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May 09 2013

Four short links: 9 May 2013

  1. On Google’s Ingress Game (ReadWrite Web) — By rolling out Ingress to developers at I/O, Google hopes to show how mobile, location, multi-player and augmented reality functions can be integrated into developer application offerings. In that way, Ingress becomes a kind of “how-to” template to developers looking to create vibrant new offerings for Android games and apps. (via Mike Loukides)
  2. Nanoscribe Micro-3D Printerin contrast to stereolithography (SLA), the resolution is between 1 and 2 orders of magnitude higher: Feature sizes in the order of 1 µm and less are standard. (via BoingBoing)
  3. ThingpunkThe problem of the persistence of these traditional values is that they prevent us from addressing the most pressing design questions of the digital era: How can we create these forms of beauty and fulfill this promise of authenticity within the large and growing portions of our lives that are lived digitally? Or, conversely, can we learn to move past these older ideas of value, to embrace the transience and changeability offered by the digital as virtues in themselves? Thus far, instead of approaching these (extremely difficult) questions directly, traditional design thinking has lead us to avoid them by trying to make our digital things more like physical things (building in artificial scarcity, designing them skeumorphically, etc.) and by treating the digital as a supplemental add-on to primarily physical devices and experiences (the Internet of Things, digital fabrication).
  4. Kickstarter and NPRThe internet turns everything into public radio. There’s a truth here about audience-supported media and the kinds of money-extraction systems necessary to beat freeloading in a medium that makes money-collection hard and freeloading easy.

April 29 2013

Google Glass and the Future

I just read a Forbes article about Glass, talking about the split between those who are “sure that it is the future of technology, and others who think society will push back against the technology.”

I don’t see this as a dichotomy (and, to be fair, I’m not sure that the author does either). I expect to see both, and I’d like to think a bit more about what these two apparently opposing sides mean.

Push back is inevitable. I hope there’s a significant push back, and that it has some results. Not because I’m a Glass naysayer, but because we, as technology users, are abused so often, and push back so weakly, that it’s not funny. Facebook does something outrageous; a few technorati whine; they add option 1023 to their current highly intertwined 1022 privacy options that have been designed so they can’t be understood or used effectively; and sooner or later, it all dies down. A hundred fifty users have left Facebook, and half a million more have joined. When Apple puts another brick in their walled garden, a few dozen users (myself included) bitch and moan, but does anyone leave? Personally, I’m tired of getting warnings whenever I install software that doesn’t come from the Apple Store (I’ve used the Store exactly twice), and I absolutely expect that a not-too-distant version of OS X users won’t me allow to install software from “untrusted” sources, including software I’ve written. Will there be push back? Probably. Will it be effective? I don’t know; if things go as they are now, I doubt it.

There will be push back against Glass; and that’s a good thing. I think Google, of all the companies out there, is most likely to listen and respond positively. I say that partly because of efforts like the Data Liberation Front, and partly because Eric Schmidt has acknowledged that he finds many aspects of Glass creepy. But going beyond Glass: As a community of users, we need to empower ourselves to push back. We need to be able to push back effectively against Google, but more so against Apple, Facebook, and many other abusers of our data, rather than passively accept the latest intrusion as an inevitability. If Glass does nothing more than teach users that they can push back, and teach large corporations how to respond constructively, it will have accomplished much.

Is Glass the future? Yes; at least, something like Glass is part of the future. As a species, we’re not very good at putting our inventions back into the box. About three years ago, there was a big uptick in interest in augmented reality. You probably remember: Wikitude, Layar, and the rest. You installed those apps on your phone. They’re still there. You never use them (at least, I don’t). The problem with consumer-grade AR up until now has been that it was sort of awkward walking around looking at things through your phone’s screen. (Commercial AR–heads-up displays and the like–is a completely different ball game.) Glass is the first attempt at broadly useful platform for consumer AR; it’s a game changer.

Is it possible that Glass will fail? Sure; I know more failed startups than I can count where the engineers did something really cool, and when they released it, the public said “what is that, and why do you think we’d want it?” Google certainly isn’t immune from that disease, which is endemic to an engineering-driven culture; just think back to Wave. I won’t deny that Google might shelve Glass if they consider unproductive, as they’ve shelved many popular applications. But I believe that Google is playing long-ball here, and thinking far beyond 2014 or 2015. In a conversation about Bitcoin last week, I said that I doubt it will be around in 20 years. But I’m certain we will have some kind of distributed digital currency, and that currency will probably look a lot like Bitcoin. Glass is the same. I have no doubt that something like Glass is part of our future. It’s a first, tentative, and very necessary step into a new generation of user interfaces, a new way of interacting with computing systems and integrating them into our world. We probably won’t wear devices around on our glasses; it may well be surgically implanted. But the future doesn’t happen if you only talk about hypothetical possibilities. Building the future requires concrete innovation, building inconvenient and “creepy” devices that nevertheless point to the next step. And it requires people pushing back against that innovation, to help developers figure out what they really need to build.

Glass will be part of our future, though probably not in its current form. And push back from users will play an essential role in defining the form it will eventually take.

April 01 2013

Four short links: 1 April 2013

  1. MLDemosan open-source visualization tool for machine learning algorithms created to help studying and understanding how several algorithms function and how their parameters affect and modify the results in problems of classification, regression, clustering, dimensionality reduction, dynamical systems and reward maximization. (via Mark Alen)
  2. kiln (GitHub) — open source extensible on-device debugging framework for iOS apps.
  3. Industrial Internet — the O’Reilly report on the industrial Internet of things is out. Prasad suggests an illustration: for every car with a rain sensor today, there are more than 10 that don’t have one. Instead of an optical sensor that turns on windshield wipers when it sees water, imagine the human in the car as a sensor — probably somewhat more discerning than the optical sensor in knowing what wiper setting is appropriate. A car could broadcast its wiper setting, along with its location, to the cloud. “Now you’ve got what you might call a rain API — two machines talking, mediated by a human being,” says Prasad. It could alert other cars to the presence of rain, perhaps switching on headlights automatically or changing the assumptions that nearby cars make about road traction.
  4. Unique in the Crowd: The Privacy Bounds of Human Mobility (PDF, Nature) — We study fifteen months of human mobility data for one and a half million individuals and find that human mobility traces are highly unique. In fact, in a dataset where the location of an individual is specified hourly, and with a spatial resolution equal to that given by the carrier’s antennas, four spatio-temporal points are enough to uniquely identify 95% of the individuals. We coarsen the data spatially and temporally to find a formula for the uniqueness of human mobility traces given their resolution and the available outside information. This formula shows that the uniqueness of mobility traces decays approximately as the 1/10 power of their resolution. Hence, even coarse datasets provide little anonymity. These findings represent fundamental constraints to an individual’s privacy and have important implications for the design of frameworks and institutions dedicated to protect the privacy of individuals. As Edd observed, “You are a unique snowflake, after all.” (via Alasdair Allan)

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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March 07 2013

Commerce Weekly: Google may be prepping an Amazon Prime competitor

Is Google gearing up to battle Amazon head-on?

