Here are a few stories that caught my attention in the commerce space this week.
Square may be courting cabs
Square not only is gearing up to launch in Starbucks stores in November — it may also be looking to enter the New York City taxi cab market. Ryan Mac reports at Forbes this week that negotiations may be underway:
“Late Monday, private company expert PrivCo said that the San Francisco-based startup and the city of New York will be announcing an official partnership with the city of New York to implement Square’s payment systems across the city’s cabs. If negotiations are completed as expected, said New York City-based PrivCo, the partnership may be announced as early as this month.”
Mac reports that neither Square nor New York City’s Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) would confirm that a deal was in place, but he notes Square has been testing iPad credit card swipers with TLC since March.
As to its forthcoming foray into Starbucks, Lisa Baertlein at Reuters reports that further innovations are in the works even ahead of the launch. At launch, customers will be able to pay for a coffee by having a barcode scanned off a smartphone, but plans are already in the works to use Square’s GPS to identify a customer in a Starbucks location, who can then pay by giving his or her name to the cashier. Also, Cliff Burrows, president of Starbucks’ Americas region, told Baertlein that by summer 2013, customers will have the option and ability to tip using the technology.
Wal-Mart chases immediate gratification, further targeting Amazon
In recent months, Wal-Mart has been positioning itself to square off against Amazon: It announced it would discontinue its sales of Kindle devices, the gateway to Amazon’s retail ecosystem; it amped up its search engine; and it began testing mobile in-store checkout. Now, Wal-Mart again stepped up its competition strategy against Amazon and is testing same-day delivery. Jessica Wohl reports at Reuters:
“The test of the ‘Walmart To Go’ service began in Northern Virginia and Philadelphia earlier this month and is set to expand to Minneapolis on Tuesday, Walmart U.S. said. Walmart then plans to expand the test to California’s San Jose/San Francisco market in late October or early November.”
Wohl says there is a flat $10 fee for same-day delivery of general merchandise that is carried in the customer’s local store, with no limit to the number of items. The test will be limited to just the four markets during the holiday season, but as Wohl noted, the move is targeted not only at Amazon, but also at Target: Minneapolis happens to be Target’s hometown. Amazon has tested same-day delivery in the past, and it may be positioning itself for larger scale same-day capabilities.
The mobile payment war, major player edition
Kit Eaton at Fast Company took a look this week at the ongoing war to control mobile payments, focusing on the four major players who have the heft to effect real change: Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook.
Taking one company at a time, Eaton highlights each player’s advantages and innovations being brought to the table. Google, for instance, started tinkering with online micropayments last week, launching its Google Wallet for web content. Being touted as an “experiment,” the Internet giant is attempting to mainstream a pay-for-content model, wherein users pay for individual articles and web pages. Eaton writes, “It’s essentially Google enabling a micropayment paywall for online content providers, with a frictionless payments for users.”
In the Apple arena, Eaton focused on Passbook, which isn’t a mobile payments solution … yet. Eaton says Passbook may have the initial, basic wallet capabilities and the audience reach to serve as the gateway drug for mobile payments, easing consumers through the culture shock. He writes:
“But as soon as Apple gets everyone comfortable with using your iPhone like this — including passing it under a barcode scanner when you buy your venti Chai Tea Latte, for example — it’s not too much of a leap to imagine Passbook 2.0 offering a popup that says something along the lines of: ‘Would you like to pay for this now?’ And with a single tap — you’ve got a mobile payments system running on iOS.”
Eaton also looks at Facebook, which is perhaps one of the less obvious mobile payments space competitors, “[b]ut its decision to enable in-app frictionless payments via carrier billing hints at a different future,” he says. Amazon, too, isn’t an obvious contender, but Eaton points to rumors of an Amazon payments product to compete with Square. Eaton also reminds us of Amazon’s vast interconnected ecosystem: “If Amazon enabled mobile payments via an own-brand smartphone or its app, it would be able to leverage its hundreds of millions of registered customer credit details in the same way Apple could do with iTunes.” His post is well worth the read.
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