Since major retailers are considering the potential of Metaverse as their next revenue stream, most retailers are far from thinking. Many are new to electronic payment technology.
But look at the average Main Street dealer these virtual goods and environments as a future profit center? We asked this question and many more to Roshan Jhunja, CEO and Head of Retail at Square.
Square was launched in 2009 to enable small businesses to accept credit card payments and use tablets as point of sale register. The company’s main customers remain small and medium-sized enterprises. That said, in its 13-year history, Square has expanded into consumer payments (Cash App), music streaming (Tidal), cryptocurrency (Spiral), and financial services, from payroll and human resources, including Afterpay, a “buy now, pay later” ”Installment loans which together with peers Klarna, Sezzle and Affirm have be subject to control of the mainstream press.
Square renamed itself Block at the end of 2021, but retains many products and services under the Square brand.
Square launched e-commerce hosting. Why was it a good strategy to go for well-established companies like Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento and even marketplaces like Amazon – which in some cases are your e-payment partners?
Roshan Jhunja: Our DNA is in bricks and mortar. You can compare us to the pop-up shop at the farmer’s market, the coffee shop. It is always personal payment. We primarily seek to enable salespeople who started offline or in-store to move online.
We have ways for customers to set up online stores and you can sell on TikTok and Instagram. Much of this has been accelerated by the pandemic. We tried in a way to ensure that salespeople could switch from their in-store sales experience to an online sales experience. Now it is a large omnichannel continuum. This is where we are; we give salespeople who know a lot about sales personally the opportunity to tackle the very complex world of digital sales across all of these different channels and markets.
It was launched just before the pandemic. And what happened then?
Jhunja: If you have plotted adoption as a curve, I think the pandemic has pushed us much further, faster. We were already going there. Most people when they change their behavior – whether it’s a consumer who wants to buy online or a seller who wants to start selling online – need a push, a reason to do so. It’s either critical mass, like your customers coming in and asking, “Why don’t you have a website?” or salespeople want to expand and attract a new demographic.
The pandemic was a major push because you had no other choice – if you wanted to stay in business, you could not physically sell anymore, so everyone had to build websites overnight and find out everything that was going on online. It forced a lot of reflection and gave people a little kick that they otherwise would not have gotten.
From your perspective, work with all dealers – not just large chains experimenting with the metaverse – is there a lot of enthusiasm for selling in the meta verse?
Jhunja: Within our base of suppliers – typically small suppliers, one to three physical physical locations, perhaps online, with three employees – we listen to what they want us to do next. What do their customers ask them? For now, their customers may ask them to sell live on TikTok. These are the options for the trader to connect to call trading. Or “I want to be able to send text messages back and forth and have the box that way.”
I have not heard many requests from our suppliers for metaverse yet. When it shows up, we will 100% go and check it out and see what we can offer them. The approach will not differ from our approach at any other shopping venue: take something that is likely to be complex enough for the average salesperson to figure it out for themselves and make it available. Give them a way to take their existing catalog, promote it, figure out how to close a sale on the meta-verse.
The pandemic has increased the popularity of technologies that support credit and installment payments, such as Klarna. Block bought Afterpay earlier this year. Why is there such a craze for these automated services right now?
Jhunja: He grew like a maniac, which is why we bought Afterpay. They started in Australia, where there is a much greater prevalence of buying now, pay later, just like how direct sales started in China. Will it still resonate with people in the United States? I think from what we see, the answer is yes. It tends to resonate well with a younger consumer demographic.
Gen Z do not have access to credit – they have not built up enough credit history to earn traditional credit cards – or they are just afraid of incurring debt and paying late. The good thing about buying now, paying later is that if you miss a payment, the world stops and waits until you can catch up. They do not let you dig deeper into the hole. It also makes a larger purchase more accessible. It’s not a sticker bump on the front. You can spread it out a bit. We see a lot of traction online now. We will find out if it also corresponds in the store. This is a fairly convenient means of payment that buyers are getting used to more and more.
Have you heard a call from Square users to headless tradeor is it more sophisticated than necessary?
Jhunja: I will not say that way After. We have larger, more complex suppliers who have their own developers and agencies. They want customization, they want to configure things in a tailor-made way, and we have that option. If anything, we build a stable of recommended partner agencies that know the Square ecosystem and how to work with it.
Who is the typical Square customer selling live? Is it a company of a certain size, or does it sell certain types of products that are suitable for display?
Jhunja: It’s no different than what livestream sellers are [everywhere] are successful, that is, women’s clothing. This is where it all began. You also have a lot of accessories for women, such as boutique handbags, high quality luxury clothing and unique accessories that sell very well.
With the most popular live streaming hosts – it’s a big part of live streaming, by the way – it’s not just about what you buy. It’s about the personality and quirks of the person you buy from, who shows you all the things and you dance with them.
This Q&A has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Don Fluckinger covers enterprise content management, CRM, marketing automation, e-commerce, customer service and activating technologies for TechTarget.