SCREEN WARS (Digital Media Forum Keynote 2013)

In Dubai talking to agencies and brands about “digital velcro”. How linking content seamlessly between one screen plus other consumer screen equals a multiple of value for a brand.  20  mins – view here.

Mobile Wallet Wars: Winner is the “Final Foot”

As VISA launches the digital wallet, a “digital wallet” in a bid to be relevant in the proliferation of cloud payment credentials, VISA and other incumbent payment providers should be concerned that in a cloud-based economy, it may lose its position in the market.

Presently VISA owns the lion’s share of credit and debit/prepaid plastic in circulation globally. (VISA 2,400MM vs. MasterCard 1,000MM)

Up-starts such as Square and digital innovators such as Paypal are trying to challenge the status quo and change the way people pay with plastic. Google and Apple continue to disintermediate the card vendors by aggregating large volumes of transactions and pass them back to the banks as “prepaid”  with low interchange fees. All in all, new payment players are looking at the old business hegemony of VISA and MasterCard and going OTT (over-the-top).

It is not about eliminating plastic. And it is not really an issue of whether these plastic holders are going the way of vinyl; but more importantly an issue of the business model behind these card and card credentials. Roles are being commoditized.

Cards are simply a way to store and relay banking credentials to the POS in the store and the POS in the cloud. In the US this is no more than a number that is stored on a magnetic swipe and embossed in the plastic. In the rest of the world this number is housed more securely in a chip. A chip that can be emulated securely in the phone chip (or SIM).

It is unlikely that the costly backend systems in the US and Europe that deal with fraud and regulatory issues will be displaced. And that the 2,400MM VISA cards and the 1,000MM MasterCard that use these systems will disappear. (*)

However, as VISA and MasterCard continue to be the trusted brands on every online and physical store they may find that their margins dipping. As banks try to revamp their mobile banking applications and ATMs to be more relevant to their peripatetic customer, fewer value added fees and services will impact their margins.

The question to ask is who owns the customers relationship because it is ultimately this relationship (the final foot) that they can monetize. The emergence of mobile and card-linked offers is making the point-of-sale systems in the cloud and eventually in the store, the new promotional depots for digital deals and coupons. So called “big data” and value added services will ultimately yield the most profit.

*(In emerging markets, where there little infrastructure, companies like M-Pesa service the unbanked via their mobile phone account. VISA has entered these emerging markets through acquisition of Fundamo and MasterCard through a partnership with Telefónica. Similar to the US, these companies are vying for the last-mile relationship.)

The End of Pennies & Amazon Coins from the Cloud

With the Canadian Mint abandoning the mighty penny and Amazon creating its own digital currency system called Amazon Coins (to be used to purchase apps in its Kindle Fire Tablet), where is cash heading?

In May, Amazon Coins will flood the market with “tens of millions of dollars” of virtual coins. The Canadian mint will remove the equivalent in copper.  This value transfer from cash coins to promotional coins is not connected but illustrative of the value of currency to drive engagement and what is often referred to as “big data.”

The penny and the dollar have not lost their value in our digital economy (*) but the ability for the data behind our purchase behavior may yield more value.

How we buy has changed so profoundly over the past few decades. Money and path to purchase has become more fluid. Days waiting for cash to clear is now instantaneous. Digital credentials such as Paypal and Paypass allow for seamless payments inconceivable few years ago.

We know that financial institutions and the new mobile wallets snub their nose at cash and hope that all transactions move through their gateway and pay a service toll. But more importantly for the Google’s and Apple’s wallets to tether a digital relationship that allows for incremental advertising and engagement opportunities.

As we move into digital wallets in the cloud and the store, look for more “Amazon” pennies from heaven. Or in this case, from the cloud.

* (Cash is a clumsy system and removing pennies can upset the countries cash register.  In 1971 the penny was axed in the UK. Cash confusion and many retail that were accused of rounding up rather than down allowed price increases that pundits attributed to increased inflation in the country for a quarter of a century. By the 70s, inflation was upward of 25%.)

