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March 14 2013

Commerce Weekly: Intuit Pay heats up U.K. mobile payments market

Intuit Pay enters U.K., PayPal Here takes on Square Register

On the heels of PayPal announcing it would bring PayPal Here to the U.K. later this year, Intuit launched its Intuit Pay mobile payments solution in the U.K. market. The platform includes a mobile app and a card reader, much like its competitors iZettle’s, Payleven’s and (soon) PayPal Here’s platforms.

Ingrid Lunden reported at TechCrunch that like its competitors, Intuit Pay will charge a per-transaction fee — in its case, a 2.75% flat rate — but unlike its competition, Intuit will offer its mobile payment card readers for free for a limited time. Lunden noted that Intuit Pay will be able to integrate with Intuit’s QuickBooks accounting software and its other business products, so offering the card reader for free doubles as an incentive for merchants to join Intuit’s business ecosystem.

The card reader at launch is available only for iOS devices, but Lunden reported that “other platforms like Android are on their way soon.”

In related news, PayPal launched PayPal Here for the iPad to compete with Square Register as a small business point-of-sale solution. Leena Rao reported at TechCrunch that the app — PayPal’s first native tablet app — features multiple log-in capability to accommodate multiple employees and multiple “cash registers,” and allows for a variety of payment methods, including swiping a credit card with PayPal Here, manual card number entry, and scanning a card using Card.io. Rao also noted that the app integrates with eBay’s RedLaser technology so merchants can scan barcodes to make a sale or even to add to their inventories, something Square Register isn’t yet capable of doing.

PayPal’s new iPad app only works in the U.S. using the PayPal Here dongle, but Rao reported that PayPal intends to integrate the technology with its international offerings in the future.

Insights into the future of retail from SXSW panels

Retail and the future of commerce has been a topic of sessions and discussions this week at the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference. In a post at Publishers Weekly, Rachel Deahl reported on the “Retail is Going Mobile” panel, which covered the ways in which mobile has already changed the retail experience and how it might influence it going forward.

Deahl highlighted comments from panel member Christopher Mason, CEO and co-founder of Branding Brand, who noted many retailers are falling behind in their mobile strategies, if they even have one. Deahl reported:

“Mason said that, of the top 500 retailers, 60% have a mobile consumer interface. This means, he noted, that for the first time, the relationship between the customer and the retailer is being shaped in a world where ‘the customer is ahead of the retailer.’”

Looking at where mobile is headed, Deahl noted that Mason pointed to Sephora’s new “skin scanner” technology that personalizes and IDs a customer’s unique skin tone and integrates with Sephora’s mobile app to send customers alerts when new products for their coloring arrive. “This kind of user experience, Mason feels, is where mobile retailing is headed,” Deahl wrote. “He sees mobile retailing apps focusing on using our personal information to improve and personalize the in-store experience, such as, say, alerting a customer how many pairs of shoes are in stock in their size when they enter the shoe store.”

In a post at Salon.com, Andrew Leonard covered an SXSW panel that featured Mondelēz International’s VP of global media and consumer engagement B. Bonin Bough. Bough related an in-store experiment that points to the future of retail. Leonard wrote:

“Bonin described an experiment with shoppers at Stop & Shop who used their mobile phones to scan the bar codes of the items they wanted to buy, and then paid with their phones at checkout. He said that by seeing what shoppers were scanning, in real time, Mondelēz could zap them coupons for different items physically located on that aisle and were able to significantly boost sales of those items. ‘Targeting people in aisle, in the moment, at the moment of truth, is the holy grail of retail marketing,’ said Bonin. This is how the millennial shoppers of the future, who are ‘more mobile, more connected, and more into sharing,’ will do their business.”

Time editor at large Harry McCracken also served as a moderator on an SXSW panel called “Mobile Disruption & the Rise of the Local Web” that addressed the rise of services involving commerce between local individuals, which are designed more for phones and mobile devices than for PCs. In a post at Time Tech, McCracken noted that the panel discussion kept circling back around to person-to-person lodging rental service Airbnb — one attendee in the session tweeted: “Wow… About a quarter of the room here at #SXSW2013 is staying at @airbnb place. Hotel chains – prepare for major disruption. #localweb.” McCracken aggregated tweets sent during the session using Storify to highlight the session’s key points — you can read his post at Time Tech.

