Square, Receipts & the Experience Design

Square, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey’s other company is a poster child of the “experience design” as pointed out in my essay about this new design ideology, Square, Airbnb and why experience really is design. Dorsey in a keynote at the National Retail Federation conference talked about how the “receipt” is an untapped “canvas” and “publishing medium.”

“What if we see the receipt more as a publishing medium — a product unto itself that people actually want to take home, that they want to engage with, be fully interactive with? What can we build into this canvas that’s actually valuable, that’s independent of the product you just sold? What can you give in this communication channel, this publishing medium, that people want to engage with?”

It only reinforces the point of experience design ideology at Jack’s company — where others see a piece of paper, Square sees an opportunity to create an emotional bond between the buyer and seller. Jack and I discussed this at our Roadmap conference this past November and this excerpt gives you more nuance about the thinking about receipts and interactions:

Me: The thing which I love about Square is the little things, like the receipt you get from Sightglass when you get Sightglass Coffee and they send you their receipt. There is a very subtle marketing going on there, which is the receipt is structured in way that it’s a reminder of that – not a transaction – but of that moment. Same is with the colors you chose in Cash. I just wonder, how do you arrive at those decisions, like how do you arrive at that decision of making receipts such a focal point of the process?

Jack Dorsey: Early on in the company we were building this thing that enabled people to accept credit cards, and credit cards don’t always have the most positive feelings around them. Money as a concept is something that touches every single person on the planet, and every single person on the planet feels bad about it at some point in their life. It feels like a burden. So how do you actually abstract that away?

One of the things that really excited us in the early days was the receipt, putting a very simple map on the receipt where the transaction took place, putting a business’s Twitter account, putting a big picture of what they just sold, a beautiful photograph of a cappuccino, just to make it feel like something that was a lot more tangible, and also a lot more focused around communication. In the early days we saw the receipt as this amazing, kind of often played down and often forgotten about communication channel. It kind of evolved our thinking, this is not about payments, this is about commerce, and the definition of commerce is the activity between buyers and sellers.

That’s been going on for over 5,000 years. We were trading things as humans before we were using language to trade stories. It’s as old as our civilization, but over time it’s just gotten more abstract, and more obtuse, and more expensive, and less people could participate, whereas communication has always gotten easier, freer, more participation, and something that’s really tangible and feels great. Our mission at Square is to make commerce easy and to make it as easy as communication. That means that we don’t see it as payments, we see it as this continuum. It’s not just the swipe of the credit card, it’s everything that happens before, it’s everything that happens after, and a big part of what happens after is the receipt.

Video archive of our conversation and the complete transcript here.

A letter from Om

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