Square moves from the smartphone to the browser, building its own online market

Square isn’t merely content with processing credit cards for local businesses. It wants to handle their online transactions as well. On Wednesday it announced the latest wrinkle to its ever expanding commerce strategy: Square Market, an online marketplace that integrates with its Reader and Register services, and — surprise, surprise — uses social media tools from CEO Jack Dorsey’s other digital darling Twitter.
The marketplace lets Square merchants set up simple, yet elegant, online storefronts with basic info about the company and product listings. Square is clearly targeting many of the same small businesses that use its mobile payments services, and in fact, the idea seems to be lure them into the market. Many of those merchants are already have online shops on Amazon(s amzn), eBay(s ebay) or Etsy, but Square is offering a way to bridge the gap between online and offline sales.
The same inventory management system in Square Register is in the backend of Market, so if a seller enters a new product into the dashboard he or she can opt to sell it both in-store and online. Merchants can sell items from the browser storefront, at physical store’s register or at city festival using Reader, and they’ll all be accounted for in the same Square engine.
Square is also unifying its fees across the online and offline systems. It’s not charging listing fees or offering monthly storefront subscriptions. The same 2.75 percent it charges for Reader transactions applies to online transactions as well.
Each storefront is part of the overall Square Market, which customers can browse and search, but Square also seems to be focusing heavily on social media as a way to trigger purchases. Every item has a Tweet, Facebook(s fb) and Pinterest button, but given Square’s pedigree the major focus is on using Twitter as a digital marketing tool. Merchants can post items directly to Twitter through Square’s dashboard tools, creating a kind of TweetDeck for e-commerce.
Square is essentially moving in the opposite direction of its main mobile payments rival PayPal, the entrenched provider of online payments for small businesses. While PayPal is horning in Square’s turf with its Here credit card reader, Square hopes to chisel off a piece of PayPal’s peer-to-peer payments with a new service called Square Cash. Now Square is going after the business of PayPal’s parent eBay with Market.