Receipts, typically a scrap of paper many shoppers throw away, can be easily reimagined as a tool to improve customer engagement, says Jack Dorsey, CEO of Square.

Today, most receipts are not useful for either the merchant or the consumer, says Dorsey. Square is working to "see the receipt more as a communication tool…as a publishing mechanism...or something customers want to engage with," Dorsey says.

By sending digital receipts to the shopper's phone, a merchant can continue the interaction with the consumer even after the sale is completed, Dorsey says. He spoke during a keynote session Jan. 15 at the National Retail Federation's 103rd annual conference and expo.

When consumers use Square Wallet, the company's cloud-based mobile payment app, they are already providing merchants with their name, photo and location. The app can communicate this information to a retailer when a consumer uses the app to "check in" to the store during a visit.

Once the consumer completes a purchase and exits the store, the merchant can send messages requesting a tip, sending offers or coupons, asking for feedback on social media and showing other products for sale, Dorsey says.

The financial services and retail industry has been too focused on transactions, which are "small atomic units" of commerce, Dorsey says. These units must be joined into one cohesive system, he says.

"When we started Square, we knew nothing about the financial services industry," Dorsey says.

Square's mobile card reader and app launched in 2008, when many micromerchants perceived card acceptance as too difficult or costly to set up. Over the years, Square has added features to expand its audience to include larger merchants, and in 2012 it received an investment from Starbucks and began processing payments for the coffee chain.

Excluding Starbucks, Square merchants receive one billion customer visits per year, Dorsey says.

Although Square has been focusing on improving its hardware and encouraging a market for accessories, the goal of its Square Wallet app is to make the hardware seem to disappear from the payment process.

Because Square Wallet communicates a shopper's presence to the merchant, a store's employee can call each consumer by name and know immediately what that person usually orders, says Dorsey. To a customer, "it's going to feel like a VIP experience," he says.

At the point of sale, the consumer doesn't need to pull out a card or smartphone to pay, as the app takes care of the purchase automatically after the cashier has rung in the order.

"That's what great technology does…it allows the mechanical aspects of what we do every day to completely disappear," he says.

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