Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, online businesses, large and small, are reporting a massive increase in ecommerce sales. In fact, recent figures from Adobe's Digital Economy Index show US ecommerce sales have gone up by a whopping 49% in April alone!
In light of this surge, more and more businesses are doing all they can to adjust their online sale strategies to make it easier for consumers to continue spending during this challenging period
And many small to medium-sized operators have found a solution to help them achieve exactly that…
In May 2020 San Francisco-based payment giant, Square, launched a new service called Square Online Checkout. It’s important to note this isn't the same as Square Online Store.
Square Online Checkout is a new and straightforward tool that helps smaller online merchants simplify and accept secure payments online without a website. So, this begs the question – What is Square Online Checkout, and how is it beneficial (or otherwise) to online sellers?
To help answer that very question, we’re taking an in-depth look at Square Online Checkout, more specifically:
- Who it’s aimed at
- What its landing page says about it
- How much it costs
- How to get started
- How to share checkout links
- How Square Online Checkout utilizes QR Codes
- How you can use it for subscriptions and memberships
- Square Online Checkout's tracking and reporting features
- Its pros and cons
- Its marketing features
- The quality of its customer service
That's a lot to cover, so let’s get started!
What’s Square Online Checkout?
Square Online Checkout is Square’s solution to creating payment links you can share with customers. This makes it easier for them to buy wherever they are on the web! You can also embed links as ‘buy buttons” on your eCommerce website or blog or generate a QR code so customers can scan and access the checkout easily. These links then direct customers to a checkout page where they can complete their online purchase.
These payment links work wonders for unlocking new sales channels such as SMS text message, email, social media sites, messaging apps, etc. You can generate as many links as you need and even attach them to different products or services you sell. Or if, say, you’re a charity, and you’re asking for donations, you can use them for that too!
Also, in the US, sellers can accept recurring payments for subscription and membership services – handy, right?
What Kind of Business Is Square Online Checkout Best for?
Square Online Checkout specifically caters to the needs of the following three types of small business:
- Companies/SMEs offering professional services, like home and repair, consultancy, marketing, and so on
- Brands in the health and fitness industry: Individuals offering online services such as yoga, pilates, personal training services, counseling, etc., that customers can buy online or pay for in-person.
- Small retailers who may not have an online store
With Square, such businesses can sell to limitless customers via multiple sales channels via a straightforward click.
What Does its Landing Page Say?
Square Online Checkout's landing page offers a simple explanation of its service, stating it facilitates the creation of: “easy checkout links to help you start accepting payments online.”
Users can create a payment link for an item by just giving it a name, a price, saving the link, and sharing it to wherever you want to sell from. Then, as we've already hinted at, customers click through to a checkout screen where they just need to enter their:
- Email address
- Payment information (card number, expiry date, security code, etc.)
Please note: If you're running an affiliate program, your affiliates have to use a specific link to ensure their sales are tracked. This is imperative for making sure they're awarded the right commission for their sales.
Where's Square Available, and What Does it Cost?
At the time of writing, Square Online Checkout is available to use in the US, Canada, UK, and Australia.
There are no monthly fees, contracts, or start-up costs involved. You just pay transaction fees (also referred to as payment processing fees) which differ depending on your location:
- US and Canada: 2.9% + 30¢ per transaction
- UK: 2.5% per transaction
- AU: 2.2% per transaction
When one of your customers buys something via Square Online Checkout, transactions take around 1-2 working days to process and appear in your bank account. There is, however, an ‘Instant Transfers' option for anyone who wants faster payouts. The downside to this, though, is that you're charged another 1% on top of the regular transaction fees.
Something worth noting is that Square Online Checkout caps the size of the transactions you can process. The maximum limit per transaction is $50,000. Or, if you’re a charity and you’re accepting donations, the maximum per-transaction limit is $5,000.
When a customer makes a payment, they're emailed a basic receipt, but you can customize this to include more details.
