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June 14 2012

Commerce Weekly: Couch commerce gets a boost

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

TiVo and PayPal team up to bolster couch commerce

TiVo_Logo.pngSmartphone and tablet shopaholics will soon have another electronic venue to engage their shopping habits: the TV. At the TV of Tomorrow Show in San Francisco this week, PayPal and TiVo announced the two companies will be joining ranks to let consumers make purchases directly through interactive ads on the TiVo interface. According to the press release, users will need to link a PayPal account only once, then purchases thereafter can be made with a couple clicks of the remote.

Matthew Humphries over at geek.com notes the potential "kid-factor" issues and the need for some sort of parental control or lock-out. He also addresses another potential problem with ads — namely, that many consumers have grown accustomed to skipping them — and points out that TiVo and PayPal are planning ahead:

"For the most part, TV advertising is something that I for one try to ignore. That's mainly down to the adverts repeating too often and the stuff being advertised not actually being targeted toward me. That is sure to change as the set-top boxes we use get smarter and know who is watching (just ask Intel). One day adverts may actually include products you want to purchase immediately."

The instant-purchase campaigns are scheduled to launch with the fall 2012 TV season.

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.

Sprint prepping its own mobile wallet?

The NFC Times learned late last week that Sprint is preparing to launch its own mobile wallet. According to NFC Times sources, the product will be called "Touch" and could launch as soon as this summer. (A blogger at Android Central shared a couple of slides leaked this week that seem to support the wallet development).

I'm sure this news made heads at Google turn, as Sprint is the sole mobile operator partner of Google Wallet. The NFC Times reports that it isn't clear whether or not this means Sprint will end its partnership with Google Wallet, but notes that "it seems unlikely that it could support both wallets on the same NFC phones since each wallet requires control of the secure element."

In related news, Nick Hughes at TechCrunch took a look at trends in mobile wallet and mobile payment systems, and notes that not only are the proprietary platforms causing fragmentation that is hindering mobile payment progress, but they're excluding a vast majority of potential consumers:

"Ironically, many companies innovating on mobile payments today are focusing their attention on a new kind of proprietary 'payment mechanism' in the form of isolated apps, NFC required devices and other exclusive components of a mobile device ... [there are] roughly six billion mobile subscribers worldwide — an astonishing 85% of the world population. Also important to note, 95% of these individuals don't carry an Apple device. And moreover, 75% of the world is still not using a device generally regarded as a smartphone.

"Let me state that another way: There are 4.5 billion people in this world holding a phone, just NOT holding a smartphone.

"So, why is there so much focus on a mobile payment experience in which only 5% — or at max 25% — of the world can actually participate? Shouldn't we look at what all these devices have in common when we are designing an experience as universal as payment? I fear we are leaving too many people out of the game and too much money on the table."

You can read Hughes' entire report and his ideas on how best to grow the mobile payment industry here.

Apple has more credit card numbers on file than any store in the world

Apple's WWDC conference took place this week, and one particular statistic emerged that may hint at Apple's future in mobile payment. As reported by Owen Thomas at Business Insider, Apple has 400 million active accounts with credit cards attached in its app and iTunes stores. Thomas notes the context of this volume: "That's more than PayPal, which has 110 million active accounts (out of 232 million total), and Amazon.com, which reports having 152 million customer accounts.

A post at Mashable reports Apple CEO Tim Cook made a point of noting that this makes Apple "the store with the most credit cards on file anywhere in the world." Proprietary platform issues aside, this amount of data and number of already engaged consumers is a strong indication that Apple is poised to disrupt the payment industry.

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June 07 2012

Commerce Weekly: Identifying real-time consumer intent

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

Responding to real-time consumer intent

LocalResponse LogoA new survey by behavioral commerce company SteelHouse shows that mobile commerce is getting more social. Mediabistro shared an infographic produced by SteelHouse that highlights a few important points for mobile commerce:

"... one-third of customers state browsing for items as the number one reason why they use a retailer's apps, ahead of looking for discounts and deals (26 percent) and making purchases (22 percent). Overall, however, 66 percent of consumers prefer purchasing from a retailer's website than via their app."

Though the national survey was small — just 309 consumers across the U.S. were surveyed — the numbers confirm that social media is changing the way we shop.

Mashable took a look this week at four startups that are revolutionizing social ecommerce. Of the four, LocalResponse's platform seemed to make the most of mobile. The post describes the product as "a social advertising platform that aggregates public posts and 'check-ins' across multiple platforms to help brands and businesses identify intent and respond to it." The important note about this company is the way it's making use of real-time data. Mashable reports:

"Targeting data, such as behavioral, demographic or contextual, is usually approximated. LocalResponse's platform is able to identify where someone is, when they are there, and what they are saying about it. Marketers act on the consumer's real-time intent by converting people with exclusive offers or coupons via mobile at point-of-sale."

