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September 13 2013

paypal annonce aux utilisateurs le partage de données avec facebook et Criteo

#paypal annonce aux utilisateurs le partage de données avec #facebook et Criteo
http://pro.clubic.com/entreprises/paypal/actualite-584454-paypal-partage-donnees-utilisateurs-facebook-criteo.htm

Le service de paiement en ligne Paypal a notifié ses utilisateurs de la mise à jour de ses conditions d’utilisation. Celles-ci prévoient la possibilité de transmettre des données personnelles à Facebook ou encore au spécialiste de la publicité ciblée Criteo via un mécanisme d’opt-out (acceptation par défaut) .(Permalink)

#privacy

June 03 2013

Designgesetz, Paypal-Klauseln, kino.to-Uploader

Die Bundesregierung will das Geschmacksmusterrecht reformieren, Verbraucherschützer klagen gegen Paypal, Polizei und Staatsanwaltschaft gehen gegen einen mutmaßlichen Uploader von kino.to vor. Außerdem im Wochenrückblick: Die Telekom antwortet dem Kartellamt zur Drosselung, die BGH-Entscheidung zu Autocomplete ist veröffentlicht.

Bundesregierung plant Modernisierung des Geschmacksmusterrechts

Die Bundesregierung hat einen Gesetzesentwurf zur Modernisierung des Geschmacksmusterrechts vorgelegt. Danach soll schon der Begriff des „Geschmacksmusters” abgeschafft werden und der neuen Formulierung „eingetragenes Design” weichen. Aus dem Geschmacksmustergesetz soll zudem das neue „Designgesetz” (DesignG) werden. Außerdem soll ein Nichtigkeitsverfahren eingeführt werden, mit dem bereits das Deutsche Patent- und Markenamt (DPMA) die Nichtigkeit eines eingetragenen Designs feststellen kann – ein Gerichtsverfahren wäre dann nicht mehr nötig. Auch die interne Besetzung beim DPMA soll geringfügig verändert werden.
Der Gesetzesentwurf im Volltext.
Besprechung im Blog von CMS Hasche Sigle.

Verbraucherschützer gehen gegen Paypal vor

Wie die Berliner Zeitung vergangene Woche berichtet, hat der Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband Klage gegen Paypal erhoben. Grund sollen intransparente Klauseln, insbesondere zu Schadensersatz und verschuldensunabhängiger Haftung von Verbrauchern sein. Auch sei nicht immer klar, wie lange Transaktionen von Paypal überprüft werden können. Die Verbraucherzentralen reagierten damit auf Verbraucherbeschwerden, die sich u.a. über das Einfrieren von Konten durch Paypal beklagt hätten.
Bericht der Berliner Zeitung.
Weitere Details bei Heise online.

Hausdurchsuchung und Beschlagnahmungen bei kino.to-Uploader

Polizei und Staatsanwaltschaft sind gegen einen mutmaßlichen Uploader von kino.to vorgegangen. Vergangene Woche sei das Haus eines Mannes in Schleswig-Holstein durchsucht und ein Rechner sowie mehrere Speichermedien beschlagnahmt worden, berichtet die Gesellschaft zur Verfolgung von Urheberrechtsverletzungen (GVU). Dem Mann wird vorgeworfen, massenhaft Filme und Serien bei kino.to und dem Nachfolgeportal movie2k hochgeladen zu haben. Unterdessen war auch movie2k, das Portal, das die Lücke von kino.to gefüllt hat, zeitweise nicht erreichbar – möglicherweise die Folge weiterer Ermittlungen der Generalstaatsanwaltschaft Dresden, die bereits im Fall kino.to ermittelt hatte. Mittlerweile ist das Portal unter leicht geändertem Namen jedoch wieder online.
Weiter bei onlinekosten.de.
Zu den Ermittlungen gegen movie2k bei Welt Online.
iRights.info: Rätselraten um movie2k.

Internet-Drosselung: Telekom beantwortet Fragen des Bundeskartellamts

Die Deutsche Telekom AG plant, bei neuen Tarifen ab einem gewissen Datenverbrauch die Anschlussgeschwindigkeit zu drosseln – und steht deshalb in der Kritik. Vergangene Woche wurden nun der Zeitung „Die Welt” Antworten der Telekom auf eine Anfrage des Bundeskartellamts zugespielt. Darin verteidigt die Telekom ihr Vorhaben. Anders als bislang bekannt, sei jedoch noch nicht entschieden, ob der Datenverkehr des hauseigenen Videoangebotes „Entertain” vom Inklusivvolumen ausgenommen sein soll. Vor allem diese Privilegierung von Diensten der Telekom und ihrer Partner-Unternehmen hatte die Diskussion um gesetzliche Regelungen zum Schutz der Netzneutralität in den letzten Wochen befeuert.
Ausführlich bei Welt Online.

BGH: Autocomplete-Entscheidung im Volltext veröffentlicht

Mitte Mai hat der Bundesgerichtshof entschieden, dass Googles Autocomplete-Funktion Persönlichkeitsrechte verletzen kann. Bislang war nur die Pressemeldung des Bundesgerichtshofs veröffentlicht; nun ist die Begründung auch im Volltext verfügbar. Der BGH begründet in der Entscheidung, dass Google reagieren muss, wenn das Unternehmen auf rechtsverletzende Begriffskombinationen hingewiesen wird. Alle Fragen sind damit jedoch noch nicht beantwortet.
Ausführlich bei Telemedicus.
Die Entscheidung Az. VI ZR 269/12 im Volltext.
Kritische Anmerkungen von Prof. Niko Härting.

Lizenz dieses Artikels: CC BY-NC-SA.

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 17 2013

Commerce Weekly: PayPal marches toward ubiquity

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

PayPal expands its footprint with new partners

PayPal JambaJuice AppPayPal JambaJuice AppPayPal announced this week it has expanded its U.S. footprint to include 23 new partners for its PayPal in-store payments service, in addition to the 15 national partners announced last May, making its service available in 18,000 physical store locations across the country.

According to a post on the PayPal blog, new retail partners include Barnes & Noble, Office Depot, Foot Locker and Jamba Juice, and “two additional partners that [they] will share publicly soon.”

The deal PayPal struck with Jamba Juice goes beyond the in-store payments service that allows customers to pay with their phone number and a pin, or by using their PayPal payment card. Chloe Albanesius reports at PCMag that PayPal is testing its PayPal App in one Jamba Juice location to allow customers to place and pay for their orders, so when they arrive at the location, they just have to pick up their smoothie.

Global product VP Hill Ferguson notes in a post at the PayPal blog, that the feature is available only for iPhone users at this point and that there are plans to expand to more Jamba Juice locations this year.

In addition to its announcement of new retail partners, PayPal also announced a new hardware partner. Sarah Perez reports at TechCrunch that PayPal is “also partnering with point-of-sale and hardware maker NCR to expand into restaurants, as well as into other businesses, including gas stations and convenience stores.”

PayPal retail services VP Don Kingsborough explains on the PayPal blog that in the first phase of the agreement, PayPal mobile payments options will be integrated into the NCR Mobile Pay app and NCR Aloha Online Ordering. “PayPal will be a payment option and allow consumers greater choice for simple, fast and secure purchases, alongside credit or debit cards.,” Kingsborough writes. “Consumers will also be able to use the PayPal mobile application to locate, order-ahead and “check-in” at participating NCR Mobile Pay merchants to access the same functionality.”

According to Kingsborough’s post, the agreement also will involve integrating PayPal mobile payments into NCR’s Convenience-Go (C-Go) app for gas stations and convenience stores and an enhancement to NCR’s Netkey Endless Aisle app “to enable in-store payments with PayPal to either buy-in-store or provide shipping capability for out of stock items.”

Mobile wallets aren’t trumping credit cards, but perhaps Apple’s can

Mobile Commerce managing editor Bill Siwicki argued this week in a post at Internet Retailer that mobile wallets are not going to catch on anytime soon “due to a variety of hurdles, credit cards being perhaps the biggest.” Quoting an email exchange with Ben Saren, vice president of marketing at payment processor Litle & Co., Siwicki writes:

“‘People are never going to switch to mobile wallets as long as it’s just as easy to pull out a credit card as it is to pull out your phone. There’s no incentive to change the channel,’ Saren says. … ‘Love or hate the card networks, they have paved all of the highways and largely made them traffic-free. When you go to a retail location and buy something with a piece of plastic, the authorization happens in less than a second. … So somebody needs to tell me how the system is broken today and why we need something else.’”

Siwicki does note, however, that though “mobile wallets today are not a better mousetrap,” they do connect with the Internet in ways that credit cards can’t, which opens new avenues for merchants to offer coupons and loyalty programs. “Somewhere down the line, way down the line,” Siwicki writes, “I think making payments via smartphones will catch on, simply because of the central role smartphones are coming to have in people’s lives.”

In that same vein, SAS Institute’s Lori Schafer argued this week at the NRF 102nd Annual Convention & Expo that Apple is in a better position to disrupt mobile payments than current competitors. Quoting Schafer from her session, The Tech Titans’ War for Mobile Dominance – How Amazon, Apple, eBay, Facebook and Google are Shaping Our Mobile World, Lauren Johnson reports at Mobile Commerce Daily:

“‘When Apple adds in NFC, it will have two advantages over everyone else,’ [Johnson] said. ‘First, the iTunes database is huge, with over 400 million people already signed up. Second, the iPod touch and iPads are fast gaining traction as the next generation of cash registers, and a number of retailers are now starting to roll them out to their associates in-store instead of using the traditional cash register. This sets up Apple to potentially own both sides of millions of transactions.’”

Mobile commerce strategies shouldn’t hinge on transaction data

Amy Martinez observed at The Seattle Times this week that retailers are “lukewarm” about integrating mobile commerce into their sales strategies. Citing a new report from Forrester Research, Martinez notes that smartphones only generated $5 billion of the $226 billion e-commerce market in 2012, and because of that, “[r]etailers will continue to invest in mobile strategies, but the bulk of their technology spending in 2013 will be on the basics, such as improving online checkout, product descriptions and the overall user experience, according to the report.”

