Future of Commerce: 4 Key Takeaways from 2024 and Insights from the Community

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The Square 2024 Future of Commerce report is now available. Square partnered with Wakefield Research to survey consumers, restaurant owners, and retail owners in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia to uncover critical industry insights about the 2024 landscape.


Throughout the month of February, we shared highlights from the report in the Seller Community Question of the Week. In this article you’ll discover how Community members future-proof their businesses. Read on to learn four key takeaways from those discussions, including how to stand out from your competitors, how businesses are expanding, why growing offerings can attract Gen Z customers, and the big benefits of adding automations to your business.


You can download the full Square 2024 Future of Commerce report from The Bottom Line.



Standing out from your competitors 🔦 


In order to compete in today’s marketplace, retailers are focused on improving customer relationships through faster and easier communication channels; providing buy-now, pay-later options, such as Afterpay; offering more in-store experiences; and engaging customers with marketing initiatives, such as loyalty and rewards programs. 


Over half of retailers surveyed for the report (56%) are taking a close look at their marketing tactics for Gen Z customers as the younger generations’ purchasing power continues to grow — a substantial increase from just 43% of retailers who focused on marketing to Gen Z in 2022.


Here are some ways that Seller Community members are standing out against competitors in 2024:


@TCSlaguna mentioned: “We have spent the last year building up our email marketing, newsletters, monthly coupon codes, and a loyalty program. We have been very pleased with the results from Square Marketing. Social media is not our strength. I really have no interest in it. I think you have to love what you do for it to be successful, so I think we may hire someone to take over our social media strategy. We are planning to focus our attention on enhancing the in-store customer experience: redesigning the layout of the store, changing QR code product descriptions to paper descriptions (eliminating one step for customers), and offering new services.”


@DLRosenberg shared: “Competitive analysis is my JAM! I am always keeping an eye on what’s happening with both regional and national retailers in our space. I am literally watching what they are buying, how they are selling it, what their social media is pushing, etc. it isn’t to copy, but to make sure we are always differentiating. Because we are seen as a leader in our space, we are often imitated. In light of that, it’s critical that we are constantly pursuing new offerings, products, and events. I am obsessed with multihyphenate strategies (didn’t know that word — great Jeopardy question) and hope that Square’s subscription service will offer what we need to make it work for us (customer accounts with ability to change their address, pause subscription, and change CC on their own). With these changes it would be an excellent addition to our sales strategy. We are already taking advantage of Square Marketing (email/text) and Square Loyalty … they are fully integrated into our business. We also offer Afterpay, which, even though expensive, has driven our total per transaction up.” 


@BofBArtStudio said: “Our retail business is an in-store experience, and we send out a Square Marketing newsletter every Tuesday morning. We offer Square Loyalty that is highly accepted by our customer base, and we try to provide a variety of ways for our guests to pay. We also have automated campaigns to give discounts to customers who haven’t come back for a while; first-time customers automatically get a discount coupon; and everybody gets a discount coupon for their birthday automatically.” 


 Staying competitive: Join the conversation





Expansion, expansion, expansion 🛒


Restaurant expansion will be a strong industry driver in 2024. All restaurant owners surveyed plan to expand in the next 12 months. In the Future of Commerce report, 77% of restaurants mention plans to expand in the coming year by adding non core offerings, such as meal kits, subscriptions, events, or merchandise. And 99% of retailers plan to invest in additional revenue streams, such as in-store events or advertising offerings, with the primary goal to keep up with industry trends.


Here are some plans that Seller Community members have for expanding in the next 12 months: 


@rtfulk mentions: “Our plan is to add wholesale to our business. It may not be completely implemented this year. We are in the early stages of making sure everything is compliant, and testing is in place. Children’s clothing has to go through a process.” 


@TCSlaguna said: “We are planning on increasing the number of services we offer and subscriptions. We think the new subscription features Square offers will help us greatly in increasing our revenue stream.”


@Minion added: “After a year and a half of trying to figure out how to import/manage thousands of aftermarket parts, I have finally achieved that on my website. Expansion is my next goal for this year. More bays, showroom, and potentially a couple different services to incorporate without overreaching and sacrificing quality of my current services.”

@ReneeV said: “2023 was a record-breaking year for us. We did open a second kitchen location last year to handle our growing volume. Pre-COVID we had plans to build an event venue to support our catering company. We are thrilled to say we are dusting off those plans and hope to start the planning process for that this year.”


@Ethellovesme shared: “We are planning to open at least one more store this year and already have one in the pipeline to open in April. Maybe we will manage two. We have to be positive about our futures.”


@VanKalkerFarms said: “On our garden center side, we just added 46,000 sq. ft. to our main warehouse in winter 2023 and have an additional 26,000 sq. ft. in the pipeline for this coming winter. On our bakery side we are in the planning stages for a 2025 expansion of two more locations. We have the locations scouted and in preliminary talks with upcoming strip mall build-outs. Doing this will add bringing on a full-time manager to help oversee the stores and take some of the burden off my wife, who currently does all the owner/managing of our two locations. So that in and of itself will be a huge job to find someone to trust to take over many of the aspects of the day-to-day.”


 Expanding your business: Join the conversation





Growing your offerings 📈


Expanding your offerings is the key to unlocking Gen Z consumers, as 78% said they would be interested in offerings outside of traditional services. Businesses are now looking to grow their offerings with in-person classes or at home DIY boxes to encourage more in-person connections. 


