Quietly, with great discretion, one of the largest American payment giants has settled in France. Square, the fintech launched in 2009 by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, admits to being just one “newcomer” on the territory.
“Our main objective is to make our brand known in France”, recognized his teams. Without delaying too much on its calendar, fintech has entered a first phase of experimentation with several shops, cafes and restaurants to measure local specificities. Now, the time for deployment has come.
Legitimate competitor of PayPal, bÃªte noire of banks and big claiming to become a player in cryptocurrency exchanges with App Cash, Square is a giant that works on both an offer for businesses and individuals. Online payment, automated in-store experience, the company wants to manage everything and meet the âomnichannelâ needs of its customers.
What to expect from the giant in France? To find out more, we spoke with Daniel Nicolas, Sales Director of Square Europe and current spokesperson for Square’s arrival in France.
Lemon squeezer: Square has set itself the goal of becoming “the exclusive point of contact for traders in the area of ââfinancial services”. In France, what do you offer companies?
Daniel Nicolas: Square is a pioneer in payment solutions, recognized around the world for its hardware and software solutions. We have developed our offer into an all-in-one system. An integrated and complete offer, which allows companies to accept all payment methods, whether in store, remotely and online. We have two million customers around the world.
In France, we offer solutions at the heart of payment, cash register software, employee management, invoicing tools and finally all hardware solutions: card readers, payment terminals with iPad and the “Terminal CarrÃ©”.
Lemon squeezer: What are Square’s objectives in France?
Daniel Nicolas: Our main objective is to present our brand in France, as Square enters the French market as a new entrant. We are already enjoying great success in the United States and many other countries, and we would like our name and brand to become familiar in France as well.
Lemon squeezer: Today, you are in competition with SumUp in mobile TPEs, Stripe in online payments … can we hope for a logical continuation with a current account like the neobank of the Qonto pros? Will we be entitled to a larger ecosystem?
Daniel Nicolas: Over time, we continue to expand the range of products and services we make available to businesses. Twelve years ago we started in the United States with the small square card reader. Now, with the feedback from our customers, we are able to expand our product line. We continue to do so.
Lemon squeezer: Your core business is torn by historical competitors (Ingenico) and fintech (PayPal, SumUp). Soon Apple will turn all of its iPhones into payment terminals. How will the market evolve? How to stand out?
Daniel Nicolas: The French market is very sophisticated. France is a force for innovation. It’s a very fragmented market, with a lot of players. It is a sign of market maturity and it is something very positive. But the customers are shared by all these different actors. France is in itself a very âomnichannelâ market.
When we look at the situation in many sectors, there has been a real digitalization of business operations. For our customers, e-commerce activities are up 40%. Added to this is digitization that has been enriched by an increasingly mobile shopping experience. However, competitors do not have this omnichannel vision with a complete offering for both physical and online sales.
Since the start of the pandemic, the use of our e-commerce tool has quintupled. Our studies have shown that 76% of French merchants sell their products in stores and online. The market is therefore strongly omnichannel.
Traders are also looking for a solution to make operations as simple as possible and ensure that they are as integrated and automated as possible. For example, if you have a customer who buys the latest product in the store and someone online also wants to buy it, you should be able to add a solution to sync inventory between the store and the live site. The more integrated and automated the operations, the more consistent the customer experience will be and will increase customer loyalty and avoid missed sales.
The more integrated and automated the operations, the more consistent the customer experience will be
Lemon squeezer: Square’s slogan, “Small businesses are perfect”, emphasizes small convenience stores, especially restaurants and cafes. In France, who will be your typical customer?
Daniel Nicolas: Initially, Square’s primary target was customers in the restaurant and retail industry. Over time, by expanding our range of products and services, we began to be able to meet the needs of not only very small businesses but also SMEs and large businesses. Today, Square caters to businesses of all sizes and in all industries.
Square is for businesses of all sizes and in all industries
Lemon squeezer: Why did you choose France? Why not rather Germany? Italy? Do you have statistics on the equipment rate of stores in France?
Daniel Nicolas: The launch of Square in France is part of a dynamic of international expansion, particularly in Europe. It has been one of the company’s priorities for over a year. France is the third European market where Square has launched its activities.
We started with the UK four years ago and last May with Ireland. We have also just announced our early access program for Spain. Developing internationally, particularly on the European market, is essential.
For France, as I was able to tell you, the maturity of the market and the number of companies that sell both in-store and online are two points that interested us. Entering France was obvious. However, France is also a specific market.
Entering France was obvious.
Lemon Squeezer: Square has over ten years of experience in the United States. On your side, you have worked in the UK market. Can you describe to us the differences between French, American and English customers?
Daniel Nicolas: France is a specific market due to the presence of many payment solutions, but also on the side of its customs. A very concrete case, specific to France, is that of the acceptance of meal vouchers. Square had to work to be able to offer the companies concerned a way to accept meal vouchers and integrate them into the software. It has never been a need in other countries. This is an important use case for France and customer feedback has brought it to our attention.
More generally, the markets in which Square operates have many similarities. In particular in the needs of companies from one country to another, of all sizes and in all sectors, but also in the purchasing behavior of customers. The latter has very high expectations.
Selling online is no longer enough. Above all, you have to sell an experience. The more integrated and coherent it is, the more companies are able to have a competitive advantage and more easily retain their customers. The omnichannel aspect is a reality today. For businesses and for customers.
Selling online is no longer enough. Above all, you have to sell an experience
Lemon squeezer: Square’s share price has increased eightfold since the start of the pandemic. Concretely, what has changed?
Daniel Nicolas: I don’t think I’m the best person to answer this question. It’s quite complex in that we have several types of offers. We have on the one hand the basic payment solutions and the part App Cash. As a sales manager, I can simply tell you about the share of sales at the heart of payment in France.
What we’ve seen over the past ten months is real growth for Square in all international markets. Over 80%. This is not only linked to Square’s position, but also to the health crisis. We have been able to help businesses move from the world of stores to selling online, helping to accelerate digitization.
Lemon Squeezer: Square doesn’t just work with businesses. Its Cash app has millions of individual users. Its revenues jumped 168% in 2020 alone. What is this app? Will we be able to see him arrive in France?
Daniel Nicolas: Cash App is a money transfer application equals by CarrÃ©. It is a separate entity from Square’s business solutions. But again, I’m not the right person to answer this question.
Editor’s Note: Contacted by email following our interview with Daniel Nicolas, Square did not want to say more about the arrival of Cash App in France either. âWe have nothing to share on Cash App at this time,â they said. Regarding a question on the rate of equipment in mobile terminals among French merchants, Square also declared: “We have nothing to share on this point”.