In a presentation at the National Retail Federation’s annual convention this week in Manhattan, Martinez reports, Forrester analyst Sucharita Mulpuru said that “[r]etailers have been burned getting very, very hyped up over mobile … Even though consumers have these phones, the number of transactions on those phones is still small.”

Responding to Martinez’s piece, Colin Gibbs at GigaOm Pro writes that he doesn’t doubt Forrester’s data, but argues that mobile commerce is more than transactions. Gibbs says the very fact that smartphones are an inferior platform for browsing, price checking and entering or linking to credit card information is the reason retailers need to step up their mobile strategies. He writes:

“That’s why the top priorities for retailers in the mobile world should be building solid mobile websites, establishing relationships with their customers, delivering targeted ads and discounts, and encouraging them to come in to the store or to visit online stores on their PCs.”

Gibbs argues that even though closing mobile transactions remains difficult, “ignoring every mobile commerce strategy is short-sighted and dangerous.”

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August 23 2012

Commerce Weekly: Bringing mobile payment to the mainstream

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

The race is on

Earlier this month, mobile payment company Square teamed up with Starbucks to bring mobile payment to the coffee mogul’s 7,000 locations and millions of customers. This week, PayPal stepped up its game with two announcements. First, according to a report at Reuters, the company confirmed rumors that it’s running a mobile payment test with fast food giant McDonald’s at 30 of its locations in France.

Alistair Barr describes the program in the Reuters report, explaining that customers can order lunch on their smartphones or online, pay with PayPal, and pick up their orders in a separate line. McDonald’s has more than 30,000 locations worldwide — landing this partnership not only could catapult PayPal ahead of Square in the mobile payment race, but it will bring mobile payments to the everyday lives of the masses, further mainstreaming the idea of mobile wallets and mobile payment.

Upping the ante further, PayPal also announced a partnership with Discover that, according to Ryan Kim’s report at GigaOm, will bring PayPal payments to some seven million U.S. merchants. Through the deal, Discover will integrate PayPal’s payment system into its point-of-sale software, which alleviates involvement and investment from merchants. During its launch, planned for April 2013, the system will be a bit clunky, but it’s expected to smooth out quickly thereafter — Kim reports:

“At launch next year, PayPal users will be able to pay with a PayPal Access Card, which connects to a PayPal account and can be funded from a bank account or credit card. Users will be able to use the card in conjunction with a PayPal mobile wallet app, which will deliver e-receipts, offers and other services. But a few months later, PayPal users will be able to pay directly through point-of-sale terminals by entering in a PIN or phone number or by authorizing a payment through their mobile app after sharing their location with the merchant. That will eliminate the need for any cards or traditional wallets and will enable consumers to get the benefits of a digital wallet to receive offers, track spending and tap into loyalty programs.”

PayPal’s VP of retail services Don Kingsborough told Kim this deal with Discover will be “key in achieving ubiquity” to help facilitate consumer adoption.

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.

The NFC pain point

Jon Worley, director of business development and customer interaction at The Logic Group, wrote a guest post at InternetRetailing this week, looking at the real business value of mobile wallets. Worley argues that the value isn’t in offering a convenient payment service to customers, but in the potential for increased consumer interaction:

“The mobile wallet enables the collection of valuable data to create customer interaction opportunities for retailers, marketers and advertisers. These interactions can include in-store customer loyalty programmes, vouchers, or location based services for customers. For example, with an NFC-enabled mobile phone, a customer can tap a poster or product label to view promotional and product information as well as offers and complimentary items for cross selling.”

Worley says one of the major pain points for the market right now is the slow adoption of NFC in mobile phones, but if the newest edition of the annual Gartner Hype Cycle report is correct, NFC technology is at the end of its hype and is now experiencing the “Trough of Disillusionment” on its way to the “Slope of Enlightenment.” Dan Rowinski at ReadWriteWeb took a look a the report results and the estimation that NFC will reach ubiquity, or the “Plateau of Productivity,” within 2 to 5 years.

Rowinski says the major hurdle of getting NFC technology into the phones, and therefore the hands of consumers, is being solved fairly quickly, as most new smartphone model releases include NFC. He points out, though, that the solution to the secondary growth hurdle isn’t going to be so straightforward:

“As we have seen, the mobile payments industry is more or less a mess. There are too many competing interests with competing products and standards, none of which are being wholeheartedly embraced by consumers. NFC is trapped in the middle of the mobile payments sector. This is what it is like being in the Trough of Disillusionment.”

Mobile commerce trends

Mashable’s Kate Freeman took a look this week at an infographic created using results from a new report from Monetate on where mobile commerce is headed, with highlights from the iPhone-Android battle. Freeman reports that Monetate’s data was gathered by analyzing more than 100 million online shopping experiences. A few interesting data points include:

  • Between Q2 2011 and Q2 2012, website traffic from smartphones increased 103%.
  • iPhone continues to dominate Android: in Q2 2012, iPhone had a 5.41% share of total website traffic versus 3.31% for Android.
  • The top three shopping activities involving smartphones were taking a photo of a product (37% of users did this), searching for a store (35%), and researching products and prices (35%).
  • 1 out of 3 smartphone users shares their location.

Another mobile commerce trend highlighted this week was the use of video in product sales. Darcy Travios at Forbes cited research performed by ecommerce video company Invodo that videos increase sale conversions, especially on mobile devices. Travios writes:

According to Invodo research, mobile shoppers are three times more likely to click and view the video than desktop or laptop users. Internet Retailer reports that those that view a video are 144% more likely to place that item in a shopping cart. And, 52% say that watching the video makes them more confident about their purchasing decisions (read: fewer returns).

Citing a report from Comscore, Travios also reports that “e-commerce visitors who watch a video are 64% more likely to make a purchase than those that don’t.”

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July 26 2012

Commerce Weekly: Square disrupts, PayPal shrugs

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

The mobile payment war rages on

David Pogue took a look this week at Square’s latest maneuver in the mobile payment race, its Pay With Square app. Pogue says it’s far more disruptive than the simple ability for anyone to accept a mobile credit card payment:

“You walk into a shop or cafe. The cashier knows that you’re on the premises because your name and thumbnail photo appear on his iPad screen. He rings up your items by tapping them on the iPad.

“And now the magic moment: To pay, you just say your name. The cashier compares your actual face with the photo on the iPad’s screen, taps O.K., and the transaction is complete. No cash, no cards, no signatures — you don’t even have to take the phone out of your pocket.”

Writing about taking the app for a spin at a coffee shop in San Francisco, Pogue describes a few hang-ups: merchants have to use an iPad as a cash register and they must enter every item they sell. Another issue concerns Square’s security and actually stems from customers themselves — users are required to upload a photo of themselves to set up a new Pay With Square account, but as the coffee shop cashier told Pogue, “sometimes use pictures of cats or SpongeBob instead of their own photos,” which prevents a visual ID of the customer.

The mobile payment competition isn’t sitting still, however. Pogue also notes that PayPal is working to catch up with Square’s frictionless purchase technology with its own local payment system, PayPal Local. And at the recent VentureBeat MobileBeat conference, PayPal’s vice president of global product Hill Ferguson said he isn’t particularly concerned with Square. John Koetsier reports at VentureBeat: “Though [Square] can facilitate very personal commerce — put it on Bob’s bill — [Ferguson] says it is not going to work very well at Safeway.” Ferguson also acknowledged that PayPal is a “two-click” system, as it doesn’t own the ecosystem “like Google Play or Apple,” but says he sees both companies as “fantastic potential partners, doing highly complementary things.”

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.

NFC security hacked at Black Hat 2012

Andy Vuong at the Denver Post took a look at NFC technology this week, its potential uses — including but not limited to mobile payments — and the likelihood of it becoming mainstream in the U.S. Vuong writes that the biggest question concerning NFC’s future may be whether or not Apple will include the technology in its next generation iPhone.

Mohamed Awad, associate product line director for NFC products at Broadcom and a board member of the NFC Forum, told Vuong that he doesn’t think the future of the technology hinges on Apple’s adoption, and he also dismissed security concerns. Vuong reports:

“‘The credit card in your wallet is just magnetically encoded, so anybody with a magnetic reader can read all of your credit card information,’ [Awad] said. ‘On your smartphone, there is a secure element in there, the encryption is much more tight and it’s a much more secure platform.’”

The security concerns, however, may not be so easily discounted. Research consultant Charlie Miller demoed the security gaps at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas this week. Meghan Kelly at VentureBeat reports that Miller showed a video in which he closely followed a friend, keeping his hand “awkwardly close to his buddy’s back pocket” in order to hack his phone. Kelly says that though Miller noted the attack was difficult and that the NFC bugs he found are “not too extensive,” he was still able to exploit a bug in the Nokia N9 smartphone. She writes:

“The N9 has a feature in it called ‘pairing,’ which allows the phone to connect to other devices using Bluetooth and NFC. … If a hacker creates a tag that can pair the phone, she can have access to the Bluetooth network and eventually make it into the rest of the phone. Miller demoed the hack and pulled all the data from the phone, including the photos and address book. He also showed that you can send text messages to other phones using the hacked phone, as well as make calls.”

Kelly writes that Millers takeaway for the mobile security community is to “[m]ake phones prompt the user before accepting an NFC connection.”

Visa takes mobile payment to the Olympics

Bill Gajda, Visa’s head of mobile, brought some perspective to the state of mobile payments this week in an interview with Roger Cheng at CNET. Gajda says that though mobile payment experiments are underway, the mode of payment won’t become mainstream in the U.S. for two to three more years. Cheng reports that the issue isn’t only related to hardware and technology hang-ups, but that “Gajda’s more realistic view of the broader acceptance underscores the difficulties in changing long-drilled consumer habits and getting past the comfort level of paying with cash or swiping a credit card.”

Visa is planning to address the issue of consumer awareness at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, England, which begin this week. Cheng reports:

“Visa is using the Olympics as an international showcase for mobile payments. The company has hooked up 140,000 payment terminals in London with near-field communication, or NFC, chips that enable the tap-and-pay process. The locations include 5,000 London taxis and 3,000 point-of-sale venues at the Olympics. The company is handing out several thousand Olympic-edition Galaxy S3s to VIPs such as athletes to test out the service.”