GoogleLogoGoogleLogoThe Google e-commerce rumor mill continued churning this week. Alexia Tsotsis reported at TechCrunch that Google is “stealthily preparing to launch an Amazon Prime competitor called ‘Google Shopping Express.’” Her sources indicated the service would undercut Amazon Prime’s annual fee of $79 by $10 to $15 and offer same-day delivery from local retail stores such as Target, Walgreens and Walmart. Tsotsis speculates that in launching this service, Google could make use of its recent purchases — BufferBox and Channel Intelligence — to corner the online-to-offline retail market.

Paulo Santos noted in a post at SeekingAlpha that if and when Google launches this service, Amazon will most likely match the annual price. He said estimates on the number of Amazon Prime members vary widely, but if the 7 to 10 million number is accurate, price matching would be a $70- to $150-million hit to Amazon’s bottom line. Santos concluded, “The move is a positive for Google, mild negative for eBay and strong negative for Amazon.com.”

Giving consumers what they want requires knowing what they want

Looking at how the race for same-day delivery is going to affect retail, Ad Age’s Lauren Sherman said the real threat is to the corner store and that indie retailers are going to have to change their marketing tactics to compete.

Sherman outlined three points made by Jeffrey Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future at USC Annenberg, on how retailers are going to have to change their businesses to accommodate the change in consumer shopping behaviors. Cole highlighted mom and pop stores, arguing that local drugstores and convenience stores are going to have to offer the same convenient services as the major online retailers, such as same-day delivery, in order to survive. He also said universal free shipping will need to be offered by everyone and that retailers will need to offer more and bigger in-store deals, ala Black Friday door-buster deals.

In related news, results from a survey by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) were released this week indicating same-day delivery might not be the holy grail online commerce giants think it is. Thad Rueter reported at Internet Retailer that only 9% of the 1,500 consumers surveyed said same-day delivery was “a top factor that would improve the online shopping experience,” compared to 74% who said free delivery was a top factor, 50% who cited lower prices, and 35% who cited free returns. Survey participants could select up to three “top factors”; same-day delivery didn’t come close to making the top three.

The press release summarizing the survey results stated that “[e]conomics dictate that retailers should offer same-day delivery for only a select number of products that are small and light and that carry high margins,” and pointed to electronics, office supplies and apparel as examples. In the release, BCG partner Rob Souza called same-day delivery a “niche service” and said it’s “unlikely to generate significant revenues for either retailers or carriers.”

The real mobile payments battle is to create a functional ecosystem

Mobile payments company PayOne filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Home Depot this week. The press release stated: “PayOne asserts that The Home Depot retail store deployment and use of PayPal’s in-store checkout infringes on multiple PayOne patents, including the use of a mobile phone number and a PIN (personal identification number) to complete the checkout process and payment at point of sale.”

In a post at The Motley Fool, Justin Loiseau quoted a statement PayOne president and CEO Joe Lynam made regarding the lawsuit:

“Since 2000, PayOne has invested significant time and money developing its proprietary mobile payment technologies designed to simplify the checkout process and the PayOne systems have been deployed by digital merchants across the globe. The ‘mobile wallet wars’ have moved beyond the digital world into point of sale, but now face adoption challenges and substantial friction with consumer setup requirements, security concerns and lack of merchant required NFC infrastructure. PayOne’s technology solves these challenges by enabling an ‘instant wallet’ capability that can be extended to the retail and physical world for billions of consumers worldwide, with no pre-registration or friction at point of sale, and no NFC infrastructure required.”

Lisa Ward noted at the Silicon Valley Business Journal that this isn’t PayOne’s first trip to court — in 2011, PayOne filed a lawsuit against PayPal that is still in court. Ward also reported that “PayOne has already sent patent infringement notices to several other retailers, including Jamba Juice, RadioShack and Barnes & Noble, but Home Depot is the only PayPal partner to have legal action taken against it so far.”

In a loosely related post at InformationWeek, Fritz Nelson shared some insights he gleaned last week at Mobile World Congress. Nelson noted that mobile payments discussions tend to “devolve into debates” about the efficacy of various mobile payments technologies — mobile wallets, NFC, QR codes, authentication systems — or on who will lead the way in setting payments standards or “run the payment rails.” He said he’s now convinced those are bits and pieces of the bigger picture — the race isn’t who can make the best digital wallet, but who can create the ecosystem that will allow for a “frictionless consumer experience.” You can read Nelson’s post at InformationWeek.

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March 04 2013

Four short links: 4 March 2013

  1. Life Inside the Aaron Swartz Investigationdo hard things and risk failure. What else are we on this earth for?
  2. crossfilter — open source (Apache 2) JavaScript library for exploring large multivariate datasets in the browser. Crossfilter supports extremely fast (<30ms) interaction with coordinated views, even with datasets containing a million or more records.
  3. Steve Mann: My Augmediated Life (IEEE) — Until recently, most people tended to regard me and my work with mild curiosity and bemusement. Nobody really thought much about what this technology might mean for society at large. But increasingly, smartphone owners are using various sorts of augmented-reality apps. And just about all mobile-phone users have helped to make video and audio recording capabilities pervasive. Our laws and culture haven’t even caught up with that. Imagine if hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of people had video cameras constantly poised on their heads. If that happens, my experiences should take on new relevance.
  4. The Google Glass Feature No-One Is Talking AboutThe most important Google Glass experience is not the user experience – it’s the experience of everyone else. The experience of being a citizen, in public, is about to change.

