Square Report Foresees 2024 as a Pivotal Year for Automation and Expansion

Square has just released its fourth annual Future of Commerce report, shedding light on anticipated trends in the restaurant, retail, and beauty industries. Conducted in collaboration with Wakefield Research, the report synthesizes feedback from thousands of business owners and consumers across the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia, offering a comprehensive outlook on the evolving business landscape.

The report radiates optimism for the year ahead, particularly highlighting the enthusiasm among businesses for expansion and the integration of automation to tackle persistent staffing challenges. Matthew O’Connor, Head of Verticals and Platform at Square encapsulates this sentiment, emphasizing the company’s ecosystem as a catalyst for growth, allowing businesses to broaden their horizons while enhancing customer loyalty and engagement.

A staggering 100% of U.S. restaurateurs surveyed express plans to expand their operations within the next 12 months, either by introducing new products or opening additional locations. Despite this optimistic business outlook, a contrast emerges with consumer intentions, as three-quarters anticipate reducing their restaurant expenditure in 2024. This discrepancy underscores the crucial need for restaurants to adopt more efficient customer engagement strategies to ensure a healthy return on investment.

The push towards a more tech-forward approach is evident, with a significant majority of consumers favoring the use of AI-based tools in local restaurants and preferring self-serve kiosks for placing orders. This trend points towards a potential solution for the staffing woes that have plagued restaurants for an average of 19 months, with nearly all restaurateurs (98%) believing in AI’s capability to mitigate some of these challenges.

The report also touches on the retail sector, where 57% of U.S. retailers surveyed are eager to expand in the coming year, though divided on focusing between brick-and-mortar and online offerings. With consumers evenly split between shopping in-store and online, the importance of maintaining digital communication channels to keep in touch with customers is more crucial than ever.

Retailers are encouraged to create compelling in-store experiences and leverage AI-powered product recommendations to drive traffic and sales. Offering more choice and flexibility, such as Buy Now, Pay Later options, is highlighted as a strategy for retailers to reach new and existing customers effectively.

The beauty industry is not left out, with insights on consumer preferences for beauty care providers. The report notes a significant percentage of consumers have a preferred provider, yet many are willing to switch due to issues like long wait times. There’s also a growing interest in online tutorials, in-person classes, and DIY boxes from beauty or personal care providers.

Square’s Future of Commerce report serves as a bellwether for businesses navigating the post-pandemic economy, emphasizing the critical role of automation and AI in driving growth. It not only offers a roadmap for operational expansion and enhanced customer engagement strategies but also signals a year of transformative growth for industries willing to embrace these technological advancements.

Image: Squareup

Joshua Sophy Joshua Sophy is the Editor for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 16 years. A professional journalist with 20 years of experience in traditional media and online media, he attended Waynesburg University and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. He has held roles of reporter, editor and publisher, having founded his own local newspaper, the Pottsville Free Press.