Out with the old and in with the new. Google has released version 2.0 of their Google Wallet service which allows a prepaid credit card of your choice to be stored in a completely secure environment. The prepaid card simply funds the purchase when a mobile payment is made. This system is an improvement over previous version 1.0 which needed card issuers to become involved in provisioning the payment cards to Google Wallet.
In terms of security Google has gone down a different path regarding their technical approach: the cards are now stored on Google’s impeccably secure servers instead of on the secure storage area provided in all smart phone devices. A virtual card number is still stored there to help facilitate the purchase. Google then charges your selected card immediately thereafter. This new version actually speeds up the integration process for banks, enabling them to add their cards to the Wallet in literally weeks. This new methodology may pave the way for a better solution to support all credit and debit cards.
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Google has also made it much easier to disable your mobile wallet in cases of theft or loss of the phone. With a simple visit to the “Devices” section in your online wallet you can find the phone that you want disabled and Google Wallet will then not authorize any transactions until you effectively change the settings.
LevelUp, the Boston based mobile payment service provider and sister company to SCVNGR, has announced that they have raised an additional $9 million to up their total funding to a whopping $21 million. The latest investment comes from T-Venture, who is the venture capital branch of Deutsche Telecom.
LevelUp users can pay and gain loyalty points through their mobile device at over 3,000 merchants across the United States. They boast relationships with some major players such as Quizno’s, Ben & Jerry’s, Johnny Rockets and many more to come. There are plans to provide their services in 50 major market cities in the U.S. and will also announce partnerships with even larger nationwide chains in the next few months. Currently, there are over 200k users that are generating in excess of $2 million a month in sales by utilizing LevelUp’s services.
As of now, LevelUp relies exclusively on QR codes as its payment solution but that is eventually going to change. NFC capabilities are not that far from the mix as they pledge to add additional value by getting LevelUp into the hands of the masses any way it can.
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In order to do this efficiently LevelUp has lowered their interchange rates to zero, and with their competitors still charging as high as 3%, the playing field is opening up in their favor. They will however be charging the merchant 35 percent each time a consumer redeems loyalty rewards. This may end up costing the merchant more but by offering them a one-stop solution for customer acquisition, retention and analytics, they are hoping that will more than make up the difference. They are certainly set up to penetrate the market in a way that will warrant a closer second look by all their major competitors.
The first important bit of news is that Apple’s foray into the mobile payments world will begin this fall with the release of their Passbook software. We mentioned two weeks ago that Passbook would be delayed, however it was recently announced that it would appear in their next iOS as an application.
The second bit of news concerns AuthenTec’s technology, which facilitates software for fingerprint/identity purposes. Apple has made an offer for $356 million dollars to purchase the sensor chip licenses from AuthenTec, which will presumably be used for fingerprint validation for mobile payments in the upcoming Passbook app.
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This is an obvious shot across the bow to Samsung and Google, who could very possibly counter-offer the bid made by Apple for ownership of Authentec. Any firm with reliable technology related to mobile payments will be courting big players like Apple and such in near future.
The NFC (near field communication) software and POS systems company ViVOtech is reported to be shutting down its operations, despite securing nearly $100 million in funding over the past ten years. However CEO Mick Mullagh says otherwise:
“ViVOtech’s business fundamentals are strong and orders and contracts are building in both its reader and software businesses. Over the last six months the company has been executing a strategy to divest its reader business to a qualified buyer. This sale has moved slower than anticipated. ViVOtech has not ceased operations but is in the process of restructuring operations and has reduced its team to a smaller group with the goals of maintaining customer relationship and core contract work, and to address our supplier relationships and commitments, as the company completes plans to divest the reader business and focus on the Software Business. ViVOtech is in dialog with its customers and suppliers on the current situation but will be making no other public statements”.
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ViVOtech develop POS systems and NFC products such as smart posters, contactless readers, writers, and various other software programs. They have also partnered with some of the biggest players in the industry like Google (Google Wallet) and Isis in an NFC joint venture between the largest US mobile companies Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile.
This apparent closure comes as an unexpected turn of events, considering the staggering numbers (one million terminals shipped, 80% of the market share for NFC products in the US and double digit millions in sales) and the heavy weight brands that are using their array of products (McDonald’s, Whole Foods and Home Depot).
