Rather than compete head-on with Square, Intuit is crafting a strategy of providing software that complements Square's offerings for merchants that have more complex needs.
Intuit launched its GoPayment service in 2009, beating Square to market by a year, though Intuit didn't offer a physical smartphone-based card swiper until 2012. This move seemed to cast the companies as rivals, but Intuit was quick to realize that its strength was in its software. By the end of 2013, Intuit officially linked its QuickBooks software to Square, marketing itself as a Square add-on instead of solely an alternative.
Intuit's newest service, called Sync With Square, provides added data on sales, fees, taxes, tips and discounts to Square payments. The app is available through Square's App Marketplace, and also supports item and category reporting, centralized management for multi-location transactions, up to 18 months of transaction data, management of refunds and chargebacks and support for gift card payments.
"The small-business payments market becomes less about payments and more about value-added services every day," said Rick Oglesby, head of research for Double Diamond Research. "Mobile point of sale is a key conduit to that because it unlocks payments from the payment terminal and incorporates it into a multi-function device with infinite software possibilities. In a world of infinite possibilities, differentiation is key."
Intuit's new app is free, though Intuit charges for QuickBooks and Square charges transaction fees.
There's pressure on both companies to add more technology, as the small-business vendor community is migrating toward providing a "hub" model of providing a central location for payments and other business tasks.
The specific additions to Intuit's Square-compatible services were based on client feedback, the company said.
"Bookkeeping and generating invoices and managing customer relationships are the biggest activities for a small business," said Rajashree Pimpalkhare, director of partner solutions at Intuit.
Intuit's Square integration promises workflow savings by automatically importing Square sales data into the merchant's Quickbooks online account. Payments and fees are also automatically matched to the merchant's bank statement, even if certain variables change, such as the merchant's location.
"With the multi-location support, for example, a farmer may sell at different farmers' markets, and may sell at a different location," said Wei Wang, Solutions Architect at Intuit, who helped develop the new app. "We can roll all of those up into a single account."
But even as Intuit strengthens its offerings for Square merchants, Square itself is working to make sure its own software can meet the increasingly complex needs of its most active clients.
Square, which started as a business that offered hardware attachments to enable mobile phones to accept credit cards, has made many other additions in an attempt to broaden its appeal to merchants, and recently drew new investment to fund the effort. Last year, Square bought Caviar, a food delivery company, to complement its then-new Square Order app. Early this year, Square bought Kili, a Toronto-based company, to bolster its ability to manage EMV and Near Field Communication payments in Canada.
But Intuit isn't pinning all of its hopes on its synergies with Square. The company is steadily updating its GoPayment service with tools such as a sales goal tracker for smartwatches. Intuit has also added support for Bitcoin payments through an integration with Coinbase and has partnered with other mobile point of sale providers such as Flint and Vend.
All of these companies face pressure from the likes of PayPal, which has built a steady momentum of acquisitions and technology development in preparation for its recent separation from eBay. Its acquisitions include the Israeli cyber-security company CyActive and the Boston-based mobile payment provider Paydiant.