FTC report tackles mobile payments concerns

The rapid growth in the mobile payments arena — one recent study estimated global mobile payments transactions could reach $1 trillion by 2015 — has caught the attention of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The government agency released a report this week, “Paper, Plastic… or Mobile? An FTC Workshop on Mobile Payments.” According to the press release, the report offers guidelines for developing dispute resolution policies, encourages industry-wide adoption of strong security measures, and “highlights the need for companies in the mobile payment sphere to practice ‘privacy by design,’ incorporating strong privacy practices, consumer choice, and transparency into their products from the outset.”

Diane Bartz reported at Reuters that the FTC’s report “also urged all companies in the mobile data chain — from app sellers to telecommunications companies — to encrypt the entire payment chain and take other steps to ensure that consumers’ data cannot be hacked and used to steal from them.” She noted the FTC also is encouraging mobile payments companies to be more transparent with consumers about how their data is collected and used, and quoted from the report: “‘Companies should provide reasonable security for consumer data and should limit data collection to that which is consistent with the context of a consumer’s interaction with that company,” the report said.’”

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January 31 2013

Commerce Weekly: Goodbye traditional retail, hello ecommerce

Here are a few stories that caught my attention in the commerce space this week.

Death bells toll for brick-and-mortar retail

A recent report from mobile analytics startup Flurry looked at the growth in consumer use of shopping apps and concluded the “App & Mortar economy has arrived.” Flurry president and CEO Simon Khalaf reviewed their research results in a blog post on the company website, noting that “consumer time spent in Retailer Apps has skyrocketed by 525% from December 2011 to December 2012,” exceeding the shopping app growth of 274% as well as overall app growth of 132%.

Khalaf points out that it’s “mission critical” for retailers to start extending their reach to consumers beyond the brick-and-mortar walls and into connected devices such as smartphones and tablets. “In the App & Mortar economy, the battle for deeper consumer relationships is beginning,” he writes, “and there are already thousands of apps for that.”

Flurry’s research may be coming up short of the long-term big picture if well-known entrepreneur and investor Marc Andreessen is correct. Andreessen told PandoDaily’s Sarah Lacy that traditional retail is on its death bed:

“Retail guys are going to go out of business and ecommerce will become the place everyone buys. You are not going to have a choice. We’re still pre-death of retail, and we’re already seeing a huge wave of growth. … Retail chains are a fundamentally implausible economic structure if there’s a viable alternative. … Malls are going under, and there’s more to come. These chains are much closer to going under than you think.”

Andreessen noted to Lacy that it’s not only the implausible economic structure of physical stores that will bring down traditional retail, but that online retailers like ShoeDazzle and Fab are finally starting to compete on the shopping experience front, providing the entertainment and social aspects of shopping that have been keeping traditional retail afloat.

On his Launch.co platform, entrepreneur and blogger Jason Calacanis agreed with Andreessen’s assessments, with the exception of “considered purchases and ‘social shopping.” “I mean, I could order Disney toys online, but visiting the store is a blast with my daughter,” he writes. “Clearly we don’t need to visit a store for toothpaste, underwear or even shoes when you have Zappos, Everlane and Amazon in the mix.”

Starbucks hints at CPG customer rewards, Intuit buys Payvment

In an earnings call with analysts this week, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz discussed the company’s fiscal first quarter success in its digital and mobile platforms and touched on plans for expansion. Mobile Commerce Daily’s Chantal Tode quotes Schultz’s comments during the call:

“Over the next few months or so, we’ll be coming back to you and sharing with you the plans that we have to take advantage of Starbucks products within CPG, and specifically grocery, and leveraging the technology and the advancement of providing value to our customers that are buying Starbucks products in grocery, and leveraging the card.”

You can find a full transcript of the earnings call at Seeking Alpha.

In other expansion news, financial software company Intuit purchased ecommerce platform Payvment this week and revealed further expansion plans. Ingrid Lunden reports at TechCrunch that the company plans to roll out more than 20 new products this year in such areas as “payments technologies using NFC and Apple’s Passbook, consumer-focused big data apps, and new products for its Mint financial-management range.”

Lunden provides a rundown of several of the planned products, along with product comments from Intuit CEO Brad Smith, in her report at TechCrunch.

Newegg defeats “shopping cart” patent troll

The courts have put one patent troll in its place. Joe Mullin reports at ArsTechnica that Soverain Software’s long-running “shopping cart” patent lawsuits were brought to an end January 22 when Newegg “won an appeal ruling [PDF] that invalidates the three patents Soverain used to spark a vast patent war.”