According to a post at Mobile Commerce Daily, making use of consumer data to discern consumer shopping behavior on an individual and geolocational level not only will ensure a future for mobile check-in platforms, but also will be the key for brands to better connect with consumers.

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.

Another centuries-old business goes all-in on digital

Move over Encyclopaedia Britannica. A 350-year-old post office would like to join the club of centuries-old businesses stepping up to embrace the digital age. A post at Fast Company reports that the British Post Office, established in 1660, is launching an NFC-based payment system in each of its 11,500 locations, making it the "biggest adopter of contactless payments in Europe," according to the post. Consumers will be able to ship packages and buy stamps using NFC-enabled debit and credit cards — and they won't even need to sign or enter a PIN for purchases less than £20.

The Fast Company post also takes a look at other mobile payment activity in the U.K., including the launch of the PayPal in-Store App, new NFC-enabled phones, and NFC ticketing.

A new problem for banks: Staying "top of wallet"

The digital disruption unsettling the retail and publishing industries' brick-and-mortar stores may have found an additional target: brick-and-mortar banks. A study (PDF) released this week by Carlisle and Gallagher shows that mobile wallets pose a threat to traditional banking. Carlisle and Gallagher's Peter Olynick discussed the results in a press release:

"People have already slowed their use of cash and checks in favor of credit and debit cards. Within five years, half of today's smart phone users will be using their phones and mobile wallets as their preferred method for payments. These customers will be using better tools to help them optimize transaction choices. Banks need to proactively consider how their products will stay 'top of wallet' in the new mobile wallet world."

In light of the study, financial analyst Peter Wannemacher told PCWorld that "[f]inancial institutions risk ending up as back-end funding sources for mobile wallets and payment products owned by other brands, who operate the front-end, consumer-facing aspects of the interaction and transactions." He says that traditional banks will need to offset the convenience of mobile wallets and mobile banking by offering compelling services.

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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 17 2012

Commerce Weekly: Another mobile wallet is on the way

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

Isis prepares its mobile wallet rollout

Isis-Mobile-Wallet.pngIsis Mobile Wallet had some big news this week. First, American Express officially got on board with the mobile payment platform. Damon Poeter at PCMag notes the announcement was something of a formality, as American Express joined the Isis Mobile Commerce Platform last year along with Visa, MasterCard, and Discover, but he writes: "... the credit card company did offer up specifics on which member accounts will be eligible for the Isis Mobile Wallet — namely, the U.S. Consumer, OPEN Small Business, and Serve cards."

On the heels of that announcement, Isis announced its initial rollout in Austin and Salt Lake City will begin this summer. According to the press release, the first of its local merchant partners includes "hundreds of merchant locations in both Austin and Salt Lake City," from bookstores to bakeries to pizza and burger joints. In addition to local partners, several national partners also were announced, including Aeropostale, The Coca-Cola Company, Champs, Dillard's, Foot Locker, Jamba Juice and Macy's. A list of partners can be found in the press release.

This is a step forward in the U.S. for mobile commerce, but in a post at Wired, Nathan Olivarez-Giles writes: "As for which smartphones will actually work with Isis, the mobile payments consortium is keeping mum." He also says not to "feel too bad for Google Wallet," Isis' main rival, as many of Isis' national partners have already signed on with Google Wallet.

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.

Canada gets a mobile wallet

Canadian banks recently agreed on a new set of guidelines that support secure transactions using NFC chips. In a post at The Globe and Mail, Grant Robertson and Rita Trichur report that the new guidelines will "change the way Canadians pay for goods at retailers across the country" and will "open the door for partnerships between financial institutions and telecommunications companies to embed credit card and debit card information inside smartphones."

That door didn't need to be open long — almost immediately, Rogers Communications and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) announced a partnership to launch Canada's first mobile wallet. Alastair Sharp and Cameron French at Reuters report that the wallet will be available later this year. The mobile commerce technology situation in Canada is a step ahead of most Western countries, including the U.S. — as Sharp and French point out, Canadian retailers have broadly adopted the electronic reader equipment required to interact with NFC chips.

Rob Bruce, president of communications for Rogers, told Reuters "60 percent of Rogers' postpaid customers use a smartphone and that some 300,000 of those are already NFC-enabled." Bruce speculated that mobile wallets will be as common as cameras on smartphones within a few years. Robertson and Trichur at the Globe and Mail also note that "[s]ince most consumers upgrade their cellphones every 18 to 20 months, it is estimated that the majority of Canadians will have NFC-enabled smartphones by 2014."

