Interpreting Square-Starbucks Deal

18 August

From Press Release, key deal points are:

  • Customers will be able to use Pay with Square, Square’s payer application, from participating company operated U.S. Starbucks stores later this fall, and find nearby Starbucks locations within Square Directory;
  • Square will process Starbucks U.S. credit and debit card transactions, which will significantly expand Square’s scale and accelerate the benefits to businesses on the Square platform, especially small businesses, while reducing Starbucks payment processing costs;
  • Using Square Directory, Starbucks customers will be able to discover local Square businesses — from specialty retailers to crafts businesses — from within a variety of Starbucks digital platforms, including the Starbucks Digital Network and eventually the Starbucks mobile payment application;
  • Starbucks will invest $25 million in Square as part of the company’s Series D financing round;
  • Starbucks chairman, president and CEO Howard Schultz will join Square’s Board of Directors

My interpretation: Starbucks is selling their customer base to Square for a revenue share and an equity upside.

  • Square is buying the Starbucks payment user base, with all stored “reload” cards. This customer directory will move from Starbucks to Square and support both legacy Starbucks payment and enable all Starbucks customers to be “PaybySquare” capable with acceptance of new terms. Square is “processor” in the sense that it is now responsible for pre-paid balance and reload.
  • Its about DATA.. payments will be free (for Starbucks), and SBUX hopes to enable Square incentives that are BOTH loyalty and line item based. Square’s driver is to find a way to monetize Starbuck’s payment and location data before it gets to Chase PaymentTech. This means increasing consumer network so that it can make better case to prospective merchants. My guess is that Square is processing payments at no cost Starbucks is paying a lower overall cost for payment acceptance through Square/ChasePaymentTech for all existing Starbucks customers, and will actually PAY Starbucks (revenue share) for any ad revenue they can generate from Starbucks customers. There are 3 consumer transaction tranches: Starbucks mobile payment, Starbucks card, and Pay with Square (Square Register). All will go through Square so they can use the data.
  • Starbucks will start to roll out a new service: SquareRegister (pay by voice, see my previous blog). This will eventually replace the bar code if all things go well. Again, my belief is that Square will bear all of the cost here.

Revenue implications?

Short term there is no revenue upside for Square in this deal, it is about growing network (primarily on consumer side). Starbucks will see costs decline slightly and open up a new revenue channel by monetizing its consumer network outside of its stores. I have some thoughts on precise numbers, but making my own bets right now so I can’t share them.