Square Research Forecasts 2024 Business Boom

Square has recently unveiled its fourth annual Future of Commerce report, delving into a detailed analysis of the transformative trends within the restaurant, retail, and beauty industries. The comprehensive report, a result of collaboration with Wakefield Research, draws insights from extensive surveys conducted among business owners and consumers across the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

Matthew O’Connor, Head of Verticals and Platform at Square, expressed optimism about the future for businesses despite diverging consumer economic sentiments. He highlighted Square’s ecosystem, emphasizing its role in facilitating business growth by enabling easy expansion, whether through new locations or the introduction of non-core offerings, all while maintaining customer loyalty and engagement.

Among the key findings, all surveyed restaurateurs in the United States (100%) have plans to expand their businesses within the next 12 months, either by offering new products or opening additional locations. A notable 79% of them express a positive outlook on the future of their restaurants. However, a counterintuitive trend emerges, with three in four consumers anticipating a reduction in restaurant spending in 2024. This underscores the need for restaurateurs to invest in more efficient customer acquisition strategies to ensure returns on their investments.

Consumers are leaning towards a tech-forward approach in the restaurant industry, with 73% supporting the use of AI-based tools by local restaurants and 78% preferring self-serve kiosks for placing orders. This aligns with the growing concerns over understaffing, persisting for an average of 19 months in the restaurant sector. The survey indicates that 98% of restaurateurs believe AI can address staffing challenges, particularly in food preparation, delivery management, voice ordering technology, predictive ordering, inventory management, and food prep robots.

Moreover, the report sheds light on the increasing interest in automation tools among restaurant owners, with 55% planning to boost spending on technology and automation in the next year. Consumer expectations align, with 80% expressing a desire for restaurants to invest in automation when not operating at full staffing capacity.

As for retailers in the United States, 57% express eagerness to expand in the coming year, with a near-even split between prioritizing brick-and-mortar (49%) and online offerings (51%). To engage consumers, retailers are focusing on in-store experiences, with an emphasis on in-person loyalty programs, in-store dining options, and interactive displays.

AI-powered product recommendations emerge as a top priority for retailers, especially those planning to enhance their online presence. The report underscores the importance of maintaining communication with customers through various channels, whether through faster communication options or offering Buy Now, Pay Later choices like Afterpay.

The report also covers insights into the beauty industry, revealing that 62% of surveyed consumers have a preferred beauty care provider. However, 69% have switched providers due to factors such as extended wait times. Consumer interest in online tutorials, in-person classes, and at-home DIY boxes indicates a shift in how beauty and personal care services are sought and delivered.

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