Here are the commerce stories that caught my attention this week.
Passbook’s early merchants
Apple’s iOS 6 launched last week, bringing the Passbook feature to iPhones, and merchants from all walks of industry have started jumping on board. Target was among the first to push its app update, and Sarah Perez at TechCrunch argues it will be one of the most influential merchants in making mobile wallets mainstream. Perez notes the practical nature of Target’s app, as it focuses on saving and storing mobile coupons. Mobile coupons are nothing new, of course, but Perez argues, “becoming part of a more comprehensive system — one that even pushes you reminder notifications as you walk into a store — it has the potential to actually change user behavior” (e.g. make consumers more comfortable and intimate with their phones as part of the shopping experience).
Perez also looks at startup gift card company Gyft’s new Passbook integration in a separate post. The company sells cards from more than 200 retailers, and for those with which it has a relationship, the app will allow users to check gift card balances, too. The integration also is on a per-card basis, so each card must be transferred into Gyft individually, but Perez says it’s worth the trouble: “instead of having a generic ‘Gyft’ card stored in the Passbook app, you’ll have what appears to be the individual store gift cards there, powered by Gyft.” Perez also looks at a few other startups that were agile enough to jump on board early, ahead of many major brands, including Belly and SnipSnap.
One of the more surprising of the major brands to be slow off the mark is Starbucks. Alex Heath at Cult of Mac reports that the Starbucks app will be updated by the end of the month and points out why it’s such a surprise the coffee mogul is late to the game. Not only is Starbucks mobile savvy with its Square payment integration, but “Apple originally routed Passbook in the iOS 6 developer betas to the Starbucks app in the App Store,” Heath writes.
A few of the other major brands already on board with Passbook include Walgreens, Ticketmaster, Fandango, Sephora and several Major League Baseball teams. To give Passbook a whirl in the real world, Josh Lowensohn at CNET took it to a Major League game. He writes that he was able to get into the game by having his ticket scanned off his phone but that the experience wasn’t completely paperless: “In order to give Passbook users some sort of proof of purchase, the stadium prints out a paper receipt that you need to hold on to. … The stadium also requires those with higher level tickets, to somewhere like the suite levels, to carry an extra paper ticket.”
A little rough, but it’s a start. If you want to peruse all Passbook-updated apps, AppShopper has a running list.
The chaos in the payment space
Carol Coye Benson took a thorough look at the state of the payment industry over at Payments Views this week. She describes the landscape as being in chaos:
“When we look at the payments industry today, we see a rapidly fragmenting world, with multiple models, many using various decoupled or layered approaches, with many new solutions for both consumers and merchants. Choice and innovation, of course, may bring potential benefits, but will create equally obvious challenges — including a more confusing environment, for consumers and merchants alike. Regulators, too, will find this a more difficult environment to manage, as will investors, given that many of the new solutions do not have clear or established business models.”
Benson delves deep into each area, looking at the various fronts: wallets versus cards, merchants versus payments industry incumbents, secure element (SE) data storage versus cloud, etc. She also stresses that mobile commerce encompasses far more than mobile payments, including online ordering, self-checkout, mobile ticketing and mobile-enabled digital content purchases. You can read Benson’s complete analysis here.
For a hands-on look specifically at the state of mobile payments, CNN reporter Laurie Segall spent a day shopping in New York City sans physical wallet, using only her smartphone to pay. Throughout the day, she visits a variety of merchants and tests Google Wallet, LevelUp, Square and PayPal. You can see how each works out in the following video:
Studies show importance of the mobile shopping experience
- 67% of high street retailers already offer a mobile app, and that percentage jumps to 80% when you include retailers planning to launch a mobile app in the coming year.
- Retailers expect mobile commerce to grow at a rate of 23%, an increase of £11bn in 2012.
- 38% of retailers report their biggest challenge is integration with other ecommerce systems, 37% report budget as the problem, and 15% say they just don’t know how best to create a compelling experience.
A new study released by Google this month stresses the importance not only of having a mobile site or app, but of offering a mobile-friendly experience. A few highlights from the study include:
- 61% of consumers say they’ll leave a site and move on to a competitor if they can’t easily and quickly find what they’re looking for.
- 74% are more likely to become return customers if a site is mobile-friendly.
- 67% say they’re more likely to buy a product or service from a mobile-friendly site.
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