PayPal takes on Square with its mobile triangle

Krystal Peak · March 15, 2012 · Short URL:

PayPal Here is designed to create some competition with San Francisco's Square

Square has just gotten some rich competition now that PayPal has entered the mobile payment market. The eBay payment arm announced Thursday that it, too, will provide a phone dongle to help small businesses accept purchases wherever they are.

PayPal unveiled the design of its triangular dongle, which will process mobile payments for small businesses internationally.

At the San Francisco event debuting the new gadget, President and CEO of eBay, John Donahoe, proclaimed that the new service is better, has a better chance of going global fast (because of the PayPal name, and offers merchants everything they need to compete in this new commerce environment, online, mobile and now offline.

The dongle is called PayPal Here and fans out to avoid stress on the audio jack when merchants run credit cards through the system. Also unveiled Thursday was the complimentary app that is similarly designed to the Square app with some of the same features that were recently updated when Square started zoning in on the entire POS process (so that it can account for cash and check payments as well as have designated buttons for item prices). 

The PayPal here allows small business owners to show the customer the total, as well as allow customers easy tip-of-the-finger signing.

One feature that is interesting is the ability to scan cards if the dongle is lost or damaged. A merchant can scan the card (or checks) to secure payment. A great way to assure no revenue is lost.

Until now, PayPal has been a leader in the secure online payment market and has only recently set its sights on retail locations such as Home Depot. Square, on the other hand, has jumped out as the leader in mobile payments since its inception in 2010. Square has already processing $4 billion in transactions each year, take 2.75% for transaction fees.

When you sign up to be a part of the PayPal Here system, you will receive a PayPal debit card -- which is central in capturing the lower transaction fees. This card results in a 1% return for purchases made using the card. With that one percent back, PayPal says its transaction fee will be 1.7% (which is 1.05% less than Square, but for customers that don't use the PayPal debit card, the transaction fee is virtually identical). 

The PayPal app, called “local,” is a customer loyalty app that helps merchants recognize frequent customers and offer service assistance and deals.

PayPal already has 17 million users using its mobile application, but the loyalty and nubile points go to the young and innovative Square, which has already struck a cord with one-fifth of the credit-card accepting merchants in the US.

But some, less tech-savvy companies may be drawn in by the name-brand comfort that comes with PayPal and the familiarity with the business' end-to-end encryption to and security systems.

The PayPal Here card reader and merchant app for iPhone are both available today exclusively to select merchants in the United States, Canada, Australia and Hong Kong. It will be generally available to more merchants in those select countries next month. The Android version of the PayPal Here merchant app will also be available next month. 

In 2011, Square clocked in 1 million merchants using the mobile payments platform (which equates to one in eight merchants that accept credit cards in the US). In the fall, Square also announced that it was registering $11 million in payments per day (up from $4 million a day in July) and nabbed Sir Richard Branson, Kleiner Perkins, Visa, and other investors that handed over $100 million. Square also inked retail deals with Apple, Wal-mart, Best Buy, Radio Shack, and Target.

Just this month, Square announced that it is looking to futher disrupt the point-of-sale system for even more retail and restaurants around the globe with the launch of its updated iPad app: Register.

The San Francisco company already expanded from its smaller retail company base and added OfficeMax and select UPS Store locations to its list of big business gets and now is eyeing more companies with those traditional POS systems. 

So just as Square has been chipping away at what the credit card system can be for merchants, it also looks to shake-up the (mostly unchanged) POS system so that smaller merchants and vendors can gain the analytics and convenience without all the upfront and maintenance costs that can dampen any carry-over revenue for small businesses. 

Since PayPal is always looking to create more partnerships in retail and services, the possibility of a Square competitor is exciting for the future of commerce. 

I think that it is healthy for more companies to come into the mobile payment market. Its great for customers that want to use their cards and get virtual receipts and its great for businesses that might otherwise lose those sales. But it might take some more innovation to beat Square at its own game -- and, frankly, some better designing than just changing the shape and color of the dongle.

It really just feels like the people over at PayPal don't get the satire on 'The Office,' because I am fairly sure that when the characters were marketing a triangle tablet, it was to make fun of the unoriginal spin-offs that surface in the tech world all the time. (See the video at the end of the article to enjoy The Office spoof about creating a triangle tablet.)



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