Square brings data analytics to the masses

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Credit: cdharrison

Setting up a data analytics operation is hard. You need to figure out what data to keep, where and how to store it, and what tools to use to analyze it. There's been lots of activity to try to make this process easier for businesses, with services from cloud BI and data visualization providers.

Still, that gets expensive. The alternative for a lot of businesses is to collect data in spreadsheets and analyze it the best they know how. The result is that a lot of businesses just don't bother.

Square this morning announced a new analytics feature that brings some nice data analytics capabilities to its customers. It's not customizable but brings a lot more intelligence to businesses that previously probably didn't have the time or resources to learn from their data.

Square has long offered a dashboard where users could toggle through settings to create reports. For instance, a user could choose a date and a time of day from drop down menus to view sales for that period.

But the new analytics feature automatically populates predefined charts in real-time. At a glance, a user can see a graphic showing sales by category, average sales by customer and how many times customers return per month on average, weekly sales compared to historical periods, and sales by time of day.

Users can also see the percentage of sales that comes from new and returning customers -- a stat that varies widely by industry, according to Square's data from its customers. Businesses can also view sales by staff member to find out if certain employees are doing better than others.

These are the kinds of visualizations that businesses can use to realize that a certain product is more popular than they thought or that returning customers make up a smaller portion of sales than assumed. With that kind of intelligence, a user can develop marketing or rewards programs targeted to certain customer segments.

The new Square Analytics comes along with Square Register, the point-of-sale product designed for businesses.

Square is facing new competition so adding this kind of capability could help it stay a step ahead. Amazon just launched Local Register which competes direction with Square. Local Register also offers reports but they sound more like Square Dashboard than Square Analytics.

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