February 28 2013

Commerce Weekly: Visa pursues NFC mobile payments

Visa looks to kick-start NFC

Visa is taking aim at the NFC mobile payment holy grail. On Friday, the company announced the Visa Ready Partner Program. Leena Rao reports at TechCrunch that the initiative “aims to help mobile device manufacturers, technology partners, mobile network operators, and others gain access to Visa IP, licenses and more,” and that Visa “will make APIs and SDKs available to allow mobile point of sale providers to connect to Visa via payments gateways CyberSource and Authorize.Net.”

Rao says the program will serve as a resource for developers and provide a way for financial institutions and retailers to adopt mobile payments solutions. One of the initial program partners announced is Samsung. Ina Fried reports at All Things Digital that per the agreement, future NFC-enabled Samsung phones “will come with Visa’s [PayWave mobile] applet and pre-certified to work with its payment system.” Fried also reports that Visa mobile chief Bill Gadja said that they’re aiming to “turn upstarts into potential allies rather than rivals” with the program.

Marguerite Reardon reports at CNET that while the program may well help kick-start NFC-enabled payments around the world, it may hit a snag in the U.S. She writes:

“Since wireless carriers in the U.S. still have a say in what features are available on devices and which aren’t, there’s a chance that the Visa PayWave technology may only be available on Samsung devices sold internationally and not on most Samsung smartphones sold in the U.S.”

Reardon uses Google Wallet’s uphill battle as an example of potential obstacles Visa may face, noting that “the three major U.S. operators that have already blocked Google Wallet are investors in a joint venture called ISIS, which is building its own NFC-based mobile wallet.” You can read her full report at CNET.

PayPal Here crosses The Pond

PayPal unveiled a version of its PayPal Here mobile payment device that will launch in the U.K. this summer, with other European countries to follow. Rebecca Grant notes at VentureBeat that “PayPal already has a large presence in the U.K. and seeks to capitalize on its existing network as well as name recognition.”

The biggest obstacle PayPal faced in designing the European version of PayPal Here was the complex Chip and PIN system used throughout Europe, technology that Marcus Wohlsen at Wired says “crushes anything available stateside.” Wohlsen explains that the chips in the Chip and PIN cards are more difficult for thieves to copy than the magnetic stripes we have here in the U.S.

Rick Oglesby, a payments industry expert at Aite Group, told Alistair Barr at Reuters that “[t]rying to figure out how to make Chip and PIN work in these devices has been hard” and that the devices thus far have been expensive and “clunky.” Barr also reports that PayPal will charge merchants a “nominal fee” for the European PayPal Here device and that it will charge a per-transaction fee similar to that in the U.S.

Study measures the showrooming effect

Location analytics company Placed released a new study this week, “Aisle to Amazon: How Amazon is impacting brick-and-mortar retailers,” that identifies the retailers that are most at risk from consumers showrooming and then buying from Amazon.

Devindra Hardawar reports at VentureBeat that the study coupled data from nearly one billion location data points measured in January with 14,925 surveyed respondents. The results showed the stores most at risk were Bed Bath & Beyond, PetSmart, Toys “R” Us, Best Buy, Sears, and Barnes & Noble. Hardawar notes that online price matching programs have been launched by Best Buy and Target and says “Placed’s study shows that plenty of other retailers will need to follow in their footsteps.”

In related news, DataPop CEO and co-founder Jason Lehmbeck looked at Google’s recent acquisition of Channel Intelligence and its integration of Google Shopping results into its core search engine in a guest post at GigaOm. Lehmbeck says that Google not only is aiming to “eat Amazon’s lunch” but is also “making a play for all retail” and that “every retailer should be worried about the implications” of Google’s recent actions. He notes that it’s not too late for retailers to position themselves to compete and offers a few strategies marketers can employ to fend off Google’s advances.

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Four short links: 28 February 2013

  1. Myth of the Free Internet (The Atlantic) — equity of access is an important issue, but this good point is marred by hanging it off the problematic (beer? speech? downloads?) “free”. I’m on the council of InternetNZ whose mission is to protect and promote the open and uncaptureable Internet. (A concept so good we had to make up a word for it)
  2. Periodic Table of the SmartPhone (PDF, big) — from Scientific American article on Rare Earth Minerals in the Smartphone comes a link to this neat infographic showing where rare earth elements are used in the iPhone. (via Om Malik)
  3. CrazyFlie Nano Preorders19g, 9cm x 9cm, 20min charge time for 7m flight time on this nano-quadrocopter. (via Wired)
  4. Changing Scientific Publishing (The Economist) — Nature buys an alternative journal publisher (30 titles in 14 scientific fields), which comes with an 80k-member social network for scientists. Macmillan are a clever bunch. (O’Reilly runs Science Foo Camp with Macmillan’s Digital Sciences and Google)

February 21 2013

Commerce Weekly: Best Buy wants to end showrooming, Google wants to start

Google takes on brick-and-mortar; Best Buy takes on ecommerce

GoogleLogoGoogleLogoThe Google retail store rumor ignited again this week. Seth Weintraub reported at 9to5Google that “[a]n extremely reliable source has confirmed to us that Google is in the process of building stand-alone retail stores in the U.S.” to be opened in time for the 2013 holiday season. The Wall Street Journal’s Amir Efrati followed with confirmation from “people familiar with the matter,” though one of those people said it wouldn’t happen this year.

Across the board, analysts seem to think it’s a good idea. Alyson Shontell at Business Insider noted that as Google becomes more of a hardware company — with its Android devices, Google Glass, and self-driving cars — analysts say it’s time for Google to work on its brand image, which will require consumer interaction, something the company hasn’t done much of up to this point. Google executives seem to agree — Weintraub reported that retail store plans started to solidify along with plans to offer Google Glass to mainstream consumers. “The leadership thought consumers would need to try Google Glass first hand to make a purchase,” Weintraub wrote. “Without being able to use them first hand, few non-techies would be interested in buying Google’s glasses (which will retail from between $500 to $1,000).”

On the other end of the retail spectrum, brick-and-mortar big box retailer Best Buy is looking to strengthen its competitive edge against online retailers. The company announced this week that in its efforts to “end showrooming,” it will make its holiday price-matching policy permanent. Beginning March 3, the store will “price match all local retail competitors and 19 major online competitors in all product categories and on nearly all in-stock products, whenever asked by a customer,” according to a Best Buy press release. The release also stated that price matching will extend “post purchase” to include price reductions Best Buy makes within 15 days of a purchase. The company slipped in a change to its return and exchange policy as well — Kim Bhasin at Business Insider reported the new return/exchange period will drop to 15 days from 30, though Reward Zone Premier Silver members will retain their 60-day return eligibility.

