Square Pitches Digital Booking Service to SMBs

And continues to diversify services

Square today took another step toward diversification, debuting a booking service called Square Appointments that's aimed at small-and-medium-sized businesses such as salons and personal trainers.

SMBs can implement a booking button on their site and email newsletter, though Square is also offering a free-to-use Web platform specifically for handling scheduling. In all cases, businesses can set up a calendar that lists their available times, and when consumers book, it automatically fills in the calendar and blocks out the time to prevent double-booking. The system can be set up to send automatic reminders via text or emails, to help reduce the number of no-shows.

The service entails a 30-day free trial, but it will eventually cost $30 per month for a single user, $50 per month for two to five users and $90 per month for an unlimited group. While it's unclear whether it can be synced with Square's staple of payment products, it would seem likely that the San Francisco-based company would want to offer to offer a seamless system for scheduling and accounts received.

"Some of our sellers have said that now that everything is actually going online, they are worried they are missing out on customers who are used to booking online, new customers who may not want to pick up the phone," a Square rep told Mashable. "Square isn't only a mobile payments company. As we sit down with our sellers, we say, 'What do you need? What's the dream product?' And we race after it and try to build it."

On its blog, Square noted that the tool is designed to give consumers access to the calendar 24/7, so businesses don’t lose out when someone wants to book an appointment or needs to reschedule during off hours.

Square recently launched the program as a pilot, with about 200 businesses from a wide range of service industries. Out of those testers, 144 reported that it helped generate additional revenue, Square said, and 124 noted that they saved an average of 30 minutes per day dealing with creating and rescheduling appointments. In addition, 108 of those businesses reported a 10 percent increase in the number of appointments they were able to book in a given week.

A Company in Flux

This is part of Square's ongoing transition, using its successful payments business as a platform to move into other areas. According to a May article in Fortune, the company had not  turned a profit, but that was in large part because of continued investment back into its infrastructure, with more than 300 employees added in the last year, bringing the headcount near 900.

While reports suggest Square loses money on each of its core payments transactions, Fortune noted that internal emails tell a different story, with roughly $300 million in gross profits from that business alone. “The gross profits we earn on transactions already pay for the non-growth expenses of the company,” Roelof Botha, a partner at Sequoia Capital and a board member of Square, told Fortune. “We could be profitable tomorrow morning if we said, ‘Lets not spend money to keep growing.’ ”

There were rumors earlier this year that Square was looking at opportunities to be acquired by a larger company such as Google, but Square has denied those reports.

Meanwhile, the appointments service represents the latest expansion for the company.

Three months ago, it launched Square Feedback, which is designed to collect customer concerns directly from a digital receipt. And in June 2013, it unveiled Square Market, an online marketplace where businesses can set up a virtual storefront, tied directly to the business’ Square payments account.