"Square" entries

Upward Mobility: The Mobile Payment Problem

Mobile Payment is going to take a lot of cooperation by a lot of competing interests, or a clever end-run

There was a time when the two big unsolved puzzles of online finance were micropayments and mobile payments. Micropayments were a problem because no one seemed willing to make sub-dollar transfers economically viable, while mobile payments had a chicken-and-egg solution / vendor paradox. Sites like PayPal and Square seem to have finally resolved the micropayment issue, as are more out-of-left-field ideas like Bitcoins. Mobile payment is still a morass of competing solutions, however.

For a while, Near Field seemed to be the sword that would slay the dragon, but Apple’s continual refusal to adopt the technology would leave a big segment of the mobile market out of the play. Even if someone comes up with a new point of sale (POS) terminal leveraging the more universal Bluetooth Low Energy, the real challenge isn’t the hardware. The problem is getting dozens of POS vendors and all the banks that issue cards to sign onto a new standard, and getting enough stores and retail venues to adopt it. Chicken and the egg once again.

Read more…

Comment

Commerce Weekly: The lucrative art of tracking shopper behavior

Revealing shopper behavior, retail battles web with experience and service, and Starbucks' struggles with Square.

Snooping on shoppers pays off

Liz Gannes took a look this week at how online retailers’ desires to track consumers’ shopping habits are resulting in emerging startups offering services to track various behaviors on behalf of retailers. In a post at All Things Digital, she highlights newly launched startup Sift Science, which tracks online shopper behaviors to uncover fraudulent activity, and Commerce Sciences, a startup in beta that offers online retailers a Personal Bar for their websites that uses behavioral science to increase online sales.

Gannes outlines a few interesting insights each company has gleaned from aggregating consumer shopping data. For instance, Sift Science has found that a shopper who types her last name in all caps is 5.6 times more likely to be a fraudster, and shoppers who don’t sign in with a Facebook log-in are four times more likely to be fraudsters. Early findings from Commerce Sciences include using the word “free” — as in “you have won a free coupon” as opposed to “you have won a coupon” — increases sales by 15%, and social influences from displaying what a user’s friends liked and bought had zero effect during the day but resulted in 49% more sales in the evening. You can read Gannes’ report at All Things Digital.

In related news, it turns out Facebook ads are strongly influencing the platform’s users’ buying habits, even if they’ve never ever clicked on an ad in Facebook. Farhad Manjoo reports at Slate on in-depth studies conducted by Facebook showing that ad clicks don’t matter. He reports:

“‘On average, if you look at people who saw an ad on Facebook and later bought a product, [fewer than] 1 percent had clicked on the ad,’ [Sean Bruich, Facebook's head of measurement platforms and standards,] says. In other words, the click doesn’t matter; people who click on ads aren’t necessarily buying, and people who are buying are almost certainly not clicking.”

More notable, however, might be the way Facebook is managing to gather this data. Manjoo notes that last year, Facebook partnered with consumer data aggregator Datalogix, which tracks the purchasing behavior of more than 100 million U.S. households by tying consumer identities to their purchases through store loyalty cards. Manjoo writes:

“Over the past few months, Facebook and Datalogix figured out a way to match their respective data sets in a manner that maintains people’s privacy … Facebook can now tie its users to the stuff they buy at supermarkets. Armed with this data, Facebook began running a series of analyses into the effects of advertising campaigns on its site. If, say, Procter & Gamble ran a Facebook ad for Tide, Facebook could look at Datalogix’s data to see whether people who were exposed to the ad tended to purchase more Tide in the weeks after the campaign.”

Manjoo looks at the differences between direct-response and demand-generation marketing, and compares Facebook’s ad practices with TV advertising. You can read his report at Slate — it’s this week’s recommended read.

Read more…

Comment

Commerce Weekly: Intuit Pay heats up U.K. mobile payments market

Intuit Pay in the UK, PayPal Here vs Square Register, retail insights from SXSW, and FTC chimes in on mobile payments.