Benefits of sharing may trump NFC privacy concerns

According to research conducted by Catapult, technology isn't the only holdup for U.S. mobile wallet adoption. EMarketer reports that "[91% of respondents to the Catapult survey] said they would worry about maintaining their privacy, including two-thirds who would be 'very concerned' about this."

Consumer privacy concerns may have a lot to do with the newness of the technology, however, and once consumers use it, they might find it more useful and convenient than worrisome. Kit Eaton at Fast Company argues that sharing your identity and a touch of personal information via NFC will lead to discovery and finding things you never knew you wanted. He says such sharing allows businesses to better understand and serve consumers:

"Picture a music festival in five years' time when instead of a wristband you'll wave your smartphone at a wireless portal, and an app you've pre-set to share particular pieces of personal info (perhaps age, gender, and so on) communicates with the festival's computer. In return it sends a promotional tweet and you'll get a free ringtone to promote the upcoming single of the band you're listening to or an invite to a streaming music service where the band has created a playlist of artists you might like."

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May 10 2012

Commerce Weekly: The competitive push toward mobile payment

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

Mobile payments are coming, one way or another

Square_AngleyHands.pngThe New York Times (NYT) took a look this week at the push toward mobile payments and the various paths toward that end. The push isn't only coming from a consumer desire for a mobile wallet, but also from the payment companies. The NYT's post reports:

"Merchants are facing heavy pressure to upgrade their payment terminals to accept smart cards. Over the last several months, Visa, Discover and MasterCard have said that merchants that cannot accept these cards will be liable for any losses owing to fraud."

This could be the push needed for mobile payment, at least in the U.S., to get over the technology hump that has thus far been hindering it from catching on. Jennifer Miles, executive vice president at payment terminal provider VeriFone, told the NYT, "Everybody is going to be upgrading ... Before the credit card companies made their announcements, almost no merchants were buying terminals with smart card and NFC capabilities." She says VeriFone no longer installs payment terminals without NFC readers.

NFC technology, however, not only requires upgrades from merchants, but also consumers. The post reviews mobile payment solutions from PayPal and Square, noting the directive for these two companies may be more consumer centric:

"Both PayPal and Square say that asking customers to buy NFC-enabled phones and wait for merchants to install new hardware is folly. Neither company says it has plans to incorporate NFC into its wallet."

This consumer-centric approach might be part of what's behind VeriFone's announcement this week that it would jump into the payment processing fray. Bloomberg reports:

"VeriFone Systems Inc. (PAY), the largest maker of credit-card terminals, will offer an attachment that lets mobile devices accept credit and debit cards, making a deeper push into a market pioneered by Square Inc. and EBay Inc. (EBAY)'s PayPal ... VeriFone's version will allow partners such as banks to customize the service to transmit coupons and loyalty points to consumers, said Greg Cohen, a senior vice president at San Jose, California-based VeriFone."

VeriFone's system will work with Apple and Android mobile devices.

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.

MasterCard releases PayPass

MasterCard announced its new PayPass Wallet Services this week. The company describes the global service in a press release:

PayPass Wallet Services delivers three distinct components — PayPass Acceptance Network (PayPass Online and PayPass Contactless), PayPass Wallet and PayPass API. These services enable a consistent shopping experience no matter where and how consumers shop, as well as a suite of digital wallet services, and developer tools to make it easier to connect other wallets into the PayPass Online acceptance network.

In other words, it's designed to work with any sort of digital wallet used by its partners. According to the release, American Airlines and Barnes & Noble are in the initial group of merchant partners.

One of the big differences between MasterCard's system and those of its competitors is its open nature. PC World reports:

What sets MasterCard's offering apart from digital wallet systems announced by Visa, Google, PayPal and others is how much the company is opening up its platform to third parties, said Gartner wireless analyst Mark Hung. Banks and other partners will be able to adopt PayPass Wallet Services in two different ways: They can use MasterCard's own service under their own brand or just use the company's API (application programming interface) to build their own platform.

Mobile payment readiness, global edition

How ready is the world for mobile payments? MasterCard has that covered this week, too. In a guest post at Forbes, vice president of MasterCard Worldwide Theodore Iacobuzio wrote about the launch of the MasterCard Mobile Payments Readiness Index (MPRI), a data-driven survey of the mobile payments landscape. Iacobuzio says the index "assesses and ranks 34 global economies in terms of how ready (or not) they are for mobile payments of three types":

  • M-commerce, which is e-commerce conducted from a mobile phone or tablet.
  • Point-of-Sale (POS) mobile payments where a smart phone becomes the authentication device to complete a transaction at checkout.
  • Person-to-Person (P2P) mobile payments that involve the direct transfer of funds from one person to another using a mobile device.