Why Square’s Giftcards are essential for its wallet strategy

Square’s business model is successful but needs accelerated growth in 2013. If Mr. Dorsey can shake the trees in the prepaid world, he can expand his business significantly.

Prepaid gift cards are a valuable strategy for Square for two key reasons:

  • One is growth – a digital gift card is viral and thus expands Square’s influence horizontally. And Square wants more users. Now a viral nudge will lead a friend to download a free Square Wallet from the Apple App Store or Google Play.
  • Secondly, is margin – Square plans to disrupt the incumbent gift card issuing fees with a low 2.75 percent charge. Given there is no high bank interchange on prepaid, Square can reap a healthy margin.

Key to adoption on the small screen will be the user experience – especially with a viral gift product. As Jack Dorsey says, “This is a product where the experience really matters.”

A Square user can search for nearby businesses, click to buy a gift card and enter the recipient’s email address. The recipient (benefactor) can download the Square Wallet app (Square’s preferred outcome) or save Square gift cards to Apple’s new Passbook app.

The success of the gift card strategy may be dependent on Square being able to sign up additional big name merchants such as Starbucks, which began accepting payments via Square Wallet this fall. But Square will have a hard time finding another commerce partner like Starbucks. As I like to say you can successfully sell an addictive substance – coffee – on every street corner in America.

It is harder for other retailers. With a close-loop gift card you need partners with scale.


Why Apple’s New Patents are Commerce Game Changers?

This week Apple added a new patent (US 8,321,294) to its war chest.  The EasyPay patent is worth a closer look. The commerce patent allows mobile shoppers to activate and buy items from physical stores via the Internet connection on their device.

While this seems pretty clear and reflects Apple’s EasyPay trials:  it is far more profound. Combined with Apple’s earlier patent (US 8,290,513) in October using magnetic fields (as a substitute to NFC) this is clearly is Apple’s showrooming and mobile commerce positioning statement.

Why are these two patents so interesting? One, while the EasyPay trail used QR codes, the new patent definition of shopper is far broader:

“Techniques for improved interaction between online retailers and traditional brick-and-mortar retailers that provide patron-accessible networks are disclosed. The location and/or the fact that any given purchase was made from a particular retailer’s patron-accessible network can be tracked for a variety of purposes. The invention can facilitate partnering between online retailers (i.e. online stores) and traditional ‘brick-and-mortar’ business establishments. As an example, the invention can be used to track and give credit for online purchases at an online retailer that are facilitated by a brick-and-mortar retailer.”

Now combine the two patents. The earlier Apple patent in October was for a Method and Apparatus for Triggering Network Device Discovery. This was Apple way of side stepping NFC and using the phones’ compass output patterns (magnetic field signatures).

EasyPay can be expanded to leverage any network device discovery.  This allows any store shelf or walk-by media to be activated via a magnetic field tap and jump into an EasyPay checkout process. Path-to-purchase becomes “PURCHASE”.

Is Facebook suddenly a 13x ROI ad network?

Facebook in 2012 had a hard time convincing the retail market that it was a mobile commerce player. Facebook opened storefronts with GameStop and others retail partners. They should have been a success. However, all languished and were closed over the course of the storefront trial.

While Facebook may not be the destination that users go to shop, it has proven its value as the preeminent social “influencer” of commerce. Today’s Samsung results vindicate the network and all doubters.

After a three-week, $10 million ad buy with Facebook, Samsung reached over 100 million unique users and generated $129 million in sales! That is a 13x return on a $10 million ad buy.

While these numbers are powerful testament to the social shopping behaviour on the web. Samsung has more than 20 million fans on Facebook and needed to find ways influence their buying decisions. SALES not LIKES drive profits!

Coming out of the tremendous results from Cyber Monday, we know that somewhere advertising and commerce needs to find a closer connection. The market is still in the pursue of a way for sales-driving networks like Facebook (in the advertising world) to connect more seamlessly to commerce conversion network (in the retail world).

