It’s a tap and chip world … and that’s changing how Canadians pay and tip. It’s also the inspiration behind the global launch of the new Square Stand, which ensures that businesses are ready to welcome back customers with a user-friendly, fast and easy-to-use way to pay. We chatted with Laura Jones, head of Square global product marketing, to find out more about the launch, and to learn how our tipping habits changed during the pandemic. —Vita Daily
The pandemic has really changed the way we shop; can you explain how things are changing?
The way businesses and shoppers interact in Canada and around the world has evolved dramatically over the past two years. One major way COVID impacted people’s behaviours was the desire for as little contact as possible for in-person payments. Canadians have always been big on tapping their cards to pay, yet that trend accelerated during the pandemic, especially when social distancing became so prevalent and still is to a certain extent. Another aspect is around offering commerce options wherever the customer is. And it’s not just about being able to buy online and in-store, it’s also about mixing ways to buy—for example, customers ordering online but wanting to pick up in-store or wanting to order an item that’s out of stock in store for delivery to their home and so forth. Basically, it’s all about offering customers maximum flexibility in the way they buy and pay as the world continues to adapt to this really dynamic and challenging situation for everyone.
Paying by tapping your watch, phone or card is so convenient and easy … but there’s a complex technology working to make that all happen beneath the surface, right?
Definitely. There’s a lot that goes into that technology and we’re always thinking of ways to improve the checkout experience. For example, we just introduced the new Square Stand in Canada and in seven other countries this April. For anyone not familiar with the original Stand, it’s a countertop device that allows anyone to turn an iPad into a really powerful point of sale. But since we launched our previous version nine years ago, buying behaviours and selling needs have changed a lot. The new Stand incorporates several updates in response to those changes, starting with moving payments from a separate reader on the counter directly into the display, which means no more separate card readers on the countertop, and improving the tipping experience for the customer. We’ve also given the Stand a fresh new sleek and modern look—we’re excited about it!
So, Square data shows that Canadians have been tipping really generously throughout the pandemic. Can you topline the data for us?
Yes, we found some interesting data showing that across the board and right into the first quarter of 2022, Canadians have been tipping more generously during the pandemic. On average, they’re tipping 17.9% on face-to-face purchases, which is up from 16.6% pre-pandemic. When looking regionally, we also found that it’s very consistent across the country. Compared to the 17.9% that I mentioned as the national average, the maximum was 18.8% for Alberta and the Prairies, followed by 18.1% in Ontario—and the lowest was 17% in B.C. The key takeaway for me is that tipping is up everywhere compared to pre-pandemic. Canadians are now more appreciative of the service they are receiving!
Do you think that the generous tipping is our way of saying, “Thank you, hang in there,” to our favourite local businesses?
I do. We’ve actually seen that trend holding true in other countries like the US (where tips are even higher than what we’re seeing in Canada these days). I think it’s a way for people to show businesses—especially local ones, from restaurants to salons to other service providers—that customers care and value them. Canadian small and mid-sized businesses are the backbone of the economy and we’ve all seen so many struggling and even closing during the pandemic. It’s great to see communities rallying behind them as they try to recover from so many restrictions in the past years.
Tell us about what Square is seeing with people starting businesses during the pandemic … if all you need is an iPad or a phone to start processing payments, anyone can start a business, right?
Our goal is to help businesses save time and effort by offering them all the tools they need to start, run, grow and adapt, from software to hardware all the way to financial services. Even before the pandemic, we’ve seen business owners often struggling with finding the right tools that work well with one another, which ends up being expensive and time-consuming for them. We want to make things easier so sellers of any type and size can actually focus on doing what they love and be able to spend more time with customers. The new Stand is an affordable point of sale device that allows you to control everything from one place, so we hope Canadians like the new look and feel and the smoother check-out experience.
Tell us more about the Square tools that are built by Canadians.
Square has a team of hardware and software engineers in Toronto and across Canada that build a broad range of Square tools used by our sellers across the country. Our Canadian hardware engineers played an instrumental role in the development of the Square Stand I mentioned earlier. That team ensures that the Stand accurately reads NFC and chip cards, and that our hardware follows all EMV and payment brand requirements (for example, for Interac). We’re just really amazed by the talent of our Canadian team who is building better tools for hundreds of thousands of our Canadian businesses out there.