If your customers want a refund, Square does this for free – it doesn't charge an admin fee for the chargeback. You'll also be pleased to hear, the Square support team (see below) will help (for free) if there are any disputes between you and a customer.
Before you get going, if you want to use Square Online Checkout as a merchant, you need a Square Online Checkout account. Since Square is free to use, setting up an account doesn't cost you a cent.
You can set up your Square account in four simple steps:
- Go to Square and click the “Get Started” button.
- Enter your email address and create your password
- Select your country of residence
- You're then asked to provide your social security number, home and shipping addresses, a phone number, and to answer a few questions about how you plan to use Square Online Checkout.
Once you’ve done that, you’re all set to start creating your Square Online Checkout page (don't worry, this is also really easy). There’s no coding or website setup needed, and Apple and Google Pay are automatically enabled. As for buyers, they can purchase without setting up a customer account and have the choice of a variety of payment methods, including major debit and credit card payments, as well as Google and Apple Pay.
There are seven simple steps to creating a checkout link:
- Go to your Square Dashboard homepage.
- Click Online Checkout and then click “Create a Checkout Link.”
- Under “Purpose of Link,” choose either “Collect Payments” or Accept Donations.”
- Give your link a name (Remember: customers can see what this is)
- If asked, enter the amount you want to charge for each item.
- Click “Save” to create your checkout link.
- Select “Copy” so you can then share the link anywhere.
It’s also possible to create links via the ‘Settings' tab or the ‘Edit item' page on your dashboard.
If, however, you’re using the Square App, it’s slightly different. You just have to follow these five steps:
- Enter the amount you're selling the item for.
- Tap “Charge”
- Tap “Online Checkout”
- Provide a few product details
- Tap “Get Link.”
- Now you can share your link any way you want.
BUT, the downside to using the app is that Square Checkout links are only available to customers in your own country, i.e., domestic sales. If you want to sell internationally, you’re going to have to create a Square Online Store.
How Can I Share My Checkout Links?
As you're creating your checkout links, Square simultaneously makes corresponding Checkout Buttons. These direct customers to your checkout page where they can pay for your services and/or products. Emails are another great way to promote your services, fundraisers or whatever you want to sell online.You can easily share checkout links with Square Marketing email campaigns.
The reason Checkout Buttons are such a great addition is that if you don’t have an online store, they're Square’s way of enabling you to start selling via your existing website or blog without launching a specific online store.
Checkout Buttons also display product information, such as its price and what it’s called. You can customize your Checkout Button's color and text to suit your brand, so it matches the look of your website or blog.
You can share these checkout buttons by completing the following five easy steps:
- Go to your Square Dashboard homepage.
- In the Online Checkout area, click “Create a Checkout Link.”
- Choose which Online Checkout item you’re about to share
- Click “Copy embed code.”
- Paste the code on your website or blog.
Can I Create a Checkout Link QR Code?
You can also direct customers to your checkout page by creating a custom QR code for any item you’re selling. Again, the process is pretty simple:
- Log in to your Online Square dashboard.
- Where you see the hamburger menu, choose Online Checkout.
- Choose the item you want to generate the QR code for
- Go to “Share Your Link” and find the QR code option.
- Click “Create”
- Download the QR Code to your device to print and/or share online for customers to use.
Can I Deactivate Links? If so, How?
The quick answer is, yes, you can.
But, the downside of doing so is that if it’s a link you created and shared with customers, once you disable it, your customers can't use it again to repurchase the product via that link. If, after deactivating the link, you wanted to enable customers to purchase that product again, you’d have to create a new link.
You can disable a checkout link in three easy steps:
- Go to your Online Checkout homepage.
- Choose the item you want to delete or deactivate
- Click “Delete” or “Deactivate” at the bottom of the item’s details page.
What About Online Subscriptions and Memberships?
If, for example, you’re a personal trainer and you're offering online fitness courses in bundles, or you’re a consultant selling an online course, you can also use Square Online Checkout to set up membership and/or subscription services. These enable customers to set up regular weekly/monthly/quarterly/annual payments.