Iacobuzio says that "one of the top-level findings is that unless all constituents — banks, merchants, telcos, device makers, governments — collaborate on developing new solutions and services, the mainstream adoption of mobile payments will be slower, more contentious and more expensive." He discusses the needs for mobile payments around the world, including in developed, developing and emerging countries.

But who's ready? The following image is a screenshot of the index summary. Note that no country has yet hit the "inflection point":

MPRIScreenshot.png
A screenshot of the MasterCard Mobile Payments Readiness Index (MPRI). Click here to access the full site.

Dan Rowinski at ReadWriteWeb has a nice analysis of the index. In part, he says much of the finance world, including MasterCard, may be viewing the mobile payment situation through "rose-colored glasses":

"For instance, why do mobile payments skew heavily toward young males in developed countries? The answer, more or less, is because it is cool. The actual need for mobile payments (NFC or otherwise) is not as clear in the U.S. as it is in other countries, like Kenya and Singapore."

Mobile shopping needs faster carts

Michael Darnaud, CEO of i-Cue Design, proposed a solution this week for one of the major problems with mobile shopping: speed, or lack thereof. In a post at Mobile Commerce Daily, he says the steps to a purchase simply take too long because of the number of data transfers involved:

"Just clicking a button to 'add,' 'delete' or 'change quantity' on the mobile Web requires sending transaction data from the shopper's mobile device to the vendor's server — average three to five seconds — via cell towers, not high-speed cables. These interim steps, long before checking out, are the challenge — it is all about time."

"Time is money" is no joke in mobile commerce. Darnaud notes: "A recent Wall Street Journal article declared that sales at Amazon increase by 1 percent for every 100 milliseconds it shaves off download times." To that end, he suggests an improvement to online cart technology that "reduces the time it takes to 'add,' 'delete' or 'change quantity' by virtually 100 percent because it eliminates the need for a server call for each of those commands." He describes his solution:

"This 'instant-add' cart solution requires nothing but familiar HTML and JavaScript. It is an incremental change that can be inserted into virtually any new or existing cart.

And what that means to a customer arriving at your site on the mobile Web is that he or she can see a product, click 'add to cart' and have no forced page change or reload or waiting time at all as a result."

Darnaud also notes the "elegance" of the solution: "... it forms a perfect bridge between desktop and mobile Web. The reason is simply that it works identically on both, via the browser."

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April 26 2012

Commerce Weekly: Mobile commerce is on the rise globally

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

Survey shows global rise in consumer desire for mobile commerce

TNS Global's recent Mobile Life Survey, which surveyed the mobile habits of 48,000 people in 58 countries, shows that global interest in mobile commerce is on the rise. The screenshot of the survey's interactive results map below illustrates levels of interest for different commerce features — in this case mobile wallets:.

Mobile Life Survey screenshot
A screenshot of the TNS Global Mobile Life Survey results map. See the interactive version.

In a post for stuff.co.nz, William Mace took a deeper look at the survey results concerning the mobile commerce status in New Zealand. The results showed a bright future for mobile commerce, especially in the feature areas of mobile wallet and mobile banking. Mace reports:

"TNS New Zealand director David Thomas said New Zealanders surveyed liked the convenience of 'mobile wallets' — essentially using a smartphone to pay for goods and services — and placed the greatest trust in banks to provide such a service."

Thomas explained to Mace that technology and infrastructure are speed bumps to mobile wallets, much like here in the U.S. He said, "Mobile wallets generally require smartphones and generally a near-field communication chip in your phone which is still relatively unusual. The technology has driven mobile banking to come first but we can see with the developments of people like PayMark, Telecom and Vodafone are talking about we can see that the infrastructure for mobile wallets will come soon."

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.

EU investigates possible mobile wallet monopoly

Mobile wallet news wasn't all positive across the globe this week. In the U.K., where mobile retail is up 254% from last year and up 300% year over year for the first quarter of 2012, the European Union might become an additional speed bump to mobile wallets.

According to a report at Internet Retailer, the EU is looking into three U.K. telecommunications companies — Telefónica, Vodafone and Everything Everywhere — that announced a mobile wallet plan last June called Project Oscar. Plans were submitted in March. A press release from the EU explained that the problem lies in the potential monopoly:

"The Commission's initial investigation revealed that the joint venture and its three parent companies may have the technical and commercial ability and incentive to block future competitors from offering their own mobile wallet services to customers in the UK, or to degrade the quality of these competing mobile wallets so that they become less attractive."