Intuit Pay enters U.K., PayPal Here takes on Square Register

On the heels of PayPal announcing it would bring PayPal Here to the U.K. later this year, Intuit launched its Intuit Pay mobile payments solution in the U.K. market. The platform includes a mobile app and a card reader, much like its competitors iZettle’s, Payleven’s and (soon) PayPal Here’s platforms.

Ingrid Lunden reported at TechCrunch that like its competitors, Intuit Pay will charge a per-transaction fee — in its case, a 2.75% flat rate — but unlike its competition, Intuit will offer its mobile payment card readers for free for a limited time. Lunden noted that Intuit Pay will be able to integrate with Intuit’s QuickBooks accounting software and its other business products, so offering the card reader for free doubles as an incentive for merchants to join Intuit’s business ecosystem.

The card reader at launch is available only for iOS devices, but Lunden reported that “other platforms like Android are on their way soon.”

In related news, PayPal launched PayPal Here for the iPad to compete with Square Register as a small business point-of-sale solution. Leena Rao reported at TechCrunch that the app — PayPal’s first native tablet app — features multiple log-in capability to accommodate multiple employees and multiple “cash registers,” and allows for a variety of payment methods, including swiping a credit card with PayPal Here, manual card number entry, and scanning a card using Card.io. Rao also noted that the app integrates with eBay’s RedLaser technology so merchants can scan barcodes to make a sale or even to add to their inventories, something Square Register isn’t yet capable of doing.

PayPal’s new iPad app only works in the U.S. using the PayPal Here dongle, but Rao reported that PayPal intends to integrate the technology with its international offerings in the future.

Read more…

Comment

Commerce Weekly: Best Buy wants to end showrooming, Google wants to start

Google's stores, Best Buy's online price match, Amazon's retail domination strategies, and Square's Business in a Box.

Google takes on brick-and-mortar; Best Buy takes on ecommerce

GoogleLogoThe Google retail store rumor ignited again this week. Seth Weintraub reported at 9to5Google that “[a]n extremely reliable source has confirmed to us that Google is in the process of building stand-alone retail stores in the U.S.” to be opened in time for the 2013 holiday season. The Wall Street Journal’s Amir Efrati followed with confirmation from “people familiar with the matter,” though one of those people said it wouldn’t happen this year.

Across the board, analysts seem to think it’s a good idea. Alyson Shontell at Business Insider noted that as Google becomes more of a hardware company — with its Android devices, Google Glass, and self-driving cars — analysts say it’s time for Google to work on its brand image, which will require consumer interaction, something the company hasn’t done much of up to this point. Google executives seem to agree — Weintraub reported that retail store plans started to solidify along with plans to offer Google Glass to mainstream consumers. “The leadership thought consumers would need to try Google Glass first hand to make a purchase,” Weintraub wrote. “Without being able to use them first hand, few non-techies would be interested in buying Google’s glasses (which will retail from between $500 to $1,000).”

Read more…

Comment

Commerce Weekly: Analytics for people, the next big thing in retail

Retailers tracking Wi-Fi, Payleven's new funding round, Square's success, and NFC's real role in mobile commerce.

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

New trend in retail customer tracking: Smartphone Wi-Fi

my wifi hotspot is cooler than yours, on FlickrDan Tynan posted a two-part series (here and here) on IT World this week looking at growing trend of retail Wi-Fi tracking — retailers keeping track of you via your smartphone as you shop, much like online retailers keep track of your movements across the Internet. Tynan explains how they’ll do it:

“When you come within range of a properly configured Wi-Fi access point, it can record the wireless MAC address of your phone — a unique 12-digit number. Every time you pass by, that AP can log that number. … Think of it as Google Analytics for people; instead of measuring Web traffic, they’re measuring foot traffic.”

Tynan takes a look at Euclid Analytics’ software, which works with tracking device systems to help stores gather data on customers, from which aisles they spend time in to how many times they’ve visited the store to which locations they frequent. “[T]hey can even track people who walk by the store every day but never go in,” Tynan writes, “or [know] if more people enter after a window display is changed.” He notes that Euclid gathers data anonymously and in aggregate, storing the MAC address “in a one-way hash, so nobody can go backwards and figure out your actual MAC address,” but that the minute a shopper swipes a credit card, all anonymity is lost, at least as far as connecting a particular phone to a particular purchase.

