Square, Inc. last week announced revamps of its Square Online Store and Square for Retail, products that allow merchants to add e-commerce to their sales operations, including tools like Instagram selling, shipping and in-store pickup.
The products arise in part from the payment company's year-old acquisition of Weebly, according to a company press release.
The company also said it's expanded features of its point-of-sale app, Square for Retail. Offline businesses who also want to sell online can now create a website and automatically connect their Square for Retail catalog to a Square Online Store and "sync their items, inventory, prices, and data instantly across online and offline channels," and also allow customers to pick up online purchases in store.
E-commerce is becoming a necessity not just for retail giants like Walmart and Target but also the many smaller ones that dot the country.
"It's crucial that sellers are able to reach their buyers on any channel, whether in person, online, or in apps," David Rusenko, head of eCommerce at Square, said in a statement. "With the new Square Online Store, we're excited to integrate Weebly technology and bring the Square omnichannel experience to everything from retail businesses to restaurants."
The move gets Square back into the game, as rivals like Shopify also move to stoke their advantages. Shopify on March 13 adjusted its API license to "restrict partners from soliciting merchants to leave" its platform, and news also recently broke that Shopify and email marketing platform Mailchimp have axed their integration.
"Square is quite behind in eCommerce – this new offering will start to help close that gap," MoffettNathanson senior research analyst Lisa Ellis told Retail Dive in an email. She and her team last month had noted that Square "does have a straightforward lever to get back into the cadence of revenue and EBITDA beats-and-raises – likely the key to getting the stock to work: Sell the hell out of the core Payments system," including leveraging its Weebly capabilities.
Steve Weiss, Founder and CEO of Facebook advertising agency MuteSix, called the move "a huge boon" for small and medium-sized retailers. "Square will now help ecommerce brands sync across their online and offline channels and look to using data (pricing, inventory, etc.) to discover more about their audiences," he told Retail Dive in an email. "It's pretty clear Square is making a strong, well-timed play for Shopify's market share while continuing to attract larger merchants."
But don't expect Shopify or rival Magenta to take that lightly, says Jonathan Treiber, CEO and co-founder of cross-channel offer management platform RevTrax, who noted that Square's advantage would be even greater if it "offers the platform for free and just charges for payments, [making] merchant adoption and switching much less costly."
"Square has historically been a distant player in e-commerce when compared to the likes of Shopify and Magento," he told Retail Dive in an email. "Those players have massive adoption of their web stores by online retailers, many of whom might actually use square for any offline commerce transactions. ... Not every online retailer is looking to set up a physical storefront. My sense is that if Square's online commerce offering is anything like its offline merchant solutions, Shopify and Magento had better go on the offensive and not get caught flat footed."