Take a look at some ways that Seller Community members are planning to grow their offerings in the next 12 months:


@DLRosenberg said: “Expanding services is always something we are looking at. For us, it seems like Gen Z is very experience focused. Even when sending product via eCommerce, they want a beautiful opening experience. We gift wrap. We throw in candy, beautifully created postcards, and stickers ... We love providing them an experience even if they aren’t shopping in-store. We are trying to add as many DIY kits as we can. They do require a TON of work putting together, but they are super well-received.”


@Twpchair mentioned: “We have started to offer free painting lessons and simple furniture repairs and staining classes on Sundays. We are a retail furniture store, but we do have painted furniture and upcycled furniture for sale as well. Our customers are loving it! They love that old, heavy-duty, well-built furniture from the ‘70s but just not loving the color and want to paint it or stain it a different color. They bring their piece into the store, and I offer all the information and supplies that they need. I had to limit it to 25 only because the response was so overwhelming! I ❤️ to see how excited they are, and they are amazed that they could do it so easily. It’s been great for both of us, as they shop while they’re there as well! It’s a win-win, but it makes my heart seeing them work at it and the end results!”


@phillipsrw added: “We are always reviewing our current products and services. We periodically do market reviews and look for customer feedback. We try not to introduce new without some level of discontinuation, so the two go hand in hand for our business. We have to look for some level of assurance that the new introductions will outperform the old planned discontinuations.”


@JTPets shared: “I try to live by the rule of ‘It is ok to not have it — once.’ Listening to my customers is number one. I started four years ago with 25 products and now have over 1,600 items. If someone asks for something and I don’t have it, I want to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Get that item or something similar. When I started I thought I would sell raw food and treats only, but the customers are the ones spending the money.”


@alexandriak said: “I’m currently in the process of analyzing every brand we accept on consignment AND also looking for the current popular brands to add to our accepted list. We’ll also be focusing on accepting more of the top sellers (by $$, by # sold, and by turnover), so we’re always offering our customers the brands they want.”


 Growing your offerings: Join the conversation





The benefits of automation 🧑‍💻


The greatest benefit retailers have seen from investing in automation is an improved customer experience (47%), especially for retailers in the U.S. (50%) and those retail businesses that earn $500,000 or more a year (51%). Forty-five percent of retailers have seen greater employee retention and increased profit as a result of their automation investments. Some examples of this include using automation for repetitive admin tasks, such as making reservations or checking product inventory.


Check out some benefits that Seller Community members’ businesses have seen as a result of automation:


@TCSlaguna said: “I used to spend several hours a week calculating best-selling products, sales trends, seasonality, employee staffing needs, and much more. Now I can see all that data on the Square Dashboard app and make well-informed decisions for the company. Also having an inventory system that tells me what is running low and recommends a purchase order saves us a lot of time.”


@DLRosenberg mentioned: “We really haven’t found any automations that have helped us. We are really hoping to keep the inventory management within the Square universe, but we really need help with inventory management. We often find ourselves spending so much labor looking for inventory because we often don’t know where something is physically located in our store (which has many floors). It would be amazing if there was an automation for this!”


@Lovewell brought up: “Square Loyalty! We love using it, and it works extremely well for automatically awarding the correct amount of stars to a customer for a transaction! And allowing the discount to come off automatically when someone decides they want to use it! We also are beginning to use a scanner for our register to be able to scan the retail merchandise we have instead of searching for things! And being able to see our sales reports in the Dashboard and see what products and categories are selling has been amazing!”


@Doran added: “The biggest automation benefit for me would be [Square] Loyalty and [Square] Appointments. The ability for customers to build an account and look up their skin care purchases to reorder instead of calling me and waiting for me to find their chart when they can’t remember. Plus, just not losing business by not being next to the phone all day booking appointments. I can’t really be in both the treatment room and the reception desk, so online booking and the Square Go app improve my business daily.”


@TheRealChipA said: “About a year ago I started using an app called Cut+Dry to help automate orders to vendors via email. Or, if my vendor has an ordering website, it will actually automate the ordering process by pretending to be Chip-at-a-keyboard. The great thing about it is that I can use the app to create running draft lists until I’m ready to submit it for processing. No more having lists that I then have to manually enter into order forms. It’s pretty magical and getting better all the time. Best of all, it’s free for restaurants to use. Cut+Dry gets their money by providing white label ordering apps to the big vendors who can afford to pay for such things!”


@Candlestore mentioned: “My BIGGEST automations have come in the form of exporting from Square and my online sales. Then I use Excel’s Power Query to take this data and format it to a CSV file that is usable for other programs.”


@tam-rvc said: “I also think Square Marketing is a great leverage of automation. I used to have to set up multiple tools to do email marketing, birthday campaigns … But with Square Marketing it comes right out of the box. You don’t have to import and export your customer list between systems. And since Square Marketing already knows about the Square customers, it’s so easy to send emails to custom audiences of very fine-grained targeting criteria.”


 Automation: Join the conversation


A big thank you to everyone who shared their insights and plans for 2024. We really enjoyed learning how you plan to grow this year. Which findings or trends in the Future of Commerce report caught your attention? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


Don’t forget to get your copy of the Square 2024 Future of Commerce report. Subscribe to the Seller Community Blog to receive more insights and Community highlights.

Max is a community engagement program manager at Square. He’s passionate about helping sellers grow their businesses and fostering connection within the Seller Community.


This article is for informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice. For guidance or advice specific to your business, you should consult with a qualified legal professional.

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