start selling.
Ultimately, when our salespeople win, so do we. Our biggest success has been in lowering the barriers to entry for businesses: the product is free to sell and you don’t need a designer or developer to set it up and make it work.
What were the biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
COVID-19 has been by far the biggest challenge we have ever faced. We had a product development plan for 2020 that was turned upside down overnight as we realized we needed to help our sellers transform their physical businesses into online businesses, often for the first time.
Pushing and hyper-focusing to help businesses when they needed it most has spawned innovation we never expected and strengthened relationships with our vendors as they joined for us help prioritize feature development.
As a result, we were able to quickly ship new features that our sellers told us they needed right away, such as curbside pickup, local delivery, self-service ordering (QR code) and delivery to Requirement.
What impacts, positive and negative, has the pandemic had on your business?
Many of our sellers were interested in selling online, but hadn’t had time to understand what it meant for their business. The pandemic has forced all sellers overnight to figure out how they can get their businesses online and meet their buyers right where they are.
It’s also accelerated trends with shoppers that we think would require years of education, like QR code ordering. For example, due to necessity, shoppers of all demographics learned to use QR codes and order from their phones in ways they were probably not comfortable with.
After 16 months of adjusting to our “new normal”, sellers and the customers they serve are preparing for the next phase: rebuilding for the long road ahead. While there is no quick fix for the damage caused by the pandemic, our lives and the way we do business have been radically altered – perhaps forever – from consumers who are still hesitant to engage with businesses like before, to restaurants and retailers that have had to radically pivot their business models to survive.
Knowing how to get back on your feet or start a new business is not easy in normal times, let alone after a global pandemic. The past year and a half has taught us that technology can help solve (or at least alleviate) some of the big problems, like reaching new customers, quickly implementing new types of execution, and automating processes to win. time and stay organized.
We also learned that in this environment, access to technology has become even more critical to long-term success. That said, business owners are not technologists, and they shouldn’t have to be. Technology should be simple, affordable, straightforward and easy to use. That’s what we aim to provide through Square Online and our wider product ecosystem.
What new challenges and market opportunities have you seen emerging?
Much of the change over the past year has been functional, creating and enabling payment and fulfillment options that meet customer needs.
As buyers continue to live behind their phones, the relationship between buyers and sellers continues to drift apart. While challenging, we see this as an opportunity for sellers to reinvent the way they connect with their customers. For example, if a company’s “brand” before the pandemic was centered around in-store customer service, how can that come to life with technology?
We’ve seen true innovation in mobile and online selling over the past 16 months, and we’re excited to support this direct connection between sellers and their buyers even more over the next year.
What are your goals for the future?
We always listen to our sellers and strive to build the features they need to be successful in the long term. Square Online’s goal is to continue to bring businesses online and help them reach their customers where they are – whether on mobile, online or social media – and ultimately never miss a sale.
How do you see the e-commerce industry evolving in the next 5-10 years?
The lines between business types and sales channels will continue to blur, and a true omnichannel strategy will be required for long-term success. Traditional distinctions separating food, retail, service and non-profit organizations are disappearing. We’ve seen new ways of doing business in industries that haven’t seen significant change in decades.
Consider a restaurant that now sells groceries and merchandise (retail), hosts a live video cooking class (service), and offers meal donations to frontline workers (nonprofit). E-commerce is no longer a one-size-fits-all retail technology. Sellers need a platform that grows with them and across all the different ways they do business, rather than just one.
We will also continue to see sellers prioritizing a direct relationship with their customers over quick, anonymous sales. Owning these relationships will give sellers the control and information needed to create more loyal customers and, therefore, long-term success.
Businesses will also continue to see an evolution in the value of their physical space. Many businesses will prioritize selling online, but a true omnichannel strategy will only grow in importance.
For example, while physical locations will become optional for some businesses, they will also become a differentiator for many. Creating in-person experiences to increase a business’ online presence will help build engaging relationships with buyers and communities.
Staff will also be able to automate menial tasks, like inventory counting, to free up time to focus on satisfying customers and getting back to what they love: growing their business.
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