Why Square Wallet Failed.

Square has pivoted to its new Order app. Hopefully it learns a lesson from Wallet’s failures.

Matthew Stewart
May 12, 2014 · 5 min read

Today, Square has announced the removal of its Square Wallet product from the app store to make room for its newest offering: Square Order. Its goal is to make it simple for shoppers to place pick-up orders from their favorite local restaurants and merchants that use Square Register.

To me, a loyal Square customer, this comes as a huge blow. I can’t say I didn’t see this coming. Here are a few reasons why Square Wallet failed (from a customer’s perspective):

1) The Merchant didn’t know how to use it

Looking at my e-mail receipts, I’ve used Square Wallet 4 times in the past month. Of those 4 times, only one of the merchants left me saying, “That was a seamless experience. That is why I love Square.” I didn’t pull out my phone (auto check-in was enabled) or my wallet. So what went wrong the other three times? The person behind the counter didn’t know how to work Square Register. Either the merchant didn’t have it enabled for customers to check-in or they had no clue that there was an app for customers.


When Michigan Hackers opened the Foo Bar for a week, we used Square Register. It was a fantastic experience on our end and for our customers using Square Wallet. But we weren’t your average merchant, and our customers weren’t your average customer.

The simplest solution was to offer a quick training walkthrough. The first time a merchant opened Square Register, they should have been led through a walkthrough explaining the features that Square offers. Explain the integration with Square Wallet. Next up, it should have been offered on repeat mode for when a merchant had a new hire to train. Register is a beautiful and intuitive app, but its integration with Square Wallet wasn’t always apparent to the merchant.

Apple is the epitome of integration between products. When integration between products is done right, it enhances the consumer experience and creates loyal customers.

2) Lack of consumer adoption

I don’t work at Square, but I’m sure the numbers weren’t what they originally thought they were going to be. After all, they built this beautiful product that simplified the purchasing process. Who wouldn’t want to use it? I’m sure there were thousands of untapped customers out there because all of the above statements are true. Wallet was beautiful. It was intuitive. It made my life easier.

It looks like Square is looking to fix this problem in Square Order by focusing on customer acquisition. Good. There is nothing more frustrating to me as a hacker than seeing an excellent product with terrible marketing and customer acquisition.

Look at how beautiful this receipt is:

Square Wallet offered beautiful receipts that were almost perfect. Almost wasn’t good enough for it.

But it’s missing one major thing: customer acquisition. There is no app link saying, “download Square Wallet and pay automatically the next time you visit The Lunch Room.” There is no share to Facebook, leave a review on Yelp, offer feedback to the chefs. None. Instead, there is a simplistic receipt that could have a little more marketing built into it that actually enhances the customer’s experience.

The next solution to consumer acquisition seems rather silly to state, but it’s worth stating. When you ship a merchant a card reader, ship them some signage about Square to place near their iPad Register. Between the time I place my food order and the time I eat it, I’m waiting for at least five minutes. There is no better time to acquire a customer than during those five minutes. I just had a great card-swipe experience, received an excellent e-mail receipt and want to know more about Square. Give me a giant sign to stare at for the next five minutes that says “Download Square Wallet on the app store.”

Lastly, where is the online presence for Square merchants? Square Market is another amazing offering from Square. It simplifies the process of selling online and now, ordering ahead with Square Order. If Square learns one thing from Wallet’s failure, it’s that they need to get this product out there. Make it simple to integrate Market’s online order-ahead menu into existing merchant websites. They’re probably better off creating a separate web presence focused on pick-up/delivery to compete with Grubhub.

Please, please, please get it right this time

I love Square as a company. I think they have some of the best engineering and design talent in Silicon Valley based on my experience as a customer. Square Cash is my go-to over Venmo with my friends who are stuck in the old ways of cash. Jack Dorsey’s focus on transparency at the company is something that appeals to the Software Engineer in me.

But for the sake of the customers out there who haven’t had the opportunity to experience such a great product, learn from the mistakes of Wallet. Take the great products your team builds and sell the hell out of them. Sell, sell, sell and sell some more. Sell to the merchants, sell to the customers.

    Matthew Stewart

    Written by

    CS student at @umich. I'll eventually fill this in with some witty line that will make you smile. For now, I apologize for not making you smile.