A faberNovel study delves into the strategies behind Amazon’s success

This week, faberNovel released an update to its study “Amazon.com: The Hidden Empire.” John Geraci, faberNovel’s head of marketing, noted in a post at TechCrunch that since the first study was published in 2011, “a steady, ever-growing buzz has developed around Amazon as it becomes increasingly clear that they are really in for the kill with the retail industry, intending to spare no prisoners along the way.” Geraci outlined a few highlights from the study, including the fact that Amazon initially took aim at the B2B space with Amazon Supply, “but they clearly also want corporate-accounts domination — and they might succeed in getting it. He also noted Amazon’s continued willingness to experiment with disruptive business models, specifically highlighting textbook rentals for students.

The study, presented in a Slideshare (embedded below), offers a deep look into the paths behind the success of Amazon. Looking ahead, the study covers plans for the cloud, noting that “[e]ven though [Amazon Web Services] AWS is primarily a B2B offer, the Amazon cloud will ultimately be geared toward end-users.” It also looks at the company’s long-term goals to grow the Kindle ecosystem, achieve the same-day delivery holy grail, and lock itself in as a small and medium business supplier. You can view the complete study in the following Slideshare presentation:

Square further simplifies POS for merchants

In its continued efforts to democratize mobile payments for consumers and merchants, Square this week launched Business in a Box for Square Register. According to the press release, the package includes two Square Readers, an iPad stand, a cash drawer, and an optional receipt printer, all of which connect wirelessly to Square Register. The release noted the mobile payment obstacle Business in a Box aims to solve:

“Historically, business owners were forced to piece together multiple hardware components from various manufacturers, manage complicated contracts and pricing structures, and pay for expensive software licensing and service plans. Now, they can be up and running with Square Register in minutes.”

The price point is democratizing as well — the release stated that customizable hardware packages start at $299. Jordan Kahn at 9to5Mac did some digging into the customizations and associated costs. On top of the basic package, which Kahn noted includes a Heckler Design WindFall iPad Stand and an APG Vasario 1616 Cash Drawer, Square will provide a Star Micronics TSP143L Receipt Printer for an additional $300, for a total cost of $599. “We were able to find all the pieces of the package online (minus the free Square readers) for around $480,” Kahn wrote, “although that’s before any taxes or shipping costs.”

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February 14 2013

Commerce Weekly: You can now buy stuff with tweets

American Express turns Twitter into an ecommerce platform

American Express announced an enhancement this week to its Sync with Twitter feature — users can now buy things with a tweet. Tricia Duryee reports at All Things Digital that all users will need to register to participate, even previous users of the sync feature, in order to provide a delivery address for purchased items. Once registration is complete, Duryee says, the purchasing process is pretty straightforward:

“For instance, participants will be able to buy a $25 American Express Gift Card for $15 … by tweeting #BuyAmexGiftCard25. American Express will reply via Twitter, asking the user to confirm the purchase in a tweet. All products will be shipped via free two-day shipping.”

Duryee reports that more items have been added since the launch and deals will be offered for three-week periods.

American Express SVP of digital partnerships and development Leslie Berland told Duryee that Twitter is just the beginning — the service will eventually be offered on other platforms, such as Facebook.

While fun and novel for consumers, Forbes’ B. Bonin Bough notes the value of the ecommerce partnership for participating retailers: “Having customers promote brands while buying them is a win-win situation,” he said, “and could potentially lead to incredible results — that is, if AmEx and Twitter can get this new purchasing behavior to catch on with consumers.”

Purchasing behavior may not end up being the ultimate obstacle, however. Angel Djambazov at GeekWire took a look at the potential security issues of the program, noting that “security has never been Twitter’s strong point. The platform is rife with phishing.”

Could 3D printing bring down retail?

The ForeSee Mobile Satisfaction Index: Holiday Retail Edition was released this week. The survey of more than 6,200 shoppers reviewed the consumer experience during the 2012 holiday shopping season.

One of the highlights of the report addressed the trend of showrooming. Eric Feinberg, senior director of mobile at ForeSee and co-author of the report, said for the press release, “Customers are using their mobile phones as integrated parts of their shopping experience … Mobile is the ultimate companion channel, making showrooming as much of an opportunity as it is a threat.”

But it’s not as big an issue as some retailers may think. Commenting on the report, ForeSee president and CEO Larry Freed told Chantal Tode at Mobile Commerce Daily:

“The idea that everyone is going to be looking at Amazon’s app when they are in Target and Walmart is proving out not to be true, and I think retailers need to continue to focus on providing a great integrated experience between that phone and that retail environment so that there is a value add for a consumer when they are in Target to go to Target’s app or site instead of going to Amazon’s.”

Fretting over showrooming may be a bit shortsighted on the part of retailers, however — the real concern for the future of retail may have more to do with 3D printing. Dalton Caldwell took a look this week at a recent statement by Marc Andreessen that the chain retail model is “a fundamentally implausible economic structure,” arguing that few stores “can survive a decline of 20 to 30 percent in revenues.”

Caldwell says he isn’t sure he agrees with Andreessen’s prediction, but that “[i]f we accept Andreessen’s argument that most retail companies could be put out of business by a 20-30% decline in revenue, 3D printing could be plausibly be the vector by which this scenario is manifested.” He points to items such as toys and sports equipment, and home improvement items such as plastic drywall anchors.

Not everything can or will be replaced by 3D printing, Caldwell notes, but taking the things that can into consideration along with retail stores’ “revenue sensitivity caused by debt” might just lead the future Andreessen predicts. You can read Caldwell’s full piece on his personal blog.

Pay at the pump gets PayPal

PayPal announced this week that through its partnership with retail petroleum company Gilbarco Veeder-Root, it now will offer mobile payments at the gas pump.

“The initial effort will launch the PayPal payment capability to retailers with Passport point-of-sale (POS),” Lucy Sackett, director of outbound marketing for Gilbarco Veeder-Root wrote in a press release. “Future developments will bring PayPal solutions to Gilbarco’s growing suite of media and merchandising applications.”

Sarah Perez at TechCrunch notes the impact of the Gilbarco deal, reporting that “the 150-year old Gilbarco currently works with 19 of the top 20 convenience store operators in the U.S.” and that company “has installed over 30,000 POS systems across North America which will now see PayPal integrations.”