PayPal reported a 200% increase in transactions through this past weekend. If Facebook’s reach could be married to a “one-click commerce” checkout, this 13x conversion rate may jump a significant multiple.

In a world where “path to purchase” is a perilous path and we need find ways to better connect these two worlds.

Starbucks & M-Payment: Selling an addictive substance on every street corner in America

Starbucks card transactions accounting for more than 25 percent of sales in U.S. stores. $3 billion has been loaded on to Starbucks cards this year. The my Starbucks rewards loyalty program has more than 10 million members, half of whom have opted in to receiving communications from Starbucks. Starbucks recently enhanced its loyalty program in the U.S. and Canada to make rewards fully digital and to make it easier for customers to earn free rewards.

With investment in Square and other mobile innovation, is Starbucks a poster child for other stores to emulate?

I will contend that selling an addictive substance on every street corner in America is probable more of a factor in their mobile success than their technology innovation.

Another factor for their success is their openness to a simple frictionless payment process. Starbucks mobile POS manages prepaid ‘micro’ transactions and thus has the luxury of making checkout painless without much concern for fraud on their system.

Starbucks’ app is a success but other apps in the retail market have languished. The Starbucks app is simple and effective but it success lies in the mass reach.

While MCX and other payment solutions seem to be getting traction with retailers, Starbucks basic 2D scanning system works because of the sheer volume. As NFC-enabled phones are adopted by consumers this year and next, it is possible NFC-based mobile payments will appeal to more companies, possibly even Starbucks. NFC tap and go will inevitably be embraced by Starbucks as NFC is ideal for high traffic, low-value transactions.

Transit and Starbucks are model anchor tenants for contactless adoption.

As Starbucks advocates: pay faster, sip slower.”

Who Owns the Wallet Owns Big Data

MasterCard launched its mobile wallet services at the keynote in New Orleans at the CTIA Wireless Show. Big news? Maybe, if you read between the lines.

The service is comprised of three components. PayPass Acceptance Network, which includes PayPass Online and PayPass Contactless, will help merchants accept electronic payments across multiple channels while giving consumers a simple check-out process. The services will be expanded to the point-of-sale over time, enabling the delivery of targeted offers, coupons and enhanced loyalty programs.

I think there is a battle raging that is not part of the press release. It is a battle to own the financial relationship with the consumer – Apple, Google, Visa, ISIS, all want to be the landlord for the secure credentials. The winner owns big data and all the money that flows from this.

In this scenario, MasterCard is the landlord, Gemalto is the property manager and the tenents are retailers, brands . . .  anyone who needs to leverage the wallets data down stream. Consumers secure credentials come with a full identification profile and of course their purchase behaviour.

Steve Mott and the retailers that are attempting to create their own competitive wallet is in direct response to this exact data scenerio.

MasterCard’s open door policy to third parties is a Trojan strategy to be the gatekeeper — everyone wants this privileged role. The dust has not settled on this two-sided business debate and will not for many years. But remember, the guy who owns the gateway owns big data.


Impulse Economy: Connect effectively to the M-Shopper (PodCast)

Welcome to episode #295 of Six Pixels Of Separation – The Twist Image Podcast.

While many companies were still lamenting a basic website back in the nineties, Gary Schwartz was already imagining how content, voice and mobility would change how we connect to one another… and the brands that serve us.

For over a decade, Gary has been a leader in the mobile industry. He is CEO of Impact Mobile (offices in New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, etc…), is Chair of the Mobile Entertainment Forum and Chair Emeritus of the Mobile Committee for the Internet Advertising Bureau. Recently, he published his first book, The Impulse Economy – Understanding mobile shoppers and what makes them buy. He brings a plethora of experience and insights from the mobile landscape to our marketing world, and it’s a true privilege to have him as a guest on the show this week. Enjoy the conversation…

Here it is: Six Pixels Of Separation – The Twist Image Podcast – Episode #295 – Host: Mitch Joel.