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July 19 2012

Commerce Weekly: Amazon chases immediate gratification

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

Same-day delivery could be the Holy Grail for Amazon, kiss of death for physical retailers

Farhad Manjoo at Slate took a look this week at Amazon’s change of heart in its tax war with US states and what it might mean. Manjoo notes the company dropped its sales tax fight with California last fall and began signing tax agreements with many states, including California, New Jersey, Indiana and Nevada.

Looking at an investigative series the Financial Times is conducting on Amazon (subscription only), Manjoo reports that this move plays into Amazon’s new game strategy: to set up distributions centers all over the country in order to achieve same-day delivery speeds in as many locations as possible. Manjoo says the implications of this for brick-and-mortar retailers are hard to overstate:

“Same-day delivery has long been the holy grail of Internet retailers, something that dozens of startups have tried and failed to accomplish. (Remember Kozmo.com?) But Amazon is investing billions to make next-day delivery standard, and same-day delivery an option for lots of customers. If it can pull that off, the company will permanently alter how we shop. To put it more bluntly: Physical retailers will be hosed.”

Christopher Matthews at Time Business took a look at the Amazon situation as part of a series on the future of retail. He cites analyst Aaron Kessler’s estimation that “e-commerce represents roughly 12% of retail sales overall and that that figure could double in the next 10 years,” and he notes that Amazon isn’t just growing along with the market: “It’s actually gaining market share in that category — by growing at three times the rate of e-commerce overall.” Matthews addresses Manjoo’s piece at Slate as well, and doesn’t necessarily agree that brick-and-mortar retailers will be “hosed.” Matthews argues that Amazon is strong, but competition is fierce:

“Indeed, traditional retailers do not see their obsolescence as inevitable and are doing all they can to leverage their main strength: their brick-and-mortar stores. And there is reason to believe that many will have success with this strategy. Consumers still want the social experience of in-store shopping. They want knowledgeable and attentive service, and they want to test, touch and try on products before they buy them.”

Both posts are well worth the read: You can find Manjoo’s piece here and Matthews’ piece here.

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.

JC Penney to launch mobile checkout

Though some predict Amazon and e-commerce will wipe out brick-and-mortar retailing, JC Penney CEO Ron Johnson is certain this will not come to pass. During an interview with CNN Money’s Miguel Helft at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference this week, Johnson defended the position of the physical store. Helft reports: “[Johnson] said he is bullish on physical retailing, and predicted that online retailing, just like catalog shopping a few decades ago, will eventually reach a plateau. He said different categories of retailing will level off at different points, and that ‘the physical store will have a permanent place.’”

Johnson also dropped something of a retail-strategy bomb. Helft writes:

“He announced that JC Penney had scrapped an outdated technology infrastructure and replaced it with an Oracle-based system. The new technology will allow the company to improve the in-store experience with mobile checkouts, self checkouts and tags based on RFID instead of bar codes, which would speed up purchases.”

Kim Bhasin at Business Insider highlighted tweets posted during Johnson’s talk at the Brainstorm Tech conference that indicated the mobile self-checkout system would be in place by the end of 2013. During his interview with Helft, Johnson, who formerly was the Senior Vice President of Retail Operations at Apple and pioneered Apple’s Genius Bar and retail store concepts, compared JC Penney’s situation to Apple’s renaissance. He said Apple had “much tougher years” than what JC Penney is experiencing and noted that “[t]ransformation takes time.”

PayPal buys Card.io

PayPal announced this week that it has acquired Card.io, a startup that allows developers to scan credit card data using a smartphone camera. Hill Ferguson, PayPal’s VP of global product, wrote on the company blog that the acquisition will allow the Card.io team “to work on projects that will accelerate innovation at a scale that’s just not possible at a startup.” Hill also noted the technology will still be available to outside developers, which could point to a licensing strategy down the road, but Hill didn’t elaborate.

PayPal already had integrated Card.io’s technology into its PayPal Here product to better compete against Square, but Ryan Kim at GigaOm notes the technology opens other doors as well, allowing “PayPal to not only facilitate more payments but also potentially help with other visual scanning uses such verifying identification cards.” Kim also points out that the acquisition “keeps Card.io out of the hands of Square or other competitors.” This acquisition is PayPal’s second in the mobile payment arena, having acquired Zong last year.

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June 21 2012

Commerce Weekly: Streamlining Facebook's ads

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

Facebook's ad future is looking up

FB_logo.pngThere was a flurry of commerce news in the Facebook camp this week. Payvment, the largest ecommerce platform on Facebook, launched an ad building service, allowing merchants to build auto-targeted Facebook ad campaigns. Focused on smaller merchants, the service is designed to create ads with a single click; the ads are automatically targeted toward customers based on their Facebook shopping and browsing histories.

"Merchants select a product they want to advertise, and Payvment grabs one of the already-uploaded photos, the product description, and ... creates a Facebook ad complete with image, headline, and copy," writes Josh Constine at TechCrunch. "It analyzes the merchant's store and who have Liked, bought, browsed that product, finds people who've interacted with similar products on its other stores, and shows them the ad."

The official press release points to a recent survey of Payvment's merchant customers that found 60% hadn't bought a Facebook ad, of which 25% stated "they haven't tried them because they don't understand how to use them." In his post, Constine highlights the bottom line of streamlining Facebook ad building and buying:

"While hundreds of big brands spend millions on ad campaigns, hundreds of thousands of small businesses buying thousand-dollar campaigns can add up. Facebook needs the sum to grow its revenue and satisfy investors ..."

There was news this week on Facebook's mobile advertising front as well. Carolyn Everson, Facebook's VP of global marketing solutions, indicated to AdAge that Facebook's newly launched mobile advertising product may soon be expanded to offer location-based advertising. The AdAge post notes that advertisers already can target ads by ZIP code, but using location-specific data from mobile phones will allow advertisers to better target ads using real-time data.

And the timing looks to be ripe — AdAge also reported this week on an early survey of Facebook's new mobile-only ads that points to a promising future: "The click-through rate for mobile ads amounted to 0.79%, compared to the 0.148% average across all five placements studied ... The click-through rate for desktop-only news-feed ads falls roughly in the middle at 0.327%."

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.

PayPal improves its UI, UX

PayPal gave itself a face lift this week, overhauling its website to improve its user interface and the user experience. The PayPal blog says the new design cuts down on the number of site pages and simplifies menus and labels.

Computer use in general is turning more and more toward mobile, and the PayPal's site design seems to be keeping this firmly in mind as well. As Ingrid Lunden notes at TechCrunch, the "redesign also happens to look a lot more touch-friendly, perhaps a sign of how much tablets, smartphones and the mobile web figure today in the company's strategy." As you can see in the screenshot below, the personal site page now has just three tabs — Buy, Sell and Transfer — and an Explore button that takes visitors to the company's new offerings.

PayPal Redesign

The new site is rolling out in the U.S. over the next couple of weeks and will launch globally at a later date.

If you want to scale, you have to educate the masses

With all the talk of strategies to battle showrooming and ideas whirling about on tying mobile into brick-and-mortar retail to better engage — and sell to — customers, it was interesting to read how some of those techniques are playing out in practice. Mobile Commerce Daily reported this week on a panel at the 2012 MMA Forum called "How Mobile Can Bridge the Gap in the Multi-Channel Commerce Landscape," during which Don Wortley, the senior digital marketing manager at Best Buy, commented on the company's strategies to integrate mobile into the physical shopping experience.

Wortley said during the panel that the mobile pilot programs do very well, but problems arise as they try to scale them. He attributes the issues mainly to customers not knowing how to use — or simply not using — their smartphone features. Mobile Commerce Daily reports:

"'When we think of all these super streamlined experiences, we still have to educate the masses,' Mr. Wortley said. ... 'We have not done a good job educating consumers on the tools we have ... We've had a beta culture where we stick stuff out there and haven't wanted to advertise until it is polished, but that is never going to happen. We are currently making plans to drive usage of tools, to put some resources behind that.'"

You can read more of Wortley's comments as well as comments from other panel members regarding the effect corporate silos are having on the success of in-store mobile here.

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May 31 2012

Commerce Weekly: NFC delays give Bluetooth an opening

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

Apple, Bluetooth and the path of least resistance

Bluetooth LogoThe road to mobile payments, especially in the U.S., is mired with speed bumps in terms of consumer security concerns with NFC and the fact that the technology isn't yet in the hands of enough consumers and retailers to get a foothold. The solution, however, may not be expanding a new technology, but rather opting to not reinvent the wheel.

Recent speculation indicates this may be the tactic adopted by Apple, which some have argued is poised to disrupt the space. ResearchFarm analyst Pablo Saez Gil told Mary-Ann Russon at ComputerworldUK that Bluetooth technology makes more sense for Apple than NFC. He said Bluetooth would work in a similar fashion to NFC tags, but would allow for "long-distance connections between devices of up to 50m." Russon observes additional inherent advantages:

"The idea is that Apple could introduce an app that enables the Bluetooth transaction but relies on the cloud. This would completely negate the need for NFC, cash registers or even credit cards and thus allow retailers and SMEs to bypass costly hardware upgrades."

Making mobile payments more ubiquitous using existing technology not only would help bypass the technology growing pains, but using technology that consumers are already comfortable with would largely bypass the learning curve and may help alleviate security concerns. Marguerite Reardon at CNET took a look at the NFC issues hindering Google's Wallet and noted an additional problem with NFC that could be bypassed with Bluetooth: politics. A mobile payment company CEO told Reardon that with NFC payments, it all comes down to "who owns the customer." With the rapidly expanding competition in the fledgling NFC payment space, opting for a path of less resistance with Bluetooth technology may very well end up being the mobile payment solution holy grail.

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.

NFC is too slow for the London Underground

Discussion of NFC's growing pains wasn't isolated to in-store mobile retail payments this week — it seems the technology is having growing pains in the transportation payment space as well. IDG News' Mikael Ricknäs took a look at the situation in a post at PCWorld. He reports:

"NFC still remains a technology that is just around the corner — a corner that never seems to come, according to [Shashi Verma, director of customer experience at Transport for London (TfL)]. For any contactless technology to work in the London Underground, read speed has to be faster than 500 milliseconds, he said [at the Open Mobile Summit conference in London]."