Once an identity is linked to a MAC address, “all kinds of fun things can happen,” Tynan reports — retailers could text you as you walk by their stores in the mall and offer discounts or coupons to lure you inside, connect your in-store data to your online data for even deeper analysis, or even sell your data to someone else. He explores some of the privacy concerns and scenarios in his first piece and talks with Euclid Analytics director of marketing John Fu for some context in his second piece. Fu says their technology is — purposefully — not as Big Brother as it sounds:

“There are some powerful and potentially scary things you could do with this data if you wanted to, but I want to clarify that we are not doing any of those things. We anticipated these scenarios and came up with ways to prevent them from happening.”

In addition to creating a one-way hash for a customer’s MAC address, Euclid requires retailers to contractually agree “to not combine the behavioral data they collect with information they have about an individual’s identity,” and the company also “salts its data with a ‘statistically insignificant’ number of fictional customers” to further prevent customer identification, Tynan reports. He takes an in-depth look at some real world examples of Euclid’s use in retail locations and their efforts to protect consumer privacy, but also notes that “Euclid is only one of a half dozen companies using different techniques to help retailers track shoppers, most of which don’t bother to tell you.” You can read his complete report at IT World — part one, part two.

Read more…

Comment

Commerce Weekly: As Square heats up, so too does its competition

BofA enters Square's arena, V.me exits beta, and plastic likely won't leave the payment space anytime soon.

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

Square aims high, BofA enters mobile payment arena

Square’s partnership with Starbucks launched this month, catapulting the payment startup into a new tier of competition. Gerry Shih at Reuters writes that Square now is looking at processing $10 billion in payments per year and “has attracted a furious response from established or deep-pocketed rivals who are determined to crush the San Francisco-based upstart.” Rivals include PayPal, Groupon and Intuit, among many others.

Shih says Square needs to prove it can compete on this new level, moving beyond food trucks and taxis and into large retailers and big-box chains.

Square’s COO Keith Rabois told Shih that Square eventually plans to process payments for every business in the U.S. and argues that though it won’t happen today, the company is in a good position to make that a reality. Shih reports:

“Because Square acts like an aggregator for its thousands of merchants, Rabois added, Square will be able to negotiate better rates with banks and credit card companies and improve its margins. Square’s daily transaction volume already makes it the equivalent of the 20th largest retailer in the United States, larger than, say, Trader Joe’s or the Gap.”

Square’s competition heated up yet again this week as well, as Bank of America launched Mobile Pay on Demand, which will allow merchants to process payments on iPhones, iPads or Android devices. Tricia Duryee reports at All Things Digital that BofA’s service fees will run 2.7% per transaction (compared to Square’s 2.75%) and that the service will launch at the beginning of December.

In what may be a sign that competition in this space is only going to increase, Trevor Rubel, EVP of strategy and emerging products for Bank of America Merchant Services, told Duryee, “I hate to come out with a commodity product, but every bank should have one.”

Read more…

Comment

Commerce Weekly: Square’s big moves

Square gets a bigger office, embraces Canada and plans to double its staff. Also, PayPal Here, Isis, Apple and Google Wallet news.

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

Square gets international, plans major growth; PayPal Here hits retail

Square made a couple of big move announcements this week. First, the company literally will move to a new office space in the Central Market area of San Francisco by mid-2013, according to a report by Leena Rao at TechCrunch. Rao notes that the company has grown to more than 400 employees and reports Square plans to expand its staff to almost 1,000 people before the end of 2013.

Square also announced this week that its service is now available in Canada, at the same 2.75% rate it charges in the U.S., according to a report by Ingrid Lunden at TechCrunch. Lunden reports one of the obstacles for Square in Canadian as well as European markets is that its dongle depends on the magnetic stripe on the backs of credit cards; many credit card processes in these markets use a chip-and-pin system instead.