You can create a recurring payment link pretty quickly:
- Go to the Square dashboard.
- Create a new checkout link (see above) or edit an existing link
- Choose “Collect payments” or “Accept donations.”
- Enter the amount you want to charge
- Enter the title of your link
- Enable “Allow Customers to Subscribe”
- Select “Edit” to choose how often you wish to take payments (or enable customers to make this choice themselves).
- Click “Create Link”
You can now share your link.
Once they’ve paid, your customers get an email summarizing their purchase. They also have the option of canceling at any time via that same confirmation email.
You can also manage your regular subscriptions via your Square dashboard. Here you can see which customers have paid what amount and when, which ones are active, how much you have received in the last 30 days, and how much you're also due in the next 30 days.
What About Reporting and Tracking?
Sellers can easily view the number of sales they're making per link, so you can see at a glance which goods, services, or charity donations are driving the most business.
You can see the number of sales you're making per link in two simple steps:
- Go to your Online Checkout homepage.
- Look at the Sales column and see your sales per link.
You can also view the same information via your Square Dashboard Reports function. As well as all of that, you can keep track of customers via Square’s customer directory integration. This allows you to monitor all your customers from the convenience of one place. The directory integration also enables you to share links seamlessly through Square's Marketing option (which is only available in the US).
The Pros and Cons of Using Square Online Checkout
There's nothing more helpful when you're considering whether to purchase a piece of business software than a pro-con list. So, we've taken the liberty of compiling one for you:
The Pros 👍
- Customers don’t have to input lots of details or set up an account to make a purchase
- You can generate and share an unlimited number of checkout links and QR codes
- There are no monthly fees or set up charges
- Square Online Checkout is an excellent option for taking and managing charity donations
- Customers enjoy a slick checkout experience
- It's ideal for merchants selling a smaller number of items or individual services
The Cons 👎
- It's only available in a few countries
- You can’t send links directly from third-party apps.
Running an Email Marketing Campaign
As it's possible to add your Square Online Checkout links to your marketing campaigns, you can promote your business…wait for it…via a Square marketing campaign. To launch one of these, you can do so via Square's Dashboard.
Here's how you add these links to your online marketing campaigns:
- Head to the Marketing tab on your online Square Dashboard. Here you can create your campaign and select your Square Online Checkout link from the dropdown list.
- Once you’ve launched your marketing campaign, customers who receive it can click on the checkout links to buy items there and then.
It’s worth noting, at the time of writing, it wasn't possible to track click-through rates for checkout links. This is presumably because it’s still early days for this service. Also, if you want to use Square's Marketing services, it'll cost you. For smaller businesses with 0-500 customer contacts, prices start at $15/mo with a free 30-day trial.
No matter which Square marketing subscription you opt for, you'll get:
- An integration with Square's Dashboard
- Automatic email collection
- Automated email campaigns
- Sales and campaign performance data
- You can send an unlimited number of emails.
Although it’s pretty simple to get started, you may need extra support as you go along. Square's customer support isn't 24/7. It’s only available via email and phone during working hours. You can email anytime but expect to receive a response between 24 to 48 hours. Phone support is available between Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm.
What we Think
Square Online Checkout is a nifty low-tech feature that simplifies life for smaller operators by enabling them to create a seamless sales journey for their customers. We think it’s especially attractive to those looking for a PayPal alternative and sellers who have had to shift their business model online because of COVID-19.
The same could also apply to small physical stores without a significant website presence and entrepreneurs that had previously offered only in-person services, but now see the benefits of giving customers the flexibility of doing things online too.
All in all, we think this nifty online payment tool is best suited to smaller business owners who don’t have a massive stock inventory they need to manage. It is, however, a fast way to share links for customers wanting to make online payments. Customers can make online transactions from any device without having to enter masses of details. So, we're sure it's bound to be a hit with your audience!
Do you have Square Online Checkout? If so, tell us what you think in the comments box below. We'd love to hear your opinions. Speak soon!