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February 11 2013

Four short links: 11 February 2013

  1. How Virtual Fences Will Transform Rural America (The Atlantic) — When it comes to managing animals, every conventional fence that I have ever built has been in the wrong place the next year.
  2. Stately — a font of states which mesh together, so you can style individual states in CSS. Clever! (via Andy Baio)
  3. Code Triage — mails you a todo from your favourite Github projects. Interesting to see (a) what happens once there’s an easy way to access things like issues across multiple projects; and (b) what a lightweight hack it is for increasing participation. What small things could you send out each day, something different to each person, that’d help you make progress? Hm.
  4. MIT’s Health and Wellness Hack Day — 80 participants, two weeks. Good writeup in Fast Company. The focus here is on producing commercially viable products.

February 07 2013

Commerce Weekly: Google targets Amazon’s shopping platform

Google acquires Channel Intelligence, pursues Amazon shoppers

GoogleLogoGoogleLogoIn a recent post at Wired, Marcus Wohlsen took a look at the success of Google’s switch last fall to all-paid product listings — such as the top result for a search for iPhone 5 — and how it fits in to Google’s plans to compete against Amazon on the shopping front.

Chris Lien, CEO of Lawson and Marin Software, noted to Wohlsen that shoppers either start their searches at Amazon or at Google and that Amazon has been encroaching on Google’s turf as it becomes more of a “commerce search engine.”

In order to compete, Wohlsen writes, Google is establishing itself as a place not only to research products, but also to buy them. Lien says Google likely doesn’t intend to start its own warehouses, but rather to “package the sale from search to checkout” and let merchants take it from there. Marin marketing VP Matt Lawson told Wohlsen, “What you’re going to see [Google] do is do everything they can to enable marketers to sell through their platform.”

This week, Google took a major step in that direction with its acquisition of Channel Intelligence (CI) for $125 million. In a post at Forbes, TJ McCue describes CI as specializing in product ecommerce, offering data-driven services aimed at increasing online sales, and he highlights one of the company’s most successful products — the CI Where-to-Buy button.

Engadget’s Donald Melanson updated his report on the acquisition with a statement Google released regarding the purchase:

“We want to help consumers save time and money by improving the online shopping experience. We think Channel Intelligence will help create a better shopping experience for users and help merchants increase sales across the web.”

Digital wallet? What’s that?

A new study from comScore showed that the slow adoption rate of digital wallets may have something to do with a lack of awareness — only 51% of consumers in the U.S. were aware of digital wallets, aside from PayPal, which had a 72% awareness rate, according to the study.

Andrea Jacobs, comScore Payments Practice Leader, said for the press release that the low adoption rates could be attributed to multiple factors, such as low awareness and a lack of understanding of the benefits, from the consumer as well as the retailer side. She also noted that this isn’t the first time we’ve experienced steep barriers to adoption in the financial services industry: “There was a time when consumers were reluctant to use ATMs for similar reasons, and, today, look at how far we’ve come since the 1970s and 1980s.”

There are some indications of a bright future for digital wallets, however, when all aspects of the ecosystem are in place. Kevin Fitchard reports at GigaOm that Isis chief sales officer Jim Stapleton says their wallet trial in Salt Lake City “is producing positive results from both consumers and merchants,” with users paying with the wallet five or more times per week.

Stapleton wouldn’t specify the number of users Isis has at this point, Fitchard reports, but he said “the typical Utah Isis customer follows five different merchants using the wallet’s loyalty card and coupon features, and a customer who signs up for a business’s loyalty program tends to visit that business twice as often as a regular customer.”

“Social commerce” is driving growth in US ecommerce market

Reports this week showed global ecommerce sales topping the $1 trillion mark. Though the U.S. leads the world in ecommerce sales, ecommerce represents a “scant 4% of American retail sales,” according to Business Insider’s Alex Cocotas’ research. He notes, though, that the channel is “growing faster than its offline counterparts” and highlights the major drivers: mobile commerce and social media. Cocotas points to such success stories as “social commerce” sites ShoeDazzle and Fab.

According to Jim Edwards at Business Insider, Facebook advertisers can attest to the power of “social commerce.” Edwards looks at Facebook’s mobile app install ads, which on first blush appeared to be geared at mobile game and app developers. “But several of Facebook’s big advertising clients who have used the ads in Q4 indicated that the ads can be used to develop e-commerce on Facebook,” Edwards writes, “turning the social network into a mobile shopping and sales device.”

Edwards explains that the apps are more valuable to advertisers than ad impressions because a consumer with an app is likely to use it more than once, resulting in a “‘lifetime’ of revenue” as opposed to a one-off sale. After testing the ad unit, Edwards reports, Fab.com CEO Jason Goldberg said Fab’s shopping app was “[f]ive times more effective than any other mobile download channel that we’ve used.”

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January 31 2013

Commerce Weekly: Goodbye traditional retail, hello ecommerce

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

Death bells toll for brick-and-mortar retail

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

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

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

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

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

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

Starbucks hints at CPG customer rewards, Intuit buys Payvment

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

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

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

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

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

Newegg defeats “shopping cart” patent troll

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

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

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

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

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Four short links: 31 January 2013

  1. Courier Prime — tweaked Courier “for screenplays” (!). (via BoingBoing)
  2. The Dead Grandmother/Exam Syndrome and the Potential Downfall Of American Society (PDF) — education is dangerous to female extended family members. As can be seen in Table 1, when no exam is imminent the family death rate per 100 students (FDR) is low and is not related to the student’s grade in the class. The effect of an upcoming exam is unambiguous. The mean FDR jumps from 0.054 with no exam, to 0.574 with a mid-term, and to 1.042 with a final, representing increases of 10 fold and 19 fold respectively. (via Hacker News)
  3. Internet: 2012 in Numbers — lots of surprising numbers, with sources. Three that caught my eye: 42.1% – Internet penetration in China; 2.7 billion – Number of likes on Facebook every day; 59% – Share of global mobile data traffic that was video.
  4. 2013: The Year Ahead in Mobile (Business Insider) — Mobile is already 1/7 of global Internet traffic and growing its share quickly [...] on pace to top 25% by year end. Interesting prediction that rich people already have devices, so everyone’s working on low-cost units so they can sell to new customers in “growth markets” aka developing world.
  5. January 24 2013

    Commerce Weekly: Analytics for people, the next big thing in retail

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

    New trend in retail customer tracking: Smartphone Wi-Fi

    my wifi hotspot is cooler than yours, on Flickrmy wifi hotspot is cooler than yours, on FlickrDan Tynan posted a two-part series (here and here) on IT World this week looking at growing trend of retail Wi-Fi tracking — retailers keeping track of you via your smartphone as you shop, much like online retailers keep track of your movements across the Internet. Tynan explains how they’ll do it:

    “When you come within range of a properly configured Wi-Fi access point, it can record the wireless MAC address of your phone — a unique 12-digit number. Every time you pass by, that AP can log that number. … Think of it as Google Analytics for people; instead of measuring Web traffic, they’re measuring foot traffic.”

