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His Master’s Voice is in a Tablet

I regularly get questions from smaller businesses on how to “take the leap” to customer commitment when they don’t even have the scale and budget to invest in deep data analysis. How will they ever know the customer’s voice, they ask?

Today, I know the answer is in technology and a will to experiment.

Take this week’s breathtaking technology, a device by Square, the inventor of the revolutionary credit card reader that attaches to smartphones or tablets, enabling virtually any small business operator to accept credit cards with an app.

The new innovation is an app called Pay With Square, and with it, small businesses no longer even need to swipe a card. The consumer only has to show up and say his or her name.

“It’s glorious for you, because it’s so much faster and less fussy than the old ways of paying,” reports the New York Times. “It’s fantastic for the merchant, because lower friction (hassle) means more sales. The merchant’s iPad Register app also offers a clear, useful ‘analytics’ screen, showing how much of what was sold when. All of this is free for both you and (except for the usual 2.7 percent Square fee) the merchant.”

The beauty of this app is its simplicity, which the Times describes as “joyous.” The customer just registers a profile with a personal photo for identification and links to a credit card account so the mobile can automatically process orders. You are not required to do anything more than mention your name, because your photo and identification will appear on the merchant’s own iPad once you enter the store. You don’t even have to take your phone out.

Using GPS, the app automatically lists nearby shops and cafes that accept Pay With Square, which Square estimates at 75,000.

What I love is the local feel of this technology and the way it can enable smaller businesses to compete nimbly with large competitors, whose massive point-of-sale systems are just too big for Square. With Pay by Square, small companies and their frontline employees can develop immediate and natural associations with customers. They can place the name with the face, and then connect that with what the consumer purchases, the usual arrival times and other pertinent activities.

Square brings to my mind a storied old trademark in the music industry, of a small dog staring knowingly into a gramophone. It s called “His Master’s Voice.”

Today, that dog has been replaced by a small square attached to an iPad.

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