The speed was achieved with an earlier model Nokia phone, Ricknäs reports, but Verma said that a shift in standards in 2008 created a physical hardware gap that slowed down the read speed. Verma also said that NFC has user issues as well: "The technology is still too difficult to use for ordinary consumers and if its proponents want NFC to become a mass-market technology worldwide it has to become less fidgety to use."

PayPal signs on more partners, launches a new payment solution

PayPal announced 15 new national (U.S.) retail partners for its mobile payment solution this week, including Abercrombie & Fitch, Barnes & Noble, JC Penney, and Office Depot. The press release noted the company's point-of-sale beta test with Home Depot has been successfully rolled out to every Home Depot store across the U.S. Part of the company's mobile payment success thus far can be attributed to its ease of use for consumers and merchants as well as on its cost-effectiveness for retailers.

Consumers will be able to pay at participating stores with a physical PayPal Card connected to their PayPal account or via their phone number with a PIN. As a post at AdAge points out, PayPal ultimately hopes to expand their mobile payment solutions to better engage consumers with loyalty programs as well as with discounts and coupons while shopping.

PayPal also rolled out a mobile payment option in the U.K. this week: the PayPal In-Store App. The app generates a unique barcode for a purchase that retailers can scan for payment.

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May 03 2012

Commerce Weekly: Mobile payments and the consumer experience

Here are a few stories from the commerce space that caught my eye this week.

Don't forget the mobile payment UX

PayPalSquareLogo.jpgCompetition in the mobile payment space is heating up, as Square's payment pace closes in on PayPal's, according to a report at Bloomberg. The report highlights a recent move by Square to lure in merchants: "The San Francisco company is making cash from sales before 5 p.m. on any day available in merchants' accounts on the next business day, compared with as many as five days out for other processors."

The real endgame, though, will be adoption by consumers, and Lauren Goode over at All Things Digital addressed the battle to control digital wallets from a UX perspective. Goode reports on her experience shopping around San Francisco and New York, paying either with Pay with Square or PayPal's mobile app. She says both apps are easy to use and that the biggest issue for both was the lack of merchants accepting payments of this type. Another issue she mentions caught my eye, however — the execution inconsistencies:

"Square has been touting the idea that this app actually allows for 'hands-free' payments ... One shop I bought coffee at didn't see my name right away, even though I had turned on the tab in the iPhone version of the app. I tried to buy another item using the app on a Samsung Galaxy Nexus Android phone, and my name didn't appear at all on the list of customers in the store.

But at another downtown coffee shop I was able to walk in, place my order and say, 'Charge it to Lauren Goode' — without taking my phone out of my pocket — and the transaction was completed in seconds."

And regarding a beef jerky purchase using PayPal's app:

"Since data service on my phone happened to be particularly bad in that area, I initially had trouble dropping the digital pin within the app that's supposed to let the merchant know I was there. The merchant also had to reboot his phone once to process the payment on his end. But once I switched over to Wi-Fi, I had four options for paying him ..."

Goode also reports on location-based features and the importance of merchant-provided content — her entire account is well worth the read.

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.


E-gifting and mobile commerce get social

Social gifting is gearing up to be one of the next big mobile commerce booms, according to a report at Reuters. The post focuses on the launch of Wrapp, a Swedish-based app startup, and highlights the blurring lines of online and brick-and-mortar commerce worlds. It describes the app:

"It allows Facebook friends to buy each other gift cards from participating retailers either individually or by teaming up, which they can store on their mobile devices and redeem either online or inside physical stores. Retailers like it because there is little marketing cost and because customers often end up buying more once they are inside the store."

Wrapp's CEO Hjalmar Winbladh told Reuters, "Brick-and-mortar retailers are all looking for new, more efficient ways to drive sales into stores without diluting their brands ... we wanted to really see how retailers can leverage the megatrends of smartphones and social networks."

TheFind also launched a social commerce app this week. It's called Glimpse, and it's a Facebook app that, according to the press release, "uses Facebook Like data from across the web to instantly personalize and curate a stream of fashion and design items that are trending, tailored to the tastes and preferences of an individual and their community of Facebook friends."

Ryan Kim at GigaOm calls the shopping discovery app a Pinterest rival and reports: "TheFind's CEO Siva Kumar told me TheFind has been working with Facebook for some time to bridge the two data sets, mapping a user's likes to products, their taxonomy and a user's profile. Now, when a Glimpse user likes a page, the service can determine what product the URL is referring to, can pull up the most recent availability and pricing data and also fit it into different styles and trends."


Move over smartphones, NFC to unlock experiences for Nook users

In an interview at CNN Fortune, Barnes & Noble CEO William Lynch talked about the future of the Nook and the recently announced partnership with Microsoft. In talking about opportunities in offline-online integration, Lynch offered an example of how B&N will improve customers' experiences:

"We're going to start embedding NFC [near-field communications] chips into our Nooks. We can work with the publishers so they would ship a copy of each hardcover with an NFC chip embedded with all the editorial reviews they can get on BN.com. And if you had your Nook, you can walk up to any of our pictures, any our aisles, any of our bestseller lists, and just touch the book, and get information on that physical book on your Nook and have some frictionless purchase experience. That's coming, and we could lead in that area."

Lynch told Fortune the NFC experience could appear as early as this year.

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April 12 2012

Commerce Weekly: Bump taps mobile payments

Here are some of the commerce items that caught my eye this week.

Bump taps into payments

A Bump in progressBump relaunched its service this week as a PayPal-powered person-to-person payment service. Bump has been around for a few years, offering a clever way to share data that looks, to the casual user, as if it's transferring data locally from one device to another by bumping the two devices together. Is it using NFC? Infrared? Bluetooth? None of these, of course: Bump sends data through the cloud, locating the two sharing devices by their proximity and the reaction each device had to their bump. It seems pretty clever, as it enables virtual phone-to-phone transfers without having to wait on any assurance that the two phones share technology for syncing locally. As long as both phones can talk to the network — and would they be mobile phones if they couldn't? — Bump can process the transfer.

The capability for payments has always been part of the plan, but until now Bump has promoted itself primarily as a way to share contact and other information. Payments is a far more compelling use, though what Bump is actually doing is just sharing emails and looping PayPal into the process — just as you would if you were paying someone by going to PayPal's site from a laptop.

Still, how big can the market be for splitting the tab at dinner or sharing a tank of gas? The real upside for Bump must be in licensing its technology to other, more established payment processors, like PayPal. If you could Bump to pay at Home Depot or anywhere else where PayPal is accepted in the physical world, that would be simpler than having to key your mobile number into a keypad and faster than having to wait for a manufacturer to build NFC capabilities into your next phone.

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.

When will Apple enter the mobile payment race?

There's an interesting guest column by Ramzi Yakob, a strategist at digital agency TH_NK, on Wired's UK site about what mobile payments could do for Apple and (more importantly) what Apple could do for mobile payments. Yakob suggests that Apple is uniquely positioned to enter the increasingly crowded field of mobile payments — not exactly late, but not a first mover either — and reinvent it in its own image. What's interesting is that, even though Apple is now, on some days at least, the world's biggest company by market capitalization, Yakob notes that it isn't Apple's market might that gives it the power to enter and change industries:

"The position that Apple has now, not just financially but also within the hearts and minds of the modern consumer, gives it the perhaps unique ability to enter new sectors and make them 'Apple' in a way that feels completely natural to us — and by making them 'Apple', I mean, of course, beautiful, desirable, easy-to-use and hugely profitable."

The post is worth a quick read. (As an interesting aside, to point out how lax credit card security and scrutiny are, Yakob points to his brother's Tumblr where he shares pics of the ridiculous signatures he gets away with on restaurant tabs.)


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April 05 2012

Commerce Weekly: The do's and don'ts of geo marketing

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

Placecast's CEO on the secret to successful targeted offers

PlacecastLast August, I wrote about Placecast, which has been working to deliver coupons and offers on behalf of its retail clients to opted-in customers when they hit geofenced areas. Placecast's platform allows merchants to set up a ring around their locations (or other locations, as described below) and then trigger an SMS to customers who have opted in to receive them. Placecast works with mobile carriers to deliver large tranches of opted-in customers to its merchant clients. This week at O'Reilly's Where Conference, Placecast CEO Alistair Goodman talked about the right and wrong way to deliver ads to a geofenced audience, based on the learning curve they have climbed over the past few years.

Some of these are obvious, like the need to link data about the customers' preferences with the location — the richer the data, the more relevant the message, and the more likely it is to hit home. Goodman explained this as a sort of stack, with positioning data (mostly from GPS, but supplemented with Wi-Fi and other data) at the lowest level. Just above that, a layer on context: What type of place is the user at (mall? stadium? park?) and what's the weather like? Atop that level, demographics and psychographics — who are the users and what do users in their consumer categories tend to go for? Atop that layer, the users' preferences: What do they want to be notified about, when, and how often? And finally, at the top of the stack, the offer itself: What is it the retailer is promoting?

A second key point is the need to find relevant locations — not just the retailer's store, which is obvious, but other places where the customer is likely to be receptive to the offers. For example, you might promote dog food or pet stores at a dog park, or a promo for a sports drink around a gym, or the sponsor of a concert around an arena. Interestingly, Goodman said that while merchants often ask Placecast to geofence around a competitor's store, he advises them that isn't a particularly effective marketing strategy: "If a customer is already headed into a certain store, a message urging them to visit a different location isn't likely to be very effective. A more effective way is to promote the message from a relevant public space." (I noticed the audience received this wisdom in total silence; you could almost hear the wheels of doubt spinning.)

Finally, Goodman said customers react better to offers when they believe it comes to them through this channel with some level of exclusivity. "Customers like it when they feel they're getting an offer that others aren't getting." So the coupons or other offers can't be the same as what's posted on the window of the store.

Goodman said the platform can deliver offers through a variety of channels, but most are delivered as SMS text messages, which remain tremendously effective. And they seem to be working: Goodman said that their research finds that 49% of store visits that occurred after receiving a Placecast ShopAlert were unplanned before the alert, while another 19% served as reminders to visit the store. In these cases, you might say those texts delivered twice.

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.

Jumping ship at Google Wallet?

