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It’s Time to Ditch the Cash Register

By Cheryl Lock for America's Backbone Weekly
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For many small business owners, from artisanal craftsmen and farmers market vendors to retail giants like Starbucks, Subway and Nordstrom -- old-school cash registers are a thing of the past, and mobile payment systems such as Square Readers are the wave of the future.

Square technology, which includes multiple products like the free Square Register app, the Square Market, the Square Reader, and even a Square Stand (essentially a stand to place your Square Reader-powered iPad on), allows small businesses to accept credit card payments directly using mobile devices such as an iPad, iPhone or Android phone or tablet. The Square Reader is a small gadget that plugs into the headphone jack of these devices and syncs with the Square Register app to accept credit card payments.

If this all sounds a bit too tech-heavy or complicated for your business, consider that its simplicity is actually a big draw for many Square Reader users -- along with a plethora of other advantages, as well.

Why Businesses Love It

Although providing an easy point of access from which to accept payment is without a doubt the main draw of the Square system (you literally just attach the plastic Square Reader dongle to your smart device with the Square Register app and start swiping cards), the app also tracks inventory and analytics and, as an added bonus, funds for all sales are available to the business in only one to two business days. "Everyone is considering a mobile payment systems, either in store via iPad or having the customer pay via their smartphones," says retail consultant Bob Phibbs. "Another draw [of the technology] is that these places don't have to train anyone to do batch reports at the end of the night and close out their sales to the credit card company," says Phibbs. "Instead, each transaction clears itself in real time."

The allure of using this type of system is about more than just innovation and ease of use, though -- it's also space efficient. Ditching those rows and rows of cash registers in physical stores opens up a lot of space for more merchandise, Phibbs notes.

Square technology comes with a few other bells and whistles too. The Square Register allows small business owners to accept and manage pickup orders; customize your products with photos, names and prices; and apply discounts, create order modifiers and issue refunds -- all from your iPad, tablet or smartphone. Customers can also sign and leave a tip directly on the device, and receipts can be sent via text message or email, saving paper.

There is a cost to this convenience: a 2.75 percent transaction fee. (Typical transaction fees for merchants to accept credit card payments generally range from 1.5 percent to 3 percent.)

For small businesses and entrepreneurs such as a local baker or jewelry maker, Square Readers offer great convenience for customers who have been clamoring to use credit cards to pay for cab rides or purchases for years now.

Getting Started

If those who use mobile payment systems say they're easy, it's even easier to get started. For example, you can visit the website and sign up for Square to receive a free Reader in the mail, or check with your wireless service provider. Then download the app to your iPad, attach the Square Reader -- and start making sales.

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Cheryl Lock is a former magazine, newspaperand website editor turned full-time freelance writer. She has worked on staffat the Daytona BeachNews-Journal, More and Parents magazines, aswell as for Learnvest, theleading women's financial website. Her work has also appeared in Newsweek, Forbes, Ladies' HomeJournal and The Huffington Post, amongothers.
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