According to the release, the commission has until the end of August to make a final decision.

Boston rail commuters get a paper ticket alternative

Consumers can buy a cup of coffee with an app (even in the drive-thru!) or a hammer with a phone number, and several companies offer local smartphone payment options for breakfast, lunch or dinner. By this fall, commuters in the Boston area can add "buying commuter rail tickets with an app" to that list. According to a post at Boston.com, the MBTA signed an agreement Friday that will allow "[c]ustomers with an iPhone, Android, or BlackBerry who download the free app [to] buy one-way, round trip, 10-ride, and monthly tickets and passes using debit or credit cards." The app will have a scannable QR code. The post describes how it will work:

"Riders will activate their pass when the conductor approaches, and it will generate a one-time image lasting long enough to be checked on the trip but not reused on another ride ... Though the mobile tickets will contain QR codes, the T will not initially equip all conductors with hand-held scanners, using them only for spot checks. Instead, digital watermarks, such as changing colors and animation, will help deter fraud while allowing passes to be verified at a glance."

The post pointed out that similar mobile payment options are common in England, "but the T would be the first major US commuter rail to offer passengers an alternative to paper." MBTA officials also told Boston.com they will use the new app to gather more accurate ridership data.

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March 29 2012

Commerce Weekly: Google Wallet vs Isis is coming soon

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

Who's got the winning wallet?

Several recent articles have speculated about the coming competition between Google Wallet and the forthcoming mobile wallet from Isis, which is set to debut in tests in Austin and Salt Lake City this summer. Tech bloggers love a contest, and even though there's only one major player in this race so far, observers are handicapping the players before they even take the field.

MobilePaymentsToday.com ran a column comparing the merits of the two platforms in several categories. (Where was the massive infographic that we've all grown used to for this sort of thing?) Google took the prize in time-to-market (already out there, a little) and branding, while the nod went to Isis for building a solid ecosystem, with its support from three major U.S. wireless carriers and the top credit card networks and handset builders. Isis should also get the award for most imaginative and compelling demo video, based on the clip of Cyber Illusionist Marco Tempest at SXSW a few weeks ago (demo begins 15 seconds in, after the ad):



Of course, both of these plays depend on NFC wireless capability in phones, and while that's destined to ramp up soon, GigaOm reported that in 2011, NFC in the U.S. lagged far behind other regions. Of the 30 million NFC-capable handsets sold worldwide last year, about five million went to North America, 10 million went to Europe, and more than that went to Asia. Some mobile wallets, of course, don't rely on NFC: PayPal, for example, is getting ready to launch an updated version of its wallet that operates closer to the direct billing model, where you enter your mobile number on the retailer's keypad and then confirm when a text is sent to your mobile. PayPal's system is a bit less elegant than wireless tap and pay, but as we wrote a few weeks ago, it's ready now and available on any phone that supports texting.



We couldn't help notice that all this handicapping of the two most visible mobile wallets overlooked the potential of a third player that has yet to enter the arena. Only a few weeks ago, mobile payment geeks were abuzz about newly published patents from Apple that described a method for payment with credit cards that sends the receipt to the user's iTunes account. And since there are more than 200 million of those iTunes accounts (and 350 million iOS devices out there), that represents a significant installed user base that may be receptive to Apple's familiar interface applied to a mobile wallet. Those who think Apple is coming late to the party should be reminded that Apple has never had to be the first to a market to end up dominating it.

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.

In-app purchases continue to dominate

In-app purchase screenshotHere's more evidence that in-app purchases are driving most of the revenues in mobile apps. According to Inside Mobile Apps, Distimo, which specializes in tracking app store activity, reports that a majority of the top-grossing apps on iPad, iPhone and Android monetize with in-app purchases. The researcher found that, of the top 200 grossing apps in the iPad App Store, the iPhone App store, and the Google Play store in February, 74% of the iPad apps and 80% of the iPhone apps featured in-app purchases. The numbers are even more remarkable when taken with the additional insight that only 10% of all iPad apps and 6% of iPhone apps even offer in-app purchases. So, there appears to be an awful lot of iOS apps that aren't yet interested in playing in the winning game.

The number was lower on Android apps (56%). Inside Mobile Apps' Kathleen De Vere suggested that may be because Android has a shorter history with in-app purchases (only since last May) and, related, fewer Android apps offer in-app purchases.

The findings support other reports that have also suggested the superiority of the foot-in-the-door model, including one by Flurry Analytics last summer that found freemium emerging as the dominant model for generating revenue from mobile apps.

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