Google WalletThe departure of Google Wallet co-founding engineer Rob von Behren to join payments startup Square aroused suspicion that Square might be looking to incorporate NFC in its system. Dan Balaban's article in NFC Times puts von Behren's departure in the context of a swath of high profile talent exits from a project that appears to be struggling to find partners and users. Balaban quotes a mobile commerce analyst who believes von Behren's joining Square almost certainly means a move by Square to support NFC. "Else, it would be like hiring Michael Jordan to get advice on golf," the analyst said.

In the past, Square's COO Keith Rabois has questioned the value of NFC, calling it, at last September's GigaOM Mobile Conference, "a technology in search of a value proposition." But as more mobile phones ship this year with the short-range wireless technology, it seems natural that Square would want to tap into it to facilitate its "Pay with Square" (formerly Card Case) system that allows customers to pay at merchants with their Square accounts.

Meanwhile, Balaban's article raises questions about the viability of the Google Wallet project. In addition to von Behren, fellow founding engineer Jonathan Wall and product lead Marc Freed-Finnegan left to start their own mobile-commerce startup, Tappmo, in March. Andrew Zaeske, former director of engineering for Wallet, is also said to have left the project. Speculation centers around disagreements between Wallet chief Osama Bedier (who joined Google from PayPal in February 2011) and other leaders of the team over the project's direction. It can't help that the refusal last autumn of Verizon to allow Google Wallet into its phones, and Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile's plans to launch their own mobile wallet under the Isis brand, cast into doubt whether Wallet will ever be able to expand beyond the Sprint network.

Will carriers like Facebook's post-IPO status?

Mobile carriers run the risk of losing text revenue from Facebook, as more of the service's users access it from mobile devices and use it as their primary communication channel. That's the view of Victor Basta, managing director of London-based Magister Advisors, which advises companies on acquisitions and public offerings. Basta told Bloomberg BusinessWeek that "Facebook's IPO is about the worst thing that could happen to network operators" since the pressure to demonstrate strong earnings to investors will make it harder for Facebook to share revenue with the carriers. Facebook's "over-the-top" service rides on the mobile networks, failing to share any of the revenue from advertising delivered over it and increasingly taking away from the carriers' SMS text earnings, as users send free Facebook messages instead.

"The fundamental challenge for network operators will be finding a way of becoming part of the Facebook ecosystem rather than simply external enablers," Basta said.

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March 16 2012

Publishing News: Britannica isn't dead, it's digital

Here are the publishing stories that caught my eye this week.

Information doesn't need to weigh 129 pounds

EB.jpgThe Encyclopaedia Britannica announced its final print run this week. Looking at the description of the closing print product, it's clear that its day has passed. As the New York Times reports:

"The last print version is the 32-volume 2010 edition, which weighs 129 pounds and includes new entries on global warming and the Human Genome Project." [Emphasis added.]

Some argue that Wikipedia, with its open, free, crowdsourced content, "did in" the EB. Tim Carmody over at Wired purports that Windows, not Wikipedia, caused EB's demise:

"Britannica went bankrupt in 1996, long before Wikipedia was a crowdsourced gleam in Jimmy Wales' open-access eye. In 1990, the company had $650 million in revenue. In 1996, it was being sold off in toto for $135 million. What happened in between was Encarta."

I prefer to approach the situation from a more positive angle: A group of publishing executives sitting around a boardroom table finally had an "ah-ha!" moment and realized the path to future success was of a digital nature. With print put out to pasture, EB will focus on its online and digital offerings. As described in the Washington Post:

"Online versions of the encyclopedia now serve more than 100 million people around the world, the company said, and are available on mobile devices. The encyclopedia has become increasingly social as well, [Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc. president Jorge Cauz] said, because users can send comments to editors. 'A printed encyclopedia is obsolete the minute that you print it,' Cauz said. 'Whereas our online edition is updated continuously.'"

The EB offers access to its content through a subscription model online ($69.95 annually) and through its app ($1.99 monthly). Merriam-Webster also is a subsidiary of EB — I've had my own an annual subscription to the online unabridged version of that product for a couple years now.

"But, how will EB compete with Wikipedia?" you might ask. EB president Jorge Cauz addresses this point in an interview at NPR:

"We will probably never be as large as Wikipedia because we need to concentrate on fewer topics where we can allocate scholarly knowledge. You know, we have a different assortment of contributors that really know their subject areas. We obviously put editorial processes in place so that we can actually deliver on a source of content that is factually correct and created by the experts. That, actually, is a very different value proposition than Wikipedia."

So, perhaps we shouldn't mourn the end of an era or the death of a print product, but instead celebrate a publisher that is embracing the digital age.

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Issues of fair use, from a U.S. federal court to Bizzaroland

Copyright was in the spotlight a few times this week. First up, a federal court in Nevada made a fair use ruling late last Friday. A post by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) summarizes:

"The judgment — part of the nuisance lawsuit avalanche started by copyright troll Righthaven — found that Democratic Underground did not infringe the copyright in a Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper article when a user of the online political forum posted a five-sentence excerpt, with a link back to the newspaper's website.

"Judge Roger Hunt's judgment confirms that an online forum is not liable for its users' posts, even if it was not protected by the safe harbors of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's notice and takedown provisions. The decision also clarifies that a common practice on the Internet — excerpting a few sentences and linking to interesting articles elsewhere — is a fair use, not an infringement of copyright."

The EFF post dives deep into the background of the case — and the copyright troll — and is well worth the read.

In other copyright news, aggregators and search engines are being called to the carpet in Germany to pay publishers for "reproducing even short snippets of articles" — the same practice the Nevada court just deemed fair use. PC World reports that proponents of the new copyright law, being written by the German ministry of justice, argue that search engines like Google make a lot of money from digital content and those revenues should be shared. Proponents also point out that such a law will "hopefully also make publishers better equipped when they need to take on sites that abuse their content, which is a problem at the moment."

Those against the law argue that publishers are shooting themselves in the foot. The PC World post reports:

"It is just a comically stupid policy, according to Joe McNamee, advocacy coordinator at European Digital Rights (EDRi). The reason publishers put their content on the Internet is so that people can access it, and punishing companies for helping people to find content is nothing short of absurd, he said via email.

"Also, if the publishers' inability to evolve in the digital environment leads to policies that allow them not to evolve, then this will ultimately be bad for them, according to McNamee."

Officials told PC World that the law could be published by April, but likely wouldn't go into effect until next year.

And in downright weird copyright news, the Belgian copyright society SABAM wants to start charging libraries fees for having volunteers read books to children. Robin Wauters at The Next Web reports:

"Twice a month, the library in Dilbeek welcomes about 10 children to introduce them to the magical world of books ... SABAM got in touch with the library to let them know that it thinks this is unacceptable, however, and that they should start coughing up cash for the audacity to read stories from copyrighted books out loud. The library rep calculates that it could cost them roughly 250 euros (which is about $328) per year to pay SABAM for the right to — again — READ BOOKS TO KIDS."

Cory Doctorow describes the situation poignantly: "The technical term for this is 'eating your seed corn' (a less technical term might be 'acting like a titanic asshole')."

PayPal comes to its senses

Da_Vinci_Vitruve_Luc_Viatour.jpgIn a follow-up to recent PayPal news, in which PayPal attempted to establish itself as the content police, the company has decided to rescind its censorship demands. PayPal's new-new terms are described in a post at TechDirt:

"Under the new policy, only books with graphic images that fall under the US-based Miller test will be affected. Going forward, PayPal will also be taking a more targeted approach to enforcement. Instead of focusing on entire classes of fiction, it will work on a book by book basis. This specific change should allow for a better process in which the affected authors can appeal the decision to remove their works while getting the individual focus such decisions deserve."

In an email sent to authors and publishers, Mark Coker, founder and CEO of Smashwords, a company directly affected by PayPal's policy changes, sums it up:

"This is a big, bold move by PayPal. It represents a watershed decision that protects the rights of writers to write, publish and distribute legal fiction. It also protects the rights of readers to purchase and enjoy all fiction in the privacy of their own imagination. It clarifies and rationalizes the role of financial services providers and pulls them out of the business of censoring legal fiction."

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Suggestions are always welcome, so feel free to send along your news scoops and ideas.

Photo (top): UBN Encyclopaedia Britannica by Ziko, on Wikimedia Commons

Photo (bottom): Da Vinci Vitruve Luc Viatour, on Wikimedia Commons

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March 09 2012

Publishing News: The threat of censorship, from a non-government entity

Here are the publishing-related stories that caught my attention this week.

Censorship disguised as a business decision

Censored.pngThe PayPal-as-content-police saga continues this week. Publishers Weekly reports that PayPal is backing off Smashwords a bit: "As it stands now, PayPal has contacted Smashwords about the possibility of relaxing the enforcement and has assured the distributor that their account will not be in immediate risk of limitation pending ongoing discussions." The post outlines the background on the situation:

"The issue began February 18, when [Smashwords founder Mark] Coker received an e-mail from PayPal notifying him that Smashwords had until February 24 to correct titles with the controversial topics or else the Smashwords account would be limited. PayPal told Coker: 'Our banking partners and credit card associations have taken a very strict stance on this subject matter. Our relationships with the banking partners are absolutely critical in order to provide the online and mobile services we do to our customers. Therefore, we have to remain in compliance with their rules, which prohibit content involving rape, bestiality or incest.'"

Several anti-censorship and privacy rights organizations, including the Association of American Publishers, the Authors Guild, and the Internet Archive, have signed a letter to PayPal in support of Smashwords. The letter concludes by noting exactly how dangerous PayPal's intended actions are:

"The Internet has become an international public commons, like an enormous town square, where ideas can be freely aired, exchanged, and criticized. That will change if private companies, which are under no legal obligation to respect free speech rights, are able to use their economic clout to dictate what people should read, write, and think."

Magellan Media founder Brian O'Leary also highlighted a bit of the bigger picture:

As the tools of creation and production have become increasingly democratized, efforts to control supply have shifted to the platforms that support this more open process. After all, it's a lot easier to shut down Smashwords than it is to get its thousands of authors to stop writing.

The PW post includes comments that claim PayPal's demands are not censorship, just a business decision (... a decision that just happens to prevent people from being able to buy or read something). You didn't like SOPA? Meet the bankers.

