Square launches its first industry specific platform for retailers

Square says this set of retail tools was built from the ground up and has been integrated into the Square ecosystem.

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Square's new retail-specific POS platform.

Square's point-of-sale and payments platform has always been described as agnostic in terms of the types of businesses it caters to. But the platform is overwhelmingly used by the service and hospitality industries, with retail businesses accounting for just 20 percent of Square's payments volume processed in 2016.

On February 8, Square is launching its first ever industry-specific product built for larger and more sophisticated retail businesses. Simply named Square for Retail, the POS application offers retailers things like a search-based user interface for checkout and barcode scanning, more robust inventory management and reporting capabilities, a customer relationship directory, and employee management tools.

Square says this set of retail tools was built from the ground up and has been integrated into the Square ecosystem so retailers can access Square's integrated payments, hardware, and financial and marketing services.

With its rollout, Square for Retail addresses one of Square's most significant weaknesses -- that its platform was relatively limited in terms of retail-specific features and couldn't accommodate growing businesses with expansive catalogs. Square for Retail is able to scale depending on the needs of a business, which will help Square move up from small-ticket merchants to larger, mid-market retailers with more processing volume.

Square is currently offering Square for Retail as a free 30-day trial to entice more users, but afterwards will charge $60 per month, per register for the service. Square said it will work with retail businesses with annual revenues over $250,000 and an average ticket size over $15 to create custom pricing packages.

In the long term, Square for Retail is a clear effort by Square to create a complete ecosystem of products that will provide customers a one-stop shop for most of their business needs. So many platforms for SMBs are consumed piecemeal, with various moving parts that can be challenging to stitch together. If Square can relieve that pain point, it boosts its competitiveness against the likes of Shopify and PayPal.

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