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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.")

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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.


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July 21 2011

ePayments Week: Is "0000" your passcode?

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

Most common iPhone passcodes

Really bad passcodeOne of the obstacles to mobile commerce is the sense that it's not secure, but there's a dead-simple action that can make things a little tougher for the bad guys: consumers can choose original passcodes. App developer Daniel Amitay took a look 204,508 iPhone passcodes and found that the 10 most common ("1234," "0000," etc.) accounted for 15% of all passcodes. Amitay also found a whole lot of codes based on year dates from 1980 to the present. Number 3 on Amitay's list — the code "2580" — stumped me until I looked at a keypad and saw it's a vertical line down the middle. Likewise, I needed to look again to see what "5683" spelled out: LOVE (or LOUD, but I'm guessing love).

MFoundry CEO Drew Sievers cited Amitay's results in his blog this week, and he also added a few things banks should do to educate their customers — like telling users to never respond to a request for a password via SMS text.

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Google In-App Payments

This week, Google made its In-App Payments system available for developers to deploy on any web app. In-app payments rolled out at the Google I/O developer conference in May, but it was initially limited to apps distributed through the Chrome store. Now it works anywhere on the web. It's similar to PayPay for Digital Goods in that it aspires to offer a seamless purchasing experience for users engaged in games or content. And it's similar to Apple's in-app payments for games and subscriptions, except that Google takes a 5% cut compared to Apple's 30%. (PayPal's cut is a close second at 5% plus a nickel.)

Mobile payments mainstream in 4 years? How about 2

It finally happened to me this week: the moment where mobile payments crossed the line from an intriguing novelty (at Starbucks, usually) to a serious questioning of why we're still waiting for this. I found myself out running errands with my phone, but no wallet. Without thinking too hard about it, I had left the house carrying the item that was more essential to me (the phone). Back home, a folded piece of leather stuffed with plastic and paper sat on my dresser. As I groped for a credit card that wasn't there, it seemed odd that with all of the things I can do with my smartphone — conduct business, keep up with friends, research topics, read news or books, watch any movie I could think of, play games, edit videos — I still can't pay for a gallon of gas.

That's changing, of course, and rapidly. Auditing firm KPMG released survey results this week reporting that 83% of 1,000 executives surveyed expect mobile payments to be mainstream within four years, and about half of them think it could be as soon as two years. I'll be surprised if it takes that long.

Isis takes credit cards

ISISIsis, the telecom-backed consortium to put NFC payment technology and standards into mobile phones, said Tuesday it has signed agreements with Visa, MasterCard, and American Express to let buyers and sellers use those credit cards in Isis' future system. (Isis launched last November with the No. 4 credit card company Discover as a partner.) Original consortium members AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless guaranteed near ubiquitous backing among U.S. carriers, but the credit card provider angle seemed a little thin with only Discover enlisted in the effort before this week. These new agreements with virtually the entire credit card industry would seem to be a major vote of confidence in the consortium's ability to drive a standard for NFC payment that handset makers can get behind.

That leaves the major mobile OS operators out own their own — where they presumably want to be. Back in May, Isis invited Apple and Google to join their consortium, but so far both appear to be content with their solo efforts.

Got news?

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


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



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