The obstacle isn’t insurmountable, however, as Lunden notes, Square’s partnership with Starbucks to incorporate its Pay With Square app service as a mode of payment might pave the way forward with retailers in other markets, making the card processing format irrelevant.

Square competitor PayPal Here was on the move this week as well — into retail shopping. Rao reports in a separate post at TechCrunch that PayPal CEO John Donahoe announced a U.S. retail deal with AT&T during eBay’s earning call this week. PayPal Here previously had a retail presence only in Japan with Softbank. Rao reports that Here will retail for $15, with the purchaser receiving a $15 discount upon signing up; Square is sold in 20,000 outlets in the U.S. and sells for $10, with a $10 purchaser sign-up discount, Rao reports.

Read more…

Comment

Commerce Weekly: Targeting Amazon

Strategic brick-and-mortar retail campaigns to battle Amazon, Square ends NYC taxi pilot, and Isis prepares for launch.

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

Strategic maneuvers aimed at Amazon

Best Buy LogoRetail competition against Amazon is starting to heat up coming into the holiday shopping season. On the heels of Wal-Mart’s recent moves to square off against Amazon, two other big box brick-and-mortar retailers have announced strategies targeting the Internet retail giant.

Ann Zimmerman reports at The Wall Street Journal that Best Buy not only will price match with Amazon this holiday season, but will also offer free delivery for products that are out of stock. Target has its sights set against Amazon as well. In a report on Target’s planned holiday strategy, Natalie Zmuda at AgeAge notes that tactics include “a price-match guarantee against a group of competitors that includes popular online retailers such as Amazon.” Target also is using QR codes in its holiday campaign to combat “showrooming” on the top 20 selling toys.

In somewhat related news, the US Post Office also is making moves into the e-commerce market. Victoria Stilwell reports at Bloomberg that starting in November, the US Post Office will begin testing its same-day delivery program, called Metro Post, in the San Francisco market. The service is aimed at local physical retailers, which could in turn give them a leg up against Internet retailers like Amazon. Stilwell reports that to participate in the Metro Post test, retailers need 10 or more physical locations throughout the US, with one or more within the test market boundaries.

Read more…

Comment

Commerce Weekly: Will NYC taxis get Square?

Square cab fares, Wal-Mart looks to beat Amazon to the same-day punch, and a major player update in the mobile payments war.

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.

Read more…

Comment
Commerce Weekly: Starbucks gives Square’s mobile payment a big push

Commerce Weekly: Starbucks gives Square’s mobile payment a big push

Square and Starbucks unite, same-day delivery from eBay and checking in on the mobile wallet wars.

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

Square gets Starbucks, cash and Howard Schultz

SquareSquare announced a new partnership with Starbucks this week. Peter Ha at TechCrunch reports:

“Beginning this fall, Square will begin processing all U.S. credit and debit card transactions at participating Starbucks stores across their 7,000 locations. Pay with Square users will be able to find a nearby Starbucks in the Square Directory from their iPhone or Android smartphone.”

Ha notes in his post that as part of the partnership, Starbucks also is ponying up $25 million in series D funding for Square and offering up its CEO, Howard Schultz, to serve on Square’s board of directors.

Harry McCracken points out in a post at Time Techland the partnership will put Square in a much better position to compete on the mobile payment front. McCracken writes:

“At the moment, Pay with Square is accepted at around 40,000 locations — mostly neighborhood businesses such as independent coffee shops, restaurants and beauty salons. The agreement with Starbucks will put it in a major nationwide chain for the first time, and therefore puts it in closer competition with Google Wallet, which is already accepted at Home Depot, Office Depot, Starbucks rival Peet’s, Macy’s, RadioShack, 7-Eleven and other major merchants.”

Another important aspect of the agreement is that Starbucks will promote other local Pay with Square merchants “from within a variety of Starbucks digital platforms, including the Starbucks Digital Network and eventually the Starbucks mobile payment application.” As Ha notes in his post, “this catapults Square into the mainstream consciousness for the millions of drones who drop by their local Starbucks on the way to work.”

Read more…

Comment