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This kind of consumer demand should make you drool

Inspired by the Oatmeal cartoon detailing futile attempts at legally watching the "Game of Thrones" TV show (and several subsequent responses to it), David Sleight over at Stuntbox takes a look at the current state of piracy and makes a compelling argument to corporate America that pirate consumers are an opportunity:

"The audience is telling you, in no uncertain terms, they want your stuff. And they are telling you precisely what stuff. The people you're calling 'thieves' are telling you where you need to be. They are jumping through hoops only slightly less complicated than the ones you set out for them via official channels, displaying the sort of pent-up demand that should make you drool. This is what's commonly referred to in business circles as an opportunity."

Sleight points out that behind private, closed doors, corporate America acknowledges this but can't get seem to migrate the mindset into the boardroom. He offers several proposals to help them get a move-on. A few teasers include: "Start projects by picturing what the user wants to have in their hands and build up from that." And, "... the future is about frictionless access ..." And, "Stop thumping the table with these [bogus] stats." Sleight's piece is well worth the read.

And publishers might take a page from the TED playbook: Joshua Gans at the Harvard Business Review profiles the TED publishing platform, noting not only the openness of the TED talks themselves (the videos are freely available), but also the TED name (adhering to a few rules, anyone can hold a TEDx event). Gans concludes: "TED could have done the traditional publishing thing — put up walls and sold exclusivity. Instead, it has chosen to embrace the notion that information has the most value when it is shared widely. Perhaps traditional publishers of other forms of media should take note."

And in case you missed it, here's author Neal Gaiman on the opportunities of piracy:

What we have here is a failure to visualize

A new study from The Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism shows that newspapers' digital efforts are falling short in making up for losses in print revenues and that "most newspapers continue to contract with alarming speed." Fear of rapid failure seems to be fueling the slow, steady decline. One newspaper executive told the study group, "There's no doubt we're going out of business right now." The report continues:

"The problem, he [the newspaper executive] explained, is the dilemma that faces many trying to innovate inside older industries. If you changed your company and did not succeed, that could hasten the end of the enterprise. 'There might be a 90% chance you'll accelerate the decline if you gamble and a 10% chance you might find the new model,' he said. 'No one is willing to take that chance'."

PewStudyNewsRevenues.pngThe study investigates the decline in the industry from many angles — digital advertising to mobile to cultural obstacles. The study also asked newspaper executives to look five years down the road; the results were grim and highlighted the industry's lack of vision. Response highlights include:

  • The most common scenario was that the newspaper would be printed and delivered to people's homes less frequently, perhaps as little as two to three days a week-or even just on Sunday. This has already occurred in some markets, such as Detroit.
  • One foresaw a looming era of significantly downsized newsrooms. Another suggested the papers would inevitably get "thinner and weaker."
  • One thought it would be possible for papers to "limp along," but that another recession could be catastrophic to the industry.

The study report points out what is "probably the strongest underlying finding of this study: The people who run the newspaper industry are unsure of where it is heading or what it will look like."

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Photo (top): Vitruvian by Mr.Enjoy, on Flickr

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March 08 2012

Commerce Weekly: An app to end tab walkouts

Here are the commerce stories that caught my attention this week.

Tabbed Out connects check-ins with payment

For every one of us who's ever had a hard time catching the server's eye so we can make a hasty exit from the bar, here's the app you've been waiting for. Tabbed Out (available on Android and iOS) lets you check in and open a tab at restaurants and bars. When you set up the app, you link your credit card to it, so checking in delivers that info to the merchant's point-of-sale system. When you want to check out, you can do it on the app, even leaving the tip there instead of on the wet table. That's good for the merchant: There's no chance of getting walked out on, even if the patron leaves in a hurry or deletes the app.

Tabbed Out screens

It's also good for the patron: Not only does it allow you to flee when the urge strikes, but it might save you a trip back the next day. Every bar has a drawer full of abandoned credit cards, tabs opened by good-spirited folks early in the evening who, by the time they left, were too tipsy to remember to collect them on the way out. Do the same with Tabbed Out and the merchant can close the tab — and you don't have to return to the bar the next day to pick up your plastic.

The app offers some of the usual benefits we've grown to expect from a mobile check-in app — allow it to know your location, and it will also tell you what's nearby. Well, eventually it will. As of this week, it's only available at 450 locations in 34 states. Starting this weekend, some of those locations (the ones in Austin, Texas) will begin accepting PayPal as a payment option, too. A spokesperson for Tabbed Out says the company plans to make the PayPal option part of its standard offerings as it continues to roll out nationwide. So, this is another foothold for PayPal in the real world: Now you can use it to charge supplies at Home Depot, then pay for that brew you buy to reward yourself at the end of the day.

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.

Square coming to NYC taxis

An iPad using Square as a cash register Square's back in the news this week, with an upgraded cash register app (timed to coincide with the new iPad announcement) and more details on its rollout to New York City taxis. The iPad cash register isn't exactly new: Square has been pushing it for more than a year, and Cult Of Mac did a nice little round up of nifty iPad holders back in January 2011. But the company has relaunched the app and its integration with Card Case, the buyer's app that lets you run a tab using just your name at Square-accepting retailers (if you can find one).

Bigger news may be that, as The New York Times reports, Square will begin a pilot program in 30 NYC taxi cabs, with iPads mounted where those little TVs are now. (They better bolt them in pretty good!) The big innovation here, at least for the rider, is that you can swipe your card anytime during the ride. Then just sign the screen with your finger and you can hop right out at your destination; no more waiting to sign a credit-card receipt. Cabbies get something out of it too — faster payments and a silent iPad instead of a noisy TV with looped audio.

Despite these innovations, anyone who's been excited watching Square's development has probably also felt the disappointment that goes along with not seeing it used … well, just about anywhere. Dan Frommer, the tech journalist who blogs his own news at SplatF, certainly feels that disappointment. Still, he's enough of an enthusiast to review the company's releases over the past year of its daily processing volumes. While they're still a drop in the ocean compared to more visible options, like credit cards and even PayPal, Square seems to be headed in the right direction, and on a steepening curve that has reached $11 million a day. Considering the few businesses that show up on my Card Case app right now, that's an impressive number of lattes, massages, and farm-fresh produce.

iWallet is coming

While the rest of the Apple-lovin' world focused on the details of the new retina-display 4G iPad, payment geeks were poring over the details of a patent released Tuesday describing features of a mobile wallet to be used in some future version of the iPhone. Patently Apple reported that, while we've seen a number of patents published over the past year dealing with NFC communication and transactions, this patent details credit-card transaction rules, including a note that credit card companies will send statements (or at least receipts) directly to a buyer's iTunes account. "The iWallet project just became a little more real today," PatentlyApple noted.


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March 01 2012

Commerce Weekly: Small banks lagging in mobile

Here are some of the commerce stories that caught my attention this week.

Smaller banks lagging in mobile channel

Smaller financial institutions, which depend on a higher level of customer service to compete with the giants, are falling behind in the increasingly important mobile channel, according to a report by Javelin Strategy & Research. Javelin says about 37% of customers at big banks use mobile banking, compared with only 21% at regional and community banks and only 15% at credit unions. Javelin's report suggests two reasons for this. First, community bank customers tend to be older, less well off, and less tech-savvy than customers at big banks. Second, big banks can invest more in online and mobile development and marketing, resulting in a better banking experience through those channels. (That's certainly been my experience: my attempts to switch to a smaller bank were thwarted by a virtually unusable online banking system, which drove me back into the warm and fuzzy interface of a cold financial giant.)

Some smaller financial institutions say they benefitted from the anti-big-bank sentiment of the past year, epitomized by Bank Transfer Day on Nov. 5, 2011. Redwood Credit Union in Santa Rosa, for example, says its new membership was three times the normal rate last fall. But to keep that momentum going, Javelin suggests, financial institutions like Redwood will need to funnel some of their new income into development of these channels.

The report also found that mobile usage is beginning to surpass non-mobile online usage, even if those customers tap their accounts through a mobile browser. Most customers reach banks' mobile sites through a browser on their phone. However, at the largest banks, which tend to offer a "triple play," more customers use apps and SMS text instead of the browser.

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.

How Netflix improves its recommendations

One of the interesting presentations at O'Reilly's Strata conference this week was about how Netflix looks at its data to present recommendations of other shows members might like. Netflix streams 30 million shows a day. It has 5 billion ratings on those shows and collects another 4 million every day. Data scientist Xavier Amatriain discussed how Netflix uses the data from those ratings and other, more implicit data (including what people watch, which listings they mouse over to read, whether or not they finish programs) to offer recommendations that members will like enough to keep their accounts active, month after month.

Netflix gained a lot of attention a few years back with a broad open innovation initiative: it offered $1 million to anyone who could improve the Netflix recommendation engine by at least 10%. Amatriain said two teams tied for the prize with plans that improved the probability that Netflix could recommend shows that members would like based on their previous activities (though, he added, the cost of integrating those new recommendation engines into Netflix' system may have exceeded their value). Even so, since 75% of shows watched on Netflix's streaming service are based on recommendations, it's more important than ever to offer something that will draw viewers' interest.

Netflix queue example

The clues from all this data allow Netflix to present an array of recommendations to its members. First, there's a row of "top ten" most likely shows. Of course, as Amatriain pointed out, these recommendations are based on viewing history and clues of the entire membership household, not just one viewer. For example, when I log on, along with the thrillers and comedies that Netflix recommends to me, there's a fair amount of "Pretty Little Liars" and other teen dramas that my daughters might like. I used to wonder if this bizarre mix confused Netflix, but Amatriain's talk has reassured me that the company understands what's going on. Then, at a finer-grained level, there are "hyper genres" that Netflix can offer based on your track record: not just Kids Shows, but Goofy Kids Shows; not just Family Movies but Feel-good Father-Daughter Movies. Slicing the offerings narrowly improves the chances of a hit, and it's no accident that the single most likely recommendation is the first one in each row.

Of course, the main complaint Netflix receives (other than its new price structure, I would imagine) is, "why don't you have the show I want to watch?" Amatriain said the company also looks at implicit data to decide what new content to license. So when you search for a show that Netflix doesn't offer for streaming, it gets noted. I guess if you really want it to show up, keep searching for it.

