Square Pickup: ‘BOPUIS’ for Local Restaurants (and Others)

square pickupSquare Pickup, the new invitation only test app from Square, is not a local delivery app — though in a way it’s a cousin of eBay, Google and Amazon’s experiments with e-commerce combined with local delivery services. It’s the opposite: buy online pick-up in store (“BOPUIS”).

Pickup is being described as an “order ahead” restaurant app. In that sense it’s just one more of several such apps that allow food ordering online for in-store pickup (e.g., Eat24, Seamless, Chipotle, etc.). But clearly Square sees Pickup’s potential more broadly.

The app is much more like Uber where physical items are sold (including food) in an e-commerce transaction but fulfilled offline and no money physically changes hands. The idea is that users buy online for in-store pickup to expedite “delivery” of goods/food.

A number of major retailers have offered this BOPUIS (French pronunciation: bo-pwee) capability for some time. However it’s not clear how widely used it is. My anecdotal sense is not much. Pickup could be different and more widely adopted, but that will require work on the back end by Square and local merchants (it’s an inventory issue; but see Square Market).

Although one could point to OpenTable as the early pioneer, Groupon is the most visible company to marry e-commerce and offline fulfillment.  Pickup may not ever be rolled out broadly to the public but it’s more evidence of the mingling of online and offline commerce — the “e-commercification of local.”

It’s also another instance of “mobile payments” in a specific app context with a stored credit card. Broad “horizontal” mobile wallets have little or no traction but payments in specific apps (e.g., Uber, Starbucks, Parking, restaurants) are moving the segment forward.

PayPal is opening up its SDK (which has been in beta) and I suspect we’ll see a “pay with iTunes” SDK/API at some point in the relatively near future. In app payments via a stored credit card or third party service (PayPal, iTunes, Amazon) will see much broader adoption before in-store “tap and pay” style use cases (i.e., Google Wallet, ISIS).

I would also say that Pickup, together with Square Register, Wallet and Square Market have the long-term potential to be highly disruptive to other third parties offering more traditional advertising and marketing services to SMBs.

Accordingly Pickup is interesting not because of its specific capabilities (order ahead) but in terms of what exemplifies about trends in the local and mobile markets.

Update: Square has added to its mix of services for SMBs with the acquisition of online scheduler BookFresh:

Today we are excited to announce that we have acquired BookFresh. BookFresh’s software helps local sellers create a seamless, self-service appointment booking experience that connects them instantly with new and existing customers. Just like Square, BookFresh is designed to give time back to sellers so they can focus on their business.

BookFresh, which began as HourTown was sold to Sugar in 2010, which must have sold it to Square.

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