The Future Is Bright (If You Pay For It)
by Lauren Canna
In 2012, a two-year-old startup received an investment of $25 million from the world’s largest coffee chain, Starbucks. That start-up sells the Square POS system. “This is an epic partnership,” said Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter and Square’s CEO. This investment enabled the company to continue its research and development in revolutionizing retail experiences for merchants and for customers.
“The level of innovation was so compelling,” said Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks. At the time, Square promised Schultz a list of new features, but most of all, Square promised that Starbucks would be ahead of the curve, guaranteeing that his chain would be the first to have the best and brightest innovations in retail payment experience.
Square appealed to Starbucks with a compelling narrative that went beyond the technological capabilities it could offer and articulated aspirations for things to come. When a brand’s purpose is geared toward the future, customers will pay to be prepared.
Square is a business that understands the emotional fulfillment of success. Square has benefited from its 2012 partnership with Starbucks despite losing money in the deal. Though the agreement proved to be unprofitable, Square gained guidance and “some street cred” from Starbucks in its early days of growth. Like Square once did, small businesses breaking out in well-established industries need support in their market relations.
Across the globe, consumers are likely familiar with the Square retail terminal that is prominent on the counters of coffee shops and retail stores nationwide. Square is available for businesses of any size, enabling both small and enterprise businesses to become part of a “powerful ecosystem of commerce solutions.” Once businesses have outgrown baseline payment offerings, they can purchase more features for an additional cost. Square bases its profits on telling its clients a story of its potential alongside its customers.
Retail platforms that consider the future of businesses—like Square—offer alternatives to digital cash or credit card processors that encourage stagnancy and prevent financial evolution. Square tells its customers about its purpose rooted in growth with phrases like, “Helping every size of business succeed,” and “Priced to help you grow and thrive.” Its messaging is fundamentally about the potential to scale: “We grow with you.” In turn, customers become invested in their own growth by constantly adding new POS features and buying into Square’s brand narrative.
The framework of the Square story, combined with the tools that it offers to merchants, builds action and evolution for both parties, demonstrating that the customer is in control of their own future. Square shares a set of objectives (including access to funding and an easier way to accept credit card payments) that align with the foundation of its commitment to success for businesses of any size.
The Square story “starts with you.” A narrative that places its customer at the center appeals to retailers and builds an emotional connection between Square and the merchants who use it. When potential and existing customers look at Square’s brand, they see themselves represented in its articulation of the challenges of running a business, as well as its approach to partnership. Square reminds business owners: “It’s your business—so you should be able to run and grow it with tools that serve you, not the other way around.” In turn, customers add new POS features and additional features, knowing that an investment in Square is an investment in their business growth.
Square wants its customers’ businesses to scale and adapt so that they never outgrow the platform. Its customers stay out of idle demise by taking advantage of opportunities to grow alongside it. Pricing packages are based on the scalable needs of its customers “for every stage of growth” instead of forcing them to upgrade to a new POS system. This way, customers who have their foot in the door—enticed by free benefits—pay more to see how else their business could profit from the Square operating system.
Even the smallest elements of the Square narrative, like its URL of squareup.com, point back to the growth its partnership guarantees. Square also offers a loan program, which has led businesses to grow 10 percent more in a year’s time. Everything that the Square company promotes circulates around stories of growth for companies, including a recent “Here to Stay” campaign on social media that tells the stories of local businesses that have scaled with the help of Square.
Clients who keep paying for Square’s services have bought into the story that working with Square leads to the growth its customers hope for. Square’s narrative acknowledges that support is needed for growth, and it offers the technology and guidance that can make scaling happen. Centered around the needs of a business growing from the ground up, Square customers know they can “start free, then add products as [they] need them,” aligning with Square’s mission to deliver economic empowerment for businesses of any size.
Juice Press, a popular grab-and-go smoothie chain, leverages the data that Square collects to better understand customer profiles, which is a feature no other cash-based POS system can provide. With goals to grow “exponentially,” Square has enabled Juice Press to understand its customers’ patterns and trends so that it can scale its business and respond to the expectations of the market with confidence.
“We found that the data that we’ve been able to retrieve [with Square] and the Square marketing program have provided very significant payback for us,” said Juice Press CEO Michael Karsch.
Instead of spending days concerned with payroll, inventory, loyalty programs, gift cards, or retail POS, Square helps business leaders focus on creating new products or determining the pain points of its customers—the real drivers of retail growth. Business owners are experts in their places, people, goods, and services—not transactional functionalities.
Square looks to the future by anticipating what services business owners will need as they grow and charging for them. Even before its customers are ready to implement the tools it offers, Square is prepared to integrate features like advanced staff, commerce, customer, and banking tools. Business owners who need a hand in their strategy can utilize Square’s long list of premium recommendations. Square communicates its value through a story that intertwines support in its partnership and a scalable future.
The story that Square tells is what draws its partners into adopting the Square platform for business needs. Plenty of POS systems can accept credit cards or keep track of inventory, but no other platform guarantees a future-centric partnership the way that Square does. Square’s messaging shows business leaders that its technology is built not only to grow with their organizations, but to stimulate that growth in the first place. Square reminds business leaders that a POS system should enable their organization to scale while running their business how they please—and that Square will be alongside them through it all.
Lauren Canna is a brand storyteller at Woden. Want to stay connected? Read our extensive guide on how to craft your organization’s narrative, or send us an email at email@example.com to discuss whatever your storytelling needs may be.