    Tynan takes a look at Euclid Analytics’ software, which works with tracking device systems to help stores gather data on customers, from which aisles they spend time in to how many times they’ve visited the store to which locations they frequent. “[T]hey can even track people who walk by the store every day but never go in,” Tynan writes, “or [know] if more people enter after a window display is changed.” He notes that Euclid gathers data anonymously and in aggregate, storing the MAC address “in a one-way hash, so nobody can go backwards and figure out your actual MAC address,” but that the minute a shopper swipes a credit card, all anonymity is lost, at least as far as connecting a particular phone to a particular purchase.

    Once an identity is linked to a MAC address, “all kinds of fun things can happen,” Tynan reports — retailers could text you as you walk by their stores in the mall and offer discounts or coupons to lure you inside, connect your in-store data to your online data for even deeper analysis, or even sell your data to someone else. He explores some of the privacy concerns and scenarios in his first piece and talks with Euclid Analytics director of marketing John Fu for some context in his second piece. Fu says their technology is — purposefully — not as Big Brother as it sounds:

    “There are some powerful and potentially scary things you could do with this data if you wanted to, but I want to clarify that we are not doing any of those things. We anticipated these scenarios and came up with ways to prevent them from happening.”

    In addition to creating a one-way hash for a customer’s MAC address, Euclid requires retailers to contractually agree “to not combine the behavioral data they collect with information they have about an individual’s identity,” and the company also “salts its data with a ‘statistically insignificant’ number of fictional customers” to further prevent customer identification, Tynan reports. He takes an in-depth look at some real world examples of Euclid’s use in retail locations and their efforts to protect consumer privacy, but also notes that “Euclid is only one of a half dozen companies using different techniques to help retailers track shoppers, most of which don’t bother to tell you.” You can read his complete report at IT World — part one, part two.

    Payleven gets investment boost in pursuit of Square-like success

    Europe’s Square-like mobile payments platform Payleven announced a new funding round — and a new mystery investor — this week. Ingrid Lunden reports at TechCrunch that “neither the exact funding figure, nor the investor, have been disclosed — except to note that the value is in the ‘high single-digit millions’ of dollars, and that it is ‘largely’ from the new backer.” Along with the funding round announcement, Lunden reports, Payleven also confirmed reports of a group of backers who invested “double-digit millions” last year: New Enterprise Associates, Holtzbrinck Ventures, ru-Net and Rocket Internet.

    Lunden says Payleven, which has launched in Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, the UK, Poland and Brazil, still hasn’t disclosed its number of users, but a company spokesperson told her the new funding will be used to build out current markets and to continue Payleven’s international push.

    Back stateside, Fast Company’s Austin Carr took a look at what’s making Square successful in the U.S. — and now Canada. Carr writes that part of Square’s success stems from an atmosphere of collaboration geared toward problem solving and a blurring of the lines between engineering and design teams. Square CTO Bob Lee told Carr:

    “We’re not just a design company; we’re not just an engineering company. We’re strong in both areas — we need to be. … From an engineering perspective, design is not just about how something looks, but about how something works. We look at reliability, robustness, and performance as features of the design.”

    Carr takes an in-depth look at how the company’s teams foster a high level of collaboration through weekly town square meetings, “where everyone from engineers to PR workers can show off their latest projects;” through the design team’s weekly creative reviews, where all work is pinned up and presented gallery-style for all designers to peruse and comment; and through internal education. He also looks at Jack Dorsey’s leadership style and how he manages to make credit card processing, receipts and point-of-sale systems “whimsical and interesting.” You can read Carr’s full report at Fast Company.

    NFC’s real role in mobile commerce: Consumer engagement

    Mark Bonchek argued this week at Harvard Business Review that the potential for NFC technology in mobile phones goes way beyond payments. “It has the potential to, as no technology before, bridge the gap between virtual and real,” he writes. Bonchek offered up the example of Kraft Foods’ pilot program, which tested consumer responses to an NFC marketing campaign:

    “In select grocery stores, small signs were placed on shelves in front of Kraft cheese and Nabisco cookie brands. The signs invited consumers to get recipes, download a mobile app, or share with friends. Consumers could either tap with an NFC-enabled device or snap a QR code — up to now the main technology for linking mobile devices to physical displays. The results were quite remarkable. People were 12 times more likely to tap than snap. Considering that the ratio of QR to NFC-enabled phones is currently about 10 to 1, this means tapping was 120 times more engaging than snapping.”

    The level of engagement wasn’t simply the result of novelty, Boncheck reports. Data from the pilot showed that 36% of the people who tapped the sign “converted it into action, whether saving a recipe, downloading the Kraft app or sharing with friends, etc.” Boncheck also notes that consumers who tapped the sign spent 48 seconds engaged in the experience, as opposed to the standard five to 10 seconds of normal brand engagement at the shelf.

    Boncheck looks at several advantages NFC wields over current technology and notes that though it won’t happen overnight, “the ability to make the real world clickable holds great promise. … Taps are the new clicks.” You can read his full report at Harvard Business Review.

    Photo: my wifi hotspot is cooler than yours by woodleywonderworks, on Flickr

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    January 23 2013

    Four short links: 23 January 2013

    1. These Glasses Thwart Facial Recognition Software (Slate) — good idea, but don’t forget to put a stone in your shoe to thwart gait recognition too.
    2. opsec for Hackers (Slideshare) — how boring and unexciting most of not getting caught is.
    3. DHS Warns Password Cracker Targeting Industrial Networks (Nextgov) — Security consultants recently concluded that there are about 7,200 Internet-facing critical infrastructure devices, many of which use default passwords. Wake me when you stop boggling. Welcome to the Internet of Insecure Things (it’s basically the Internet we already have, but Borat can pwn your hydro dam and your fridge is telling Chinese milspec hackers when you midnight snack).
    4. The Evolution of Steve Mann’s Apparatus (Beta Knowledge) — wearable computing went from “makes you look like a robot who will never get laid” to “looks like sunglasses and promiscuity is an option”.

