Simon Says: The Future for Small Businesses is (potentially) Bright


Square is a company that caught my eye just over a year ago. If you’re not familiar with it, you should be. It’s an iPhone / iPad app that lets you receive credit card payments. The start-up (if you can call a company which transfers more than $3 million per day a "start-up") has recently received investment from Richard Branson and is "looking into international expansion in 2012", this excites me greatly, here’s why...

I am a sucker for an app that is beautiful, simple, easy-to-use and fills a need. Square covers all these bases, which is why I was automatically a "fan boy" of the company, despite not being able to use it because it is only available in America.

This isn’t why I am excited. I am excited because I’d like to see it in the UK, saving & helping small business owners. There’s a number of pop up restaurants that would benefit from this easy payment system. I can think of a number of food carts in London who would get more sales if they could easily accept card payments, and several "Christmas" stalls that would love the facility now.

A move overseas would give Google an overdue nudge to launch Google Wallet in the UK and to smaller businesses. At the moment they partner with massive brands including Toys "R" Us and Foot Locker, but this doesn’t really help “the little guy” which people still want to discover.

Earlier in the year we saw some Groupon deals on FourSquare only shown to people when they checked in. I think if Square and FourSquare launched an incentive for people to “check-in” for loyalty points when they pay for items this would really help small businesses.

Something like FourTap, an awesome app that lets you seamlessly "check-in" to London Underground stations when you tap your Oyster card onto the sensor, but when you swipe your credit card it checks you into the businesses FourSquare profile.

Additionally I would like to see Square partner with the newly launched app Oink. Oink lets you review the products at your favourite businesses, not the location itself. This level of review allows me to check-in to a business and see what other people have said about the food on a menu in a restaurant, or the cocktails at a bar. This local knowledge is invaluable (when positive) to a small business.

I firmly believe the market for people who want to find the "indie" restaurants, shops and businesses is expanding. In a world where globalised chains are fast taking up more and more areas of the high street, personally (and I can’t be alone) I get bored of going to the same 4 shops for clothes and having the same burger on holiday as I have in London.

These apps have a great opportunity to integrate with and crowdsource information from social media to help people find and recommend the hidden gems in their city. I hope in 2012 we see easy-payment systems like Square helping entrepreneurs start more businesses and I hope FourSquare and Oink help retailers who have quality products become well-known quicker.

We all know deals can bring in fickle customers and short-term interest, but brand loyalty and advocates help build a community around a business ultimately leading to more sustainable, long-term growth.

Photo (cc) Aaronth