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Beware how using a “Square” Card Reader May Affect Your Email Marketing Strategy

If you own a credit card and don’t live under a rock, you’ve likely paid for something using a Square card reader in recent years. The little machine that plugs into mobile devices makes processing payments much easier for businesses and service providers on the go, and more and more businesses have begun integrating the technology into their checkout process.

But a recent Wired article, detailing one reporter’s unpleasant experience after visiting a nearby food truck, should have email marketers paying close attention. Following a meal that was paid for using a Square, the reporter was bombarded with the restaurant’s marketing emails that were just as annoying as they were persistent. How and why was she receiving these messages when she didn’t give complicit consent to the food truck?

After some sleuthing, the reporter found out that she consented to receiving automatic receipts and promotions from any company that uses a Square machine the VERY first time she entered her email into the Square system. While it’s not mandatory to enter your email upon purchase, once you do so, you are defaulted into receiving automated receipts and promotions from every Square vendor you visit moving forward.

If you are familiar with email marketing laws such as GDPR and have experienced an ultra-fast, ultra-effortless Square transaction, you know this scenario is murky because it’s likely most customers are granting uninformed consent. Not only is this one of the fastest ways to annoy subscribers, but it’s a quick way to land yourself in the junk inbox and hurt your reputation.

Knowing all of this, it’s important to keep these things in mind if your business ever uses a Square reader to process transactions:

  1. When a customer uses a Square reader, their email and credit card are linked, and that email will be shared with every Square vendor they visit moving forward. This is why Square charges vendors a small fee to use the technology – they can capitalize on the scale and reach of Square’s email lists for marketing to their customers.

  2. Square does not have an account page for customers to opt out. Rather than having an accessible dashboard to control personal settings, subscribers have to go to the bottom of any Square vendor marketing email to unsubscribe or manage preferences, including opting out of all vendor marketing and digital receipts.

  3. If a customer selects “no receipt” at checkout but hasn’t gone through the necessary process to opt-out in their preferences, their selection will not override their settings and they will still receive a receipt.

So, what does this mean for vendors that use this technology? Square is an incredibly handy tool that offers significant marketing opportunities to your brand, but it could also hurt your reputation. As a business, there is not much you can do to change Square’s policies and infrastructure for consumers on a short-term basis. Here is what you can do to avoid the repercussions:

  • As always, think carefully about the marketing emails you send. Be strategic with your communications and avoid sending emails too frequently to the point of annoying subscribers.

  • Familiarize yourself and your employees with how Square utilizes customers data to answer any questions or concerns they may have.

  • Is your customer ogling over the Square because they haven’t interacted with one before? This is a great time to step in and inform them of their options when it comes to opting-in or out from vendor marketing emails before it backfires on you later.

Modern life is full of amazing inventions and technology that make doing business easier, but most technology comes with its downfalls. Protect your business by knowing the risks and rewards of devices like Square to make the most out of your email marketing strategy without harming your reputation.