Managing Your Company Sales Online with Square

Centuries ago, you might have traded a load of wood for some grain you needed. Paper money and coins solved that hassle, and for years, receiving payments was as simple as exchanging money. Then, credit cards came, and messed it all up again. Now it was expensive and difficult to get started accepting payments for your business.

Square has been working to make credit card payments even simpler than paying with cash. I recently had a chance to play with Square’s new iPad app Square Register, which promised to provide a more POS-like experience on the iPad than the original app had. I even wrote a review of the app, within which I mentioned the new and improved web interface. But since writing that review, I’ve spent more time playing around with the web app, and I’ve realized that it’s a fully featured beast of it’s own.

If you’re not familiar with Square, check out our sister site iPad.AppStorm’s in-depth review of it. Basically, signing up for a free account gets you a free card reader that will interface with your iPhone or iPad (or even Android device) via the headphone jack. It lets you take credit card payments through these devices and have the funds processed and deposited into a bank account, which is especially handy for small businesses as well as on-site contractors, booth vendors, or other similar enterprises.

Today, though, I’ve decided to walk you through the new Square web app, and talk about how the Square service is now more viable than ever as a financial solution for your small business. So run and get some coffee, and that “more” button will be waiting for you when you get back.

Real Time Analytics

The biggest addition to Square’s new web app is real time analytics. Square was already a pretty great tool for managing your small business, but in-depth real time analytics takes it to the next level, giving you yet another way that digital payments with Square are better than cash.

Suppose you had some employees running your store for you while you had the day off or were traveling, and you wanted to check in to see how business was doing. Previously, the Square web app would let you log in and see a real-time list of transactions, so you could see how much money you were making, and which items you were selling as the transactions occurred. With Square’s new web app, however, the interface provides you with much more dynamic graphs so that you can not only monitor what’s being sold in real time, but you can also break down your sales history by a large number of parameters.

I used Square’s press screenshot, since my account has a distinct lack of business data.

I used Square’s press screenshot, since my account has a distinct lack of business data.

First off, let’s start with the bar charts. The charts near the top of the screen display a break down of sales by month, day of the week, hour of the day, and transaction amount. The data in the report below can be manipulated and filtered by resizing the active zones on each of these charts, which are set, by default, to the current month, the entire week, the entire day, and all payment amounts, respectively. The row of data beneath the charts is the report, and will aggregate data based on the active zones above giving you information on totals, taxes, tips, fees taken by Square for processing card-based transactions, and refunds given.

Tip: If you click the icon to the left of the report, you can see a breakdown of transactions by cash, card, or tab (using Square Card Case).

Tip: If you click the icon to the left of the report, you can see a breakdown of transactions by cash, card, or tab (using Square Card Case).

It should also be noted that Square provides you extensive access to your business history, so should you need to review data from further back than a few months, you can click on the date button and choose a broader range of dates. Try doing that quickly with an old cash register and paper tape of receipts!

Broaden your filter with the calendar.

Broaden your filter with the calendar.

Selecting a specific transaction from the list at the bottom of the page will take you to a very detailed breakdown of that specific transaction, including a map of where the transaction took place (handy if you have more than one location, or if you are a traveling contractor who takes payments on-site), a list of each item or service purchased as it was rung up, and even the cash tendered and change given. From this screen you are also able to issue refunds or access receipts.

For The Data Hounds

What business management solution would be complete without the ability to export your data to a spreadsheet? For the data hounds using Square, there are buttons located directly above the sales history list that allow you to export spreadsheet files based on either items or transactions. Again, my Square account has hardly any data, but I ran a few test transactions you can see in the screenshot below how this information is organized.

Yes, I named my iPad “Holodeck.” Wanna fight about it?

Yes, I named my iPad “Holodeck.” Wanna fight about it?

The big advantage I see to these two separate reports is being able to use them to your advantage when anticipating sales and when doing your bookkeeping. Suppose you own a coffee shop (as is the example in Square’s screenshot) and you want to know what you can expect to sell next month. In the event that the in-app charts don’t provide enough information, you can simply access the spreadsheet from the same month of last year and compare the data. The transaction spreadsheets, on the other hand, will tell you exactly how much money is coming in and where it’s coming from, as well as how much money is going out, and where it’s going.

Final Thoughts

I’ve been impressed with the way Square has been doing things since it was released almost two years ago. The web app, especially with it’s most recent improvements, takes Square up to a level where it can be viewed as a completely viable way to manage your business and finances. As I’ve said before, Square makes me wish I had a local business of my own, just so I could use this fantastic tool. Square is facing increasing competition from other financial services companies, including Paypal and Visa, but their high quality apps and reporting tools keep them leading the pack. Unfortunately, Square is still only available in the US, but with so much success, one can only hope that they will expand to other markets soon.

What do you think? If you run a store or small business, are the improvements to the Square web app enough to convince you to consider switching from your current payment system? If you have personally used Square or a competing mobile payments app in your business, we’d love to hear about your experiences and what would make your payment system better!


Summary

Square is a full-fledged ecosystem of mobile apps and a web app that is designed the change the way you do business and process credit card transactions.

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