    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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    January 10 2013

    Commerce Weekly: Isis Wallet/NFC payments struggle for a foothold

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

    NFC-enabled Cashwrap case equips iPhone with Isis

    At the 2013 International CES this week, Incipio and AT&T announced the launch of Cashwrap, an NFC-enabled iPhone case that equips iPhones with the Isis Wallet, currently only available for NFC-compatible Android phones. According to a post at 9to5Mac, the case will be available in March and will cost $59.99 to $69.99.

    9to5Mac shot a short video of the product from the CES show floor (the Cashwrap representative mistakenly indicates the case will support iPhone 5 — at launch, it will support iPhone 4 and 4S):

    When Isis launched in October, some questioned the viability of the payment platform and whether or not it was addressing a real problem. In a report at Consumer Reports, Jeff Blyskal concluded: “Isis, like Google Wallet, still seems to require a lot of work and needless complexity for the questionable convenience of paying by cell phone.” Now, on top of the complexity and questionable convenience of NFC payment, iPhone users must not only attach an appendage to the phone, but fork over a not-so-insignificant amount of cash — all for a payment platform that’s only available in Salt Lake City and Austin, and only at select retailers.

    At Telecoms.com, Elliott Holley covered a recent report by financial research firm Celent that says the issues NFC payment technology has faced thus far are only going to be compounded in 2013 and that NFC payment solutions will be overshadowed — perhaps ultimately replaced — by cloud-based wallets. Celent senior analyst and author of the report Zilvanas Bareisis told Holley that not only is using the technology still much more difficult than swiping a credit card, but in markets such as the U.S., “the infrastructure bill is huge and convincing retailers and merchants is difficult.”

    Holley highlights a key insight from the Celent report:

    “Part of the problem for NFC digital wallets is that while the physical POS world is dominated by cards and the mobile equivalent is to have payment credentials inside the phone and sent to the POS via NFC, the online world is dominated by cloud-based wallets such as PayPal. That makes it difficult to bridge the online-offline convergence of customers who use their mobiles while shopping to read product reviews, compare prices and order online, or pick up an item from a local store, according to Celent.”

    Target goes all-in with its price match strategy

    Target announced this week that it would bring its holiday strategy against Amazon to the overall retail battle — the big-box retailer will now price match online retailers year-round. According to the press release, in addition to Amazon, Target will price match its own online site, Walmart.com, Bestbuy.com and Toysrus.com.

    Best Buy implemented the same strategy against Amazon during the holiday season. There’s no news yet on whether Best Buy’s policy also will be continued year-round, but on a visit to Best Buy January 5, the retailer price matched a Bluetooth wireless speaker for me, using a product search of Amazon from my iPhone. Some are calling this tactic an all-in bet that can’t be won, but in the short-term anyway, consumers sure are winning.

    App aims to make products the new point of sale

    Bridging the gap between print advertising and online/mobile retail is something of a holy grail in the commerce space — being able to buy a product straight from a traditional print ad, for instance. PayPal recently experimented with such an endeavor, partnering with The West Australian daily newspaper to incorporate QR codes into print ads, allowing readers to purchase items on the spot by scanning the code. But what if you could skip the added complexity layer of a QR code? That’s what German startup Shopgate is aiming to offer. The app, profiled by Will M at SocialTimes this week, allows consumers to simply scan the product in the ad and, according to the product website, buy it in two clicks. Will M describes how it works:

    “Shopgate enables consumers [to] take pictures of print ads and then purchase products within them using their phone. Product tagging works without QR codes — similar to how Facebook identifies your friends in pictures and suggests them for tags. People touch the product tags, put the items into shopping carts and then purchase products via a mobile storefront.”

    Will M reports that the company’s vision is to provide “everywhere commerce,” and says “Shopgate executives say ‘Products as POS’ (Point of Sale) is the future of mobile commerce.” According to his report, the app works with product companies and retailers alike, and so far has 800 merchant partners. In addition to product tagging from print ads, the app also works with QR codes and UPC codes.

    The German company plans to expand to the U.S. market early this year. You can watch a demo of the app in the following video.

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    Commerce Weekly: Isis Wallet/NFC payments struggle for a foothold

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

    NFC-enabled Cashwrap case equips iPhone with Isis

    At the 2013 International CES this week, Incipio and AT&T announced the launch of Cashwrap, an NFC-enabled iPhone case that equips iPhones with the Isis Wallet, currently only available for NFC-compatible Android phones. According to a post at 9to5Mac, the case will be available in March and will cost $59.99 to $69.99.

    9to5Mac shot a short video of the product from the CES show floor (the Cashwrap representative mistakenly indicates the case will support iPhone 5 — at launch, it will support iPhone 4 and 4S):

    When Isis launched in October, some questioned the viability of the payment platform and whether or not it was addressing a real problem. In a report at Consumer Reports, Jeff Blyskal concluded: “Isis, like Google Wallet, still seems to require a lot of work and needless complexity for the questionable convenience of paying by cell phone.” Now, on top of the complexity and questionable convenience of NFC payment, iPhone users must not only attach an appendage to the phone, but fork over a not-so-insignificant amount of cash — all for a payment platform that’s only available in Salt Lake City and Austin, and only at select retailers.

    At Telecoms.com, Elliott Holley covered a recent report by financial research firm Celent that says the issues NFC payment technology has faced thus far are only going to be compounded in 2013 and that NFC payment solutions will be overshadowed — perhaps ultimately replaced — by cloud-based wallets. Celent senior analyst and author of the report Zilvanas Bareisis told Holley that not only is using the technology still much more difficult than swiping a credit card, but in markets such as the U.S., “the infrastructure bill is huge and convincing retailers and merchants is difficult.”

    Holley highlights a key insight from the Celent report:

    “Part of the problem for NFC digital wallets is that while the physical POS world is dominated by cards and the mobile equivalent is to have payment credentials inside the phone and sent to the POS via NFC, the online world is dominated by cloud-based wallets such as PayPal. That makes it difficult to bridge the online-offline convergence of customers who use their mobiles while shopping to read product reviews, compare prices and order online, or pick up an item from a local store, according to Celent.”

