Jack Dorsey: A Blank Canvas

Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter and Square, is living proof that the greatest creativity is found under strict constraints. Twitter’s brevity is one of the principle reasons for its success. With Square, Dorsey figured out how to create a whole commerce ecosystem in a minuscule environment—a mobile device. Now he’s taking that one step more, using the tiny real estate of the humble receipt-for-purchase to create a new communication channel for retailers.

Although they use different terms, Square thinks in terms of Continuous Commerce™ just like we do at Ogilvy. The technology industry, Dorsey says, has thought in terms of individual steps or pieces instead of the whole. This is true for technology and selling as well. The moment of truth when a buyer shells out cash in exchange for a good or service is called a transaction, but Dorsey wants us to think of it in terms of commerce. Square is built on that kind of a mindset and that is why they have always sought to create more than just a means of transaction. Square wants to create a great experience between the buyer and seller.

Square has created the mobile payment sector, disrupting the way small merchants transact. From their earliest days, they were thinking beyond the transaction itself to the entire commercial relationship. The receipt—that touchpoint that is the beginning of the continued relationship between buyer and seller, is an unused communications channel. Square wondered if they could turn it into a product itself. Square merchants already offer receipts via email automatically, but this blank canvas has more potential. The receipt is the one thing that brings everything together.

Square, Dorsey reports, built Square Wallet to enable merchants to give customers a VIP experience. It allows consumers a way to walk up to a counter, say their names, and make a purchase without any other information changing hands. The receipt you receive as you walk away enables you to add a tip, explore related inventory, or socialize the experiences with friends. Square Wallet eliminates the mechanical part of making a purchase and enables retailers to personalize the transaction, tailoring it to every customer and increasing the likelihood that more of them will return.

William Gibson inspires Dorsey when he writes that, “The future is already here. It is just not evenly distributed.” That’s how Dorsey sees the potential for the humble receipt:  the receipt is the future embodied in an artifact we use every day but need to distribute more widely.

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