The questions raised on how this could have happened are abundant. The current consensus is that ViVOtech perhaps hit the market at a stage before NSF technology exceeded market expectations or that their partners VeriFone dropped the relationship in favor of pushing their own reader. Either way, one thing is for sure; the industry players are baffled by this unexpected news.
Context taken from: http://techcrunch.com/2012/07/27/report-google-nfc-partner-vivotech-shutting-down-operations/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Techcrunch+%28TechCrunch%29
Strangeloop, an interesting value-add website optimizer for high volume e-merchants, reduces web page load times in order to drive more turnover and consequently increase transactions.
Located on the landing page of Strangeloop.com, visitors can toggle a slider and position it at a specific level of monthly sales revenue. As a result, the application highlights how the optimizer can directly correlate to added revenue simply by increasing page load times.
The results are staggering.
Large multinational corporations such as Visa, Sodexo, Petco and Auto Anything have already turned to Strangeloop’s intuitive site optimizer for both Web and mobile sites. Using an “advanced set of acceleration treatments,” Strangeloop streamlines and simplifies web pages in real-time by customizing them to the unique parameters of each browsing platform.
Not an out-of-the-box standardized liquid ciali software platform by any means, Strangeloop prides itself on customization and boasts that the technology is more than a one-size-fits-all approach. Considered a tailored experience mechanism, the optimizer allows for monitoring and modification of page loads based on web traffic of a specific moment, ever changing to the usage trends and needs of a given website at specific times. The site optimizer also builds in a clever tracking mechanism to predict a given users’ viewing patterns to pre-load pages and create an illusion of faster load times.
Offered as both an appliance to a company’s own datacenter or as a cloud-based service, Strangeloop can work with any IT infrastructure currently in place and lead to increased conversion rates, higher revenues, improved search engine results and most importantly, happier customers!
In a bold move to continue supporting a 360-degree ad campaign, Clinique UK is deploying improved reality platforms to enhance current print ads and help drive sales. They invited users to interact through print and out-of-home ads via smart devices during the month of March.
Teaming up with the enhanced reality Blippar application, which can be easily downloaded for iOS and Android platforms for free, the print ads come to life by creating an interactive version of the ad viewed directly on a user’s mobile device screen. By interacting with the advertisements users can view more detailed info on the showcased product and even make a purchase if so inclined.
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Jessica Butcher, founding partner and marketing director for Blippar, notes that print is a stagnant medium that needs to continue to evolve, “Print is, by its nature, old news as soon as it comes off a printing press, and this technology enables it to be used as a trigger for real-time information updates, a digital bridge to mobile Web pages, content downloads or interactive touch screen experiences. Augmented reality is simply one of the forms of content delivery that can be facilitated by this technology.”
This augmented reality platform goes even further by allowing users to connect with a store locator through GPS, view products and brand related videos, connect to Clinique’s mobile site and share comments and view threads via Facebook to see what other people are saying about the product.
This level of interaction brings new meaning and value to print advertising, and when tied into a relevant mobile campaign, a brand can reach higher levels of engagement and drive sales.
Foresee Results, an independent customer experience analytics firm, produces a 100-point study annually, measuring consumer experience across many types of retail platforms. Apple came in on top of their 2011 mobile shopping experience study with an 85 point score, followed closely by Amazon at 84 points. These high scores can be attributed to both company’s success at keeping their mobile sites as similar as possible to the standard website, both in terms of navigation, content and ergonomics.
Larry Freed, current president and CEO at Foresee Results, recognizes first-hand the rising trend in mobile commerce but also notes the challenges ahead. “There is a lot of room for improvement and there are a lot of complexities and variables with mobile commerce, from various operating systems to device and screen size,” he said. “It’s not as simple as the early days of the Web when everyone was building for Internet Explorer. Now you’ve got multiple OS’s, phones and tablets, and various screen sizes, all which affect the user experience. You need to apply the same concepts on mobile as you do on the Web, but it’s a very different platform.”