Opera enters the payment fray, PayPal and Home Depot go nationwide

Mobile World Congress, the humongous European conference on all things mobile, is happening this week and everyone loosely connected to mobile payments seemed to time an announcement around it. Here are some of the more interesting announcements that have come down the PR wire from Barcelona:

  • Opera, whose Opera Mini browser has more than 160 million downloads, launched the Opera Payment Exchange (OPX). Opera says it wants to "democratize" the payment space by building a payment platform that works on more platforms and devices than Android and iOS smartphones. It says the OPX platform provides APIs that developers can use to integrate payment systems with the Opera Mini mobile browser.
  • PayPal and Home Depot said they would roll out nationwide the payment program they have been piloting in a handful of Bay Area stores over the past six weeks. The program is a significant step for PayPal, bringing its payment system offline and into the physical retail world. Customers can buy hardware and other stuff on their PayPal account, with a PayPal card or with a mobile number and PIN — no NFC required.
  • Isis, the mobile payments joint venture between AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless, announced more partners in its effort to build a payments ecosystem. Customers of Chase, CapitalOne, and BarclayCard will be able to load their payment information into Isis-compatible phones when they're ready. Isis secured deals with the top four credit card companies (or "payment networks" to use the parlance) last July; now it's making agreements with the banks ("issuers"). Isis is planning two pilots in 2012, in Austin and Salt Lake City, though it's not clear what phones the technology will be in by then.

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Bank photo: Old Bank in Sunbury Village by Maxwell Hamilton, on Flickr

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February 23 2012

Commerce Weekly: The mobile payment system that's ready now

Here are a few stories that caught my eye this week.

Three reasons why direct billing is ready for its close-up

In a sign that direct billing is gaining credibility beyond the realm of online games and media, WorldPay, a payment network for sellers, said it would add Boku as a method of payment to its system. Direct billing companies like Boku, BilltoMobile, and Bango let people buy things by entering a mobile number online and replying to a confirmation SMS text; the charges show up on their cell phone bills. Execs with these firms often describe them as "banking for the unbanked," but the reality has been that in practice, many of the "unbanked" are online game players who are too young to have bank accounts.

But that seems bound to change. Direct billing has at least three things going for it that make it an attractive option right now for mobile payments.

Boku graphic

The first is the potential user base. The graphic above, from Boku's site, shows the numbers that these services pin their ambitions on. There are two billion credit card accounts in the world, but more than five billion mobile phone accounts. Each of those mobile numbers is a unique identifier that the carrier can identify anytime, anyplace in the world. Compare that to the experience many of us have had where your credit card issuer puts a hold on your account because it is suspicious that you paid for a taxi in Chicago on Tuesday but are now buying lunch in Puerto Rico on Thursday.

Second, PayPal is about to train its millions of mobile customers to pay for things by keying in a mobile number. Its real-world retail pilot at 51 Bay Area Home Depot stores allows users to do just that (or use a PayPal card) to pay for hardware and other real-world goods. PayPal bought Zong, a direct-billing leader, for $240 million in July 2011. It has woven that technology into its suite of customer payment methods, though the process now taps your PayPal account rather than showing up on your mobile phone bill. And that's probably a good thing: One of the things that has held direct-billing back has been the reticence of mobile carriers to go along with a scheme that threatens to anger their subscribers when they open their monthly bills to see totals that are hundreds of dollars more than they spent on telecom services. The direct-billing companies have helped the carriers get over their hesitation by offering them a cut of the charge, much higher than the few percentage points that credit card companies charge for transactions.

The third great thing that direct billing has going for it is that it could allow people to pay for real-world goods now, no matter what kind of mobile phone they have. We've written a lot about NFC wireless as a tap-and-pay solution coming "soon." But so far in the U.S., only a handful of Nexus G users on the Sprint network are able to pay for goods using NFC and Google Wallet. Verizon's decision last December to lock Google Wallet out of its rollout of Samsung's Galaxy Nexus due to "security concerns" made the advent of universal NFC a little less certain. Direct billing, however, works on any mobile phone that supports text messaging. As Boky co-founder Ron Hirson pointed out in a column on Venture Beat last year, the more advanced benefits of a mobile wallet accompany direct billing, and no NFC is required. As Hirson wrote, the real advantage to mobile payments isn't the supposed convenience of tapping your phone compared to swiping a plastic credit card; it's the integration with other apps on the phone for record-keeping, bargain hunting, rewards tracking, financial planning, and the option to go social.

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.

Is social commerce not commercial enough?

A Bloomberg story published late last week said Gamestop plans to shutter its Facebook store after disappointing results. The article also noted that over the past year, three prominent retailers — Gap, JCPenney, and Nordstrom — have all opened and closed stores on Facebook, too. The report quoted Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru explaining the disconnect that's leading to disappointment:

"There was a lot of anticipation that Facebook would turn into a new destination, a store, a place where people would shop. But it was like trying to sell stuff to people while they're hanging out with their friends at the bar."

The report was noticed, and widely reposted and linked to. A counter-point published by Forbes on the same day appeared to get less attention. In that piece, Wade Gerten, CEO of 8th Bridge, which makes social shopping software, suggested these companies failed because they didn't understand what social commerce (or Facebook commerce) really is. Gerten wrote that it's not about setting up your Facebook page as a checkout stand; that's what your website does. It's more about tapping Facebook's best qualities — sharing, bragging, and asking — to help people discover what you're offering. He cites Ticketmaster and Delta Airlines as two successful practitioners of the art. Neither company attempted to replicate its website's transactional activity within Facebook's walled garden, but each organization used that channel to promote their offerings. So maybe it's not exactly F-commerce but F-marketing?

Meanwhile, with Facebook's ability to push merchandise now slightly tarnished, we look for a new champion. Pinterest is barely on the radar screen, but Forbes' Jeff Bercovici writes that it's already a better place for social commerce. "Pinterest isn't a bar," Bercovici writes, referencing Mulpuru's quote in Bloomberg's story. "It's more like a craft fair where people go to exhibit their wares, check out other vendors' offerings, or do a bit of both."

How to dial a telephone (again)

Our smartphones are so capable, and we're so adept at using them to manage our lives, that it's funny to look back and see that people once needed instruction in the most basic of phone operations: how to dial a number and place a call. But an ancient 10-minute black and white film on AT&T's Tech Channel (embedded below) shows the lengths that "the Bell network" went to in preparing their customers for the switch from operator-assisted calls to dialing systems. Rows of nerdy guys in white shirts and pocket protectors line up to yank out the fuses at the stroke of 12, while other white-shirted guys in another room at the same moment yank out strings that activate the new systems. A model who might have been Lucy's Connecticut neighbor explains some of the basics, like what a dial-tone and busy signal sound like, how to look up a number in the directory, and even how to dial a rotary phone.

Actually, the instructions on how to use a rotary dial phone — "making sure your finger firmly touches the finger stop with each pull of the dial" — are as novel now as they were when this film was produced. My young kids found an old one in their grandparents' house (not in service) and had fun marveling at how this heavy, black analog beast was able to make calls.

Got news?

News tips and suggestions are always welcome, so please send them along.


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


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February 10 2012

Commerce Weekly: Facebook finds a mobile commerce partner

Here are a few items that caught my eye this week.

How will Facebook cash in on mobile?

Facebook logoWith Facebook's public filings ahead of its imminent IPO, we know now that advertising accounted for 83% of its revenue of $3.71 billion in 2011. But we also know that almost none of its revenue came from mobile users — which is a bit of a problem since mobile users are an increasingly large part of Facebook's user base. Facebook members have embraced mobile apps on smartphones and tablets, and Facebook has encouraged their use by developing and releasing apps that deliver a UI experience that is, in some ways, superior to the traditional browser-based interface.

Now, Facebook has to figure out how to make mobile pay. A deal signed this week with mobile payments firm Bango aims to help. Bango provides mobile payment services and direct billing to carriers (like Boku and BilltoMobile), so that the cost of buying things on your mobile shows up on your mobile bill. That seems like a convenient way to buy, and such services have sometimes touted themselves for nobly serving "the unbanked" — even if many of those unbanked are largely American teenagers who use the services to buy virtual goods in games. The drawback is that mobile carriers have been lukewarm to the systems because they worry about customers seeing huge mobile phone bills and complaining or switching, even if what they're seeing is made up of virtual poker chips and Smurfberries. Direct billing services have helped the carriers get over these anxiety by giving them a cut of the revenues much greater than most payment providers get, often as high as 33%.

There's no word yet on how Bango and Facebook will manage payment or what percentage of those payments will go to the telecoms. But we can imagine what goods will be sold: Facebook Credits, as Facebook last year began insisting that mobile game providers sell their virtual goods using only Facebook credits. But I would expect Facebook's position on Credits to evolve as mobile commerce grows on the site. It's one thing to force users to buy Credits so they can be dispensed within social games; it seems unnecessary when consumers are buying a wider range of digital (or physical goods) throughout their Facebook experiences, and a restriction that could limit the potential. As long as the mobile carrier is taking a cut, why couldn't Facebook take a cut as well, without having to force Facebook's virtual currency into the equation?

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.

Google Wallet's glitches

Google Wallet is stumbling through some embarrassing growing pains as it comes under the scrutiny of white-hat hackers who are finding and publicizing security flaws. Engineers at Zvelo developed a Google Wallet Cracker app that appears to be able to break Google Wallet's encryption in seconds. Google is working to find a solution for the glitch, which exposes users' Google Wallet PIN numbers on rooted Android phones. Kate Knibbs at Mobiledia writes that the breach "validates Verizon's decision to block Google Wallet on the Galaxy Nexus," due in part to its concerns about security on the Android platform.

Meanwhile, over at TheSmartPhoneChamp.com, there's a video that highlights another security flaw in the phone. Since the Google prepaid account option within Wallet is tied to the device, not a separate Google account, someone who finds the device can open the Wallet app, clear the data, and then re-launch the app. Although the "new owner" will need to enter a PIN, the old prepaid Google account is still tied to that smartphone. I'm not certain how big a hole this is because I have no idea how much people store on their prepaid accounts — though I would hazard a guess it's not more than $300. All right, so nobody wants to lose $300, but it's not like being upside down on your mortgage.