    Target goes all-in with its price match strategy

    Target announced this week that it would bring its holiday strategy against Amazon to the overall retail battle — the big-box retailer will now price match online retailers year-round. According to the press release, in addition to Amazon, Target will price match its own online site, Walmart.com, Bestbuy.com and Toysrus.com.

    Best Buy implemented the same strategy against Amazon during the holiday season. There’s no news yet on whether Best Buy’s policy also will be continued year-round, but on a visit to Best Buy January 5, the retailer price matched a Bluetooth wireless speaker for me, using a product search of Amazon from my iPhone. Some are calling this tactic an all-in bet that can’t be won, but in the short-term anyway, consumers sure are winning.

    App aims to make products the new point of sale

    Bridging the gap between print advertising and online/mobile retail is something of a holy grail in the commerce space — being able to buy a product straight from a traditional print ad, for instance. PayPal recently experimented with such an endeavor, partnering with The West Australian daily newspaper to incorporate QR codes into print ads, allowing readers to purchase items on the spot by scanning the code. But what if you could skip the added complexity layer of a QR code? That’s what German startup Shopgate is aiming to offer. The app, profiled by Will M at SocialTimes this week, allows consumers to simply scan the product in the ad and, according to the product website, buy it in two clicks. Will M describes how it works:

    “Shopgate enables consumers [to] take pictures of print ads and then purchase products within them using their phone. Product tagging works without QR codes — similar to how Facebook identifies your friends in pictures and suggests them for tags. People touch the product tags, put the items into shopping carts and then purchase products via a mobile storefront.”

    Will M reports that the company’s vision is to provide “everywhere commerce,” and says “Shopgate executives say ‘Products as POS’ (Point of Sale) is the future of mobile commerce.” According to his report, the app works with product companies and retailers alike, and so far has 800 merchant partners. In addition to product tagging from print ads, the app also works with QR codes and UPC codes.

    The German company plans to expand to the U.S. market early this year. You can watch a demo of the app in the following video.

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    January 03 2013

    Commerce Weekly: iPhone NFC rumors return

    Happy new year! Here are a few stories that caught my attention in the commerce space recently.

    Apple NFC rumors revived

    PassbookiPhonePassbookiPhoneWe’ve no sooner outfitted our shiny new iPhone 5s with cases and fancy accessories than rumors of the iPhone 6 have emerged. Matt Brian reports at The Next Web that “Apple has been testing hardware relating to a new ‘iPhone6,1′ identifier, powered by a device running iOS 7.”

    There’s also renewed rumors of Apple’s intention to integrate NFC technology into the next iPhone. Mikey Campbell reports at Apple Insider that on December 20, 2012, the US Patent and Trademark Office published a patent application filed by Apple in 2011 “for an ‘Integrated coupon storage, discovery, and redemption system,’ a property covering the receipt, storage and use of digital coupons on mobile device” — basically, what Passbook became this past year. Campbell notes that NFC capabilities also are mentioned in connection with coupon redemption, indicating “that the company is at least thinking about including the protocol in future versions of the iPhone or iPod Touch.”

    Joann Pan at Mashable notes the implications such integrated technology could have on retail shopping for consumers and merchants alike. She writes:

    “With Apple’s proposed ‘integrated coupon storage,’ patrons will be able to walk into stores and receive notifications about items for which they have coupons. After the transaction is complete, the customer will receive a digital receipt wirelessly. Alerts will also be pushed for coupons with impending expiration dates. The patent also mentions a verification system for coupons and discounts.”

    Holiday mobile commerce records are tip of the iceberg

    Though the record-setting holiday season is behind us, this is no time for retailers to rest on their respective mobile commerce laurels, says Mobile Marketing Association’s Jack Philbin in a post at Fast Company. Philbin argues that this holiday season was just the “tip of the iceberg of what is sure to become a mobile-dominated shopping experience during the next few years” and that retailers need to think mobile 365 days of the year from here on out.

    Philbin offers retailers several “actionable steps,” including expanding the holiday mobile strategy into a year-long strategy with the holiday season as one aspect, and integrating traditional marketing plans into mobile plans, creating one overall strategy. “The lines are blurring between marketing channels,” Philbin writes, “and now more than ever, retailers need to think about how to execute a seamless brand experience — integrating all of consumers’ favorite platforms and channels.”

    It’s also time for retailers to “embrace mobile as the shopping companion,” Philbin says — and recent study results indicate he might be right. In separate posts at Internet Retailer (here and here), Bill Siwicki, managing editor at Mobile Commerce, took a look at a two such studies that show consumers are becoming comfortable with their smartphones and are yearning for more shopping integration.

    The first, a study of smartphone owners conducted by ad agency Moosylvania, showed that 80% of respondents “want more mobile-optimized product information while they’re shopping in stores.” Researchers also found that 30.1% of respondents research products when away from home, and 12.4% of those do so in stores. They also found that 76% of respondents are comfortable with mobile coupons and that 44% would welcome mobile wallet capabilities. Siwicki also looked at a survey conducted by Perception Research Services International that showed 76% of respondents who own a smartphone use it while shopping; of those, 53% compare prices, 49% read customer reviews, and 48% hunt for coupons or sales.

    Mobile wallets: now or never?

    Michael Brush at MSN Money took a look at the mobile wallet battle and says if you don’t already have a mobile wallet, you probably will by the end of 2013 — and maybe more than one. Brush looks at the battleground from both consumer and investor perspectives, noting that for consumers, it will change how — and how much — they spend; for investors, the battle is “worth studying because there will be major winners and losers.” LevelUp CEO Seth Priebatsch told Brush, “I think 2013 is going to be the year where mobile payments will happen and there will be a winner, or mobile payments won’t ever happen at all.”

    The battle boils down to two goals from the vendor/retailer perspective, says Brush: improved marketing efforts and potential savings in credit card fees. On the marketing front, the “Big Brother-ish” nature of the data collection efforts will likely force providers to tread lightly, Brush notes, but consumers stand to benefit big as wallet competitors fight for adoption. Industry analyst Aaron McPherson told Brush the mobile wallet battle “will be a bloodbath in 2013.”

    Brush also outlines each of the current key players, who they are and how they measure up — you can read his full report here.

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