Navigation and functionality are at the heart of why some mobile shopping experiences fall short. It is the combination of driving device capable content, ease of use and high levels of security to turn mobile “spectators” into actual customers. Further, measuring usage habits and customer satisfaction closely will separate companies that truly want to maximize on this payment trend and those that may not realize the potential for mobile to become integrated into daily shopping habits of customers. According to Foresee Results, customers that are satisfied with their mobile shopping experience are 54% more likely to return to that very same mobile site and shop again.
Since customer perception and expectations for mobile experiences are largely based on traditional website navigation, functionality and content, companies need to recognize this link and increase efforts to tie-in both traditional and mobile site design.
Mobile commerce is certainly on the rise and 2012 should be a banner year for e-commerce company eBay. According to CEO John Donahoe during a speech in Las Vegas at the CES Conference in early January, the company is forecasting $8 billion in total mobile commerce, with $7 billion attributed to mobile payments. Donahoe also noted PayPal’s above expected 2011 mobile payment results of $4 billion, all pointing to the rising importance of mobile payments for the company as a whole.
According to PayPal’s (a subsidiary of eBay) Senior Director of Global Communications and Experiential Marketing Amanda Pires, their mobile payment numbers can be attributed to an achieved level of trust for both the PayPal and eBay brands. “Consumers are increasingly choosing eBay mobile and PayPal mobile because we provide a great shopping experience and a fast, highly secure way to pay,” she said. ”With millions of customers globally, the brands are already trusted online so it makes sense consumers would choose eBay and PayPal on their mobile phones.”
With more than 17 million users currently using PayPal mobile payment services, up from 8 million posted in June 2011, the company is well positioned to capitalize on the mobile payment trend. This coupled with an increasing line-up of top retailers, including Starbucks and Fandango, has enabled the company to further develop its POS scan applications for smart devices along with other mobile payment options, including a pilot project launched in Sweden using NFC technology. There are lots more to come from both eBay and PayPal, stay tuned.
Taco Bell and Sony have released a mobile sweepstakes tied-in to the much anticipated product launch of Sony’s PlayStation Vita game console. This collaboration seeks to further engage Taco Bell consumers while highlighting both the PlayStation Vita release as well as key Taco Bell products from it’s “Unlock the box” campaign. Taco Bell’s lead digital brand experience manager, Ronalee Zarate-Bayani, had this to say about the collaboration: “Gaming is incredibly popular among our customers, so together with Sony, we are bringing a game-changing technology to fans before it launches and allowing these fans to have fun while winning.”
The contest platform is two-fold, on one level users can enter to win via participation in a mobile specific game, or simply text in special product codes found on Taco Bell’s “$5 buck box”. Supporting both the iPhone and Android OS, the mobile game will allow Sony’s core gaming demographic to connect with PlayStation Vita news, updates and pre-release information.
Collaboration between the two companies on a mobile marketing initiative points to the growing importance and recognition of how consumers are incorporating mobile into their daily lives. Ms. Zarate-Bayani has made this notion a focal point when developing digital campaigns and notes “Mobile is a priority for Taco Bell as we know that it is an important aspect to our consumers’ daily lives, especially when making decisions about where to eat. Our overall digital strategy involves engaging with our consumers in relevant ways, and leveraging new and exciting technology through mobile provides these experiences to our fans on a daily basis.”
By Evo Canada Merchant Services
Last-minute travel is a regular part of business for most airlines, and Southwest Airlines aims to capitalize on this sales market through the use of mobile technology.
Southwest has begun utilizing mobile as a platform for launching this new business initiative via an integrated platform that uses mobile ads connected to mobile sites. With ads running inside the IMDb iPhone app, users are encouraged to click through to the mobile site in order to inquire on flight status, trip booking, and inform themselves on the airline itself.
Says Chris Mainz, spokesman for Southwest Airlines, Dallas, TX:
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“As an airline, we know our customers are constantly on the go, and the feedback we have received in focus groups lets us know how best to communicate with our customers – it is important for us to give access to our customers to book tickets on Southwest in a manner that suits them, and mobile is an important part of that strategy.”
Operating over 3000 flights daily to 73 cities and 38 states across the U.S., Southwest is an airline in high regular use largely due to its value-oriented proposition of low-cost airfare. It is therefore not surprising to see the company move to the mobile space to increase last-minute trip purchases.
Their