The ruling not only affects Newegg’s lawsuit, but also shuts down Soverain’s lawsuits against many other companies, including Nordstrom’s, Macy’s, Home Depot, RadioShack, and Kohl’s. Mullin reports that Soverain also will lose the $18 million verdict it had won against Victoria’s Secret and Avon. “The ruling in the Newegg case is a total wipeout for a patent troll that had squeezed many millions from online retailers, was backed by big-firm lawyers, and was determined to collect hundreds of millions more,” writes Mullin.

Newegg’s Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng told Mullin, “We basically took a look at this situation and said, ‘This is bullshit’ … now, nobody has to pay Soverain jack squat for these patents.”

You can read Mullin’s in-depth report on the ruling and the history of the long-running case at ArsTechnica.

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November 10 2011

Commerce Weekly: Chasing down abandoned shopping carts

Here's what caught my attention in the commerce space this week.

Inviting customers back to their carts

Shopping cartOnly three out of every 10 online shopping carts actually make it to checkout, according to email marketing vendor Listrak. That's 70% of carts lying abandoned in the virtual corridors of ecommerce. Listrak wants to improve those numbers. It's one of several vendors offering "shopping cart abandonment solutions" — essentially, programs to follow up with shoppers who've left the store and ask them, "Haven't you forgotten something?"

Retailers would love to close more of those sales: Listrak estimates $18 billion lost in sales to U.S. retailers every year. A Forrester study last May found that 89% of consumers had abandoned a shopping cart at least once. Forrester's authors attributed that high rate to growing user sophistication: as shoppers become more experienced online, they are more likely to comparison shop even as they move toward checkout. Other industry observers offer a simpler explanation: shoppers are shocked at high shipping costs. A 2006 study by Goecart blamed comparison shopping, high shipping costs, and plain old running out of time as the leading causes of abandonment.

Listrak sampled Internet Retailer's Top 1000 online retailers, loading up carts and then abandoning them ("Hey you kids! Knock it off!") to see who would follow up. Only 14.6% sent a follow-up email, and fewer still sent a second or third email which, Listrak's CEO Ross Kramer told Internet Retailer, is where about half of the revenue comes from. Among Listrak's suggestions to retailers: get the shopper's email address first.

X.commerce harnesses the technologies of eBay, PayPal and Magento to create the first end-to-end multi-channel commerce technology platform. Our vision is to enable merchants of every size, service providers and developers to thrive in a marketplace where in-store, online, mobile and social selling are all mission critical to business success. Learn more at x.com.

Intuit cuts payment rate for AT&T subscribers

Intuit announced a partnership with AT&T for its GoPayment mobile payment solution, which competes with Square. Like Square, Intuit offers a free card-swiping attachment that plugs into the audio jack of an iPhone, iPad, Android or Blackberry device, allowing anyone to collect credit card payments. Intuit's basic rate of 2.7% slightly undercuts Square's 2.75%, but AT&T customers will pay even less (1.7%).

Intuit originally charged customers $175 for the swiper dongle, but last January, in a bid to compete with Square, it began offering the dongle for free. Still, Intuit has struggled to gain the visibility that Square founder Jack Dorsey and COO Keith Rabois and high-profile investors like Richard Branson have brought to Square. This week's deal with AT&T is a reminder that Intuit is serious about GoPayment, which may actually offer more to merchants since it integrates with QuickBooks, its bookkeeping package that also targets small businesses.

PayPal embraces NFC (just a little)

PayPal has made something of a point of not jumping on the NFC bandwagon, emphasizing the technology-agnostic nature of its mobile payments platform. Demonstrations at PayPal's recent Innovate conference emphasized payment options like PayPal's Empty Hand system, which lets you buy things with only your mobile number and a PIN.

Still, NFC seems an inevitable part of the payments picture in the years ahead, and this week, PayPal delivered the peer-to-peer NFC payment technology that it promised last July. Shimone Samuel, Product Experience Manager for PayPal Mobile Applications, wrote on the PayPal blog that the technology for NFC P2P is included in version 3.0 of PayPal's Android app. No need for it in the iOS app yet, obviously, since the most recent iPhone upgrade disappointingly didn't include support for NFC.

As we noted back in July, in practice, the transfer of funds through PayPal's NFC system isn't substantially different from what was already possible using Bump, which sends the transfer through servers in the cloud rather than wirelessly between the mobiles. But the NFC system will let PayPal developers acquire experience with NFC wireless transfers, which should serve them well as NFC-enabled point-of-sale terminals begin to show up next year and beyond.

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If you're interested in learning more about the commerce space, check out PayPal DevZone on X.commerce, a collaboration between O'Reilly and PayPal.


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