ePayments Week: PayPal in brick-and-mortar territory

EBay's acquisition could put PayPal at the register, and why Google sees a warm and fuzzy retail future.

Here are a couple of items in the payment space that caught my eye this week.

EBay’s retail play

GSI CommerceEBay said on Monday that it will pay $2.4 billion for GSI Commerce, which supplies e-commerce services to more than 180 retail brands. The acquisition moves eBay closer to the retail space, and some news reports saw it as a move to compete with Amazon.

The GSI deal wouldn’t turn EBay into that kind of a super mall, but it would strengthen PayPal as the payment method for a whole new crop of online and offline retailers. The latter seemed to be the real point of the purchase, according to Frank Hayes at Storefront Backtalk, who described how the deal could help eBay move PayPal into brick-and-mortar stores. It’s not clear yet exactly how that would work: perhaps through mobile phones and a point-of-sale terminal near the register, or eBay could have something else in mind. But, as Hayes points out, even if lower payment fees can convince merchants to adopt PayPal as a payment method in physical stores, eBay will still have to explain to customers (who are perfectly happy swiping plastic) how and why they should use PayPal.

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Google’s VP for platform on where all this is headed

Osama BedierWhat will the future of mobile commerce look like? If we do it right, it will look a lot like a nostalgic past, said Osama Bedier, Google’s new vice president for platform, mobile and new ventures. Bedier, who described his vision at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco this week, said the goal of all this technology should be to get us back to a shopping experience that’s more local, more personal, and a blend of digital and physical.

Ideally, that would deliver an experience as personal as the one Bedier gets when he returns to his favorite mom-and-pop store in his hometown in Egypt. “I walk in, Ali greets me by name … That makes me feel good.” Ali can recommend items that he knows Bedier or his father likes, and if he doesn’t have something in stock he can recommend nearby merchants who may have it. Best of all, if Bedier forgets his wallet, Ali puts it on a tab. “Why would I buy anywhere else? This is the kind of experience we used to get.”

The rise of big box stores took a lot of that personal touch away, but technology may be able to bring it back — or at least create an automatic system that mimics that personalization. Bedier, who earlier this year left a similar position at PayPal, sees these changes coming soon:

The Internet has come a long way, we’ve made a lot of progress. But in commerce, it feels like nothing has really happened. We’re about where we were 15 years ago … Over the next couple of years, though, we’re about to see some major change.

Bedier’s full Web 2.0 Expo keynote is available in the following video:

NFC round-up

Bloomberg Businessweek reported on rumors that Windows 7 mobile phones will support NFC beginning later this year. Their write-up quotes a Gartner prediction that mobile payments could ring up $245 billion in 2014, up from $32 billion in 2010.

Google Android phones are clearly in the lead on the technology, having pushed out support for NFC late last year, a move supported by the launch of the Nexus S handset. While banks and credit card companies continue to run tests on NFC, VentureBeat quoted a senior Sybase executive, Marty Beard, who criticized the “obsession with NFC,” saying it hadn’t been adequately tested yet. That view may have caused Apple to slow down its plans to implement NFC, a feature that had been predicted for inclusion in the iPhone 5 this summer but which (according to rumors) Apple may hold off on while standards are sorted out.

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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