Add to these issues the growing awareness that malware and crapware are a problem on the mobile side. To fight the malware problem, Google developed Bouncer, a program that scans for malware and spyware on Android apps. To keep out known troublesome apps, the service performs a malware and spyware scan on all submitted material. It also uses behavioral analysis to determine if a given app is trying to do something suspicious. Google doesn't stop there; it also performs fraud and abuse detection to ban and remove malware writers posing as legitimate developers. Google says it's already deployed the service and has seen a 40% drop in "potentially malicious downloads" thanks to it.

What would you buy with a QR code?

PayPal has launched a pilot with "shopping walls" in subway stations in Singapore, where you can purchase stuff by snapping a pic of the QR code while using a PayPal app on a smartphone (see a shopping wall in action here). It looks like a swell way to get some of your Valentine's Day shopping done while you're waiting for the Circle Line. Another nifty experiment would be ordering dinner from a shopping wall while waiting for your train in one station, so that it would be ready for you when you exit another. Snap the QR codes of the meals you want and checkout with PayPal. The system could even be smart enough to know when you'll pick it up, based on the station you ordered from. And there's no question of the food going to waste: The restaurant has your money and your mobile number.

That's my idea — and I freely admit that it's just because I'm late for dinner. Let me know if you've seen anyone selling meals or other interesting items via QR codes.

Got news?

News tips and suggestions are always welcome, so please send them along.


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


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February 02 2012

Commerce Weekly: The return of iPhone NFC rumors

Here are some things that caught my eye in the news this week.

When will Apple mainstream mobile payments?

AppleNow that everyone's iPhone 4S has a few dings on it and we've all grown bored flirting with Siri, our curiosity naturally turns to iPhone 5 and what gifts it will bequeath on mankind. Rumors of NFC (near-field communication, which lets phones pay with wireless technology), are at the forefront again, just as they were before the 4S arrived. As far back as August 2010, when Apple hired NFC expert Benjamin Vigier as its product manager for mobile commerce, expectations have been high that the next iPhone would include wireless payment. That was two versions ago; we must be getting close.

Seth Weintraub wrote this week on 9to5mac that a developer he met at MacWorld was building NFC into the next version of his app because Apple's iOS engineers are "heavy into NFC." Over on Fast Company, Austin Carr looked for clues in his conversation with Ed McLaughlin, who leads emerging payments at MasterCard. When Carr pressed McLaughlin for details on which handset makers were developing phones that work with MasterCard's contactless payment system, he didn't mention Apple by name but said he "didn't know of any handset maker out there who wasn't working to make their phones PayPass ready."

Why do we read these tea leaves? There are a few other NFC phones out there already, pushing the far end of the envelope. But Apple is much more significant, as Carr points out, thanks to its:

"... magical ability to transform whole industries. No one paid for music digitally before Apple unveiled iTunes; virtually no one listened to MP3 players, or carried smartphones, or played with tablets before Apple entered the markets."

Even more so than with previous trends, an enormous captive audience awaits the moment when Apple will introduce it to mobile payments. Scot Wingo notes, in a very good summary of the state of mobile commerce on Seeking Alpha, that Apple has "something like 250 million credit cards on file" in the iTunes store. Although only a fraction of those will buy the iPhone 5 in its first months out, they are sure to be customers who are already comfortable buying things through Apple's interface.

I think the biggest and best surprise will be more than just the date when iPhones ship with NFC, but rather how Apple presents a mobile wallet interface. When you think of how iTunes presented a better way to buy digital music, and when you compare the customer experience in Apple's retail stores with what you find almost anywhere else, you have to acknowledge Apple's genius in what we might call the transaction interface. Its programming efforts up front seem as likely to mainstream mobile commerce as any programming that it does behind the scenes to make those transactions occur.

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.


What PayPal is learning at the point of sale

PayPal's point-of-sale (POS) trial with 51 Home Depot stores is rolling out to Office Depot stores, too — cautiously, according to this Reuters story, which quotes an Office Depot executive saying "there are still some rough spots in that experience." The executive didn't say whether those rough spots had to do with the technology, the way customers are using it, or just the basic unfamiliarity with it. Regardless, the novelty presents something of an opportunity for PayPal, says Anuj Nayar, PayPal's chief spokesperson. "Retailers are not technologists by nature," Nayar told me in a conversation last week. "They have to work and sell in this multi-channel environment, where increasingly the differentiator is based on technology." But keeping up with the evolving technology shouldn't be the retailer's job, Nayar says. PayPal, of course, wants to provide a commercial ecosystem — as Nayar calls it, "a one-stop tech partner for retail."

PayPal at a HomeDepot point of sale terminalPayPal had those capabilities on display at the National Retail Federation show last month, showing the various ways it is enabling payment at the point of sale. PayPal aspires to go beyond the concept of a mobile wallet in a phone; it wants to offer a "wallet in the cloud" that lets consumers make purchases with just their mobile number and a PIN — no card or phone needed. No doubt, the trials at Home Depot will shed light on just how comfortable consumers are with this idea. So far, Nayar says, it's too early in the trial to share any of those learnings.

Nayar did share a finding from PayPal's conversations with consumers and retailers about how they want to use mobile commerce: You need to get beyond not only the friction that keeps people from using technology, but also guard against any social stigma that could arise. "For example, when I go to get coffee in the morning, if I get there and see there is a 20-minute wait, I can't wait for that. That retailer has lost a customer because of a friction point. So how do you reduce that friction? Maybe it's giving people the ability to order the coffee over their mobile before they get there? ... But we tested that, and you know what we found? People don't like to jump the line. They didn't like the idea of coming in and looking to everyone in line like they were getting to skip the line. So, maybe you need a separate line and register, a PayPal Express line or something."

In other words, we want convenience, but not at the expense of looking like we're getting special treatment. No doubt, PayPal will learn more in the coming trials, which are ramping up quickly: The company wants to be at 2,000 points of sale by the end of March.

Square hits the hustings

Square picked up a fresh round of publicity this week when word broke that staffers from both the Obama and Romney campaigns were using its plug-in dongle card reader to collect political donations for their candidates.

Obama campaign spokesperson Katie Hogan told Nick Bilton of The New York Times that the dongles were being shipped out to campaign workers across the country. The Obama campaign also hopes to create a donation app that works in conjunction with Square dongles so that any supporter can collect contributions with or without the support of the local campaign organization. All donations would obviously go to the campaign — minus the 2.75% transaction fee that Square keeps from every transaction.

The Romney campaign's digital director Zac Moffatt said the Republicans would also begin using Square as soon as this week, but he cautioned they want to make sure that using Square doesn't break any rules. "The challenge on this sort of thing is never with the technology, it's with the compliance. We're making sure everything we're doing follows fund-raising rules and is compliant with the FEC."

Although DC is generally slow to embrace new technologies, I have a hunch that tech that makes it easier for candidates to collect money will find a swift and warm welcome.

Got news?

News tips and suggestions are always welcome, so please send them along.


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


Related:

January 19 2012

Commerce Weekly: Slow in-app purchasers are worth the wait

Here are a few of the commerce-related items that caught my eye this week.

Report: Don't rush in-app purchases

Mighty Eagle from Angry BirdsIt's no surprise that app developers are betting on in-app purchases to generate revenue in the year ahead. Last summer, Flurry Analytics was already reporting that in-app purchases accounted for 65% of revenue in Apple's App Store and last week IHS Screen Digest said it expects to see the same trend across all platforms by 2015.

Now, developers want to know which users are most likely to make those purchases and who among them are most valuable. Localytics has dug a bit deeper to try to identify successful patterns in the freemium formula, and its findings are interesting and maybe slightly counterintuitive. Long-term engagement is more valuable over time, and it looks like those who engage too quickly are also less likely to stick around. In other words, it's better to let the hook sink in a bit. Localytics found that users who purchased quickly were less likely to stick with the app: of users who made a purchase on their first use of the app, only 16% go on to engage with the app 10 or more times — significantly lower than the 26% average. On average, users had the app at least 12 days before making a purchase, and 44% of all users who made an in-app purchase did so after interacting with the app at least 10 times.

When I think about mobile games, 12 days feels about right. Remember your second day on "Cut the Rope"? Still playing? It's fascinating to compare this to the durability of more complex games: "World of Warcraft" holds players for years, and some of us are known to every so often dust off games that are years older. (I'm looking at you, "Call of Duty II.")

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.

Bankers show interest in Bitcoin

BitcoinBitcoin is becoming increasingly mainstream — at least awareness of it, if not actual use. In addition to last fall's New Yorker profile that attempted to identify the real identity of Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto, a recent episode of the CBS drama "The Good Wife" focused on a court case in which the U.S. government was suing to get one of the attorneys to give up the identity of Bitcoin's (fictitious) creator.

Bankers being who they are, all this attention has led them to wonder (as they do with all things), "How can we profit from this?" A recent article in American Banker attempts to help them through their thinking. After explaining that the digital currency "was conceived as a rebellion against the banking system," it then goes on to say "it may also present business opportunities for banks that can get comfortable with the risks." The article does a nice job of laying out the pros (offering exchange services, accepting deposits) and cons (limited growth of the currency by design, slow uptake so far among merchants and consumers).

PayPal expands Home Depot trial

PayPal is expanding its point-of-sale trial at Home Depot. Just a few weeks after announcing a trial at five stores near PayPal's home base in Silicon Valley, the experiment will scale out to 51 Home Depot stores: one in Atlanta, six in Omaha, and 44 in the San Francisco Bay Area. All are expected to be online by March.

Customers can tap their PayPal accounts for all their DIY needs in a couple ways: swipe a PayPal card (available online) or, if you don't have one, you can get a pin to accompany your mobile number and use that to draw funds from whatever source your PayPal account is linked to.

Anuj Nayar, PayPal's chief spokesperson, told American Banker that PayPal needed to ramp up quickly to build momentum — and to meet the company's predicted $7 billion in mobile transactions this year. Early in 2011, PayPal predicted it would move $1.5 billion through its mobile channels. It didn't have any trouble beating that number, eventually overseeing nearly $4 billion in transactions by the end of 2011.

Got news?

News tips and suggestions are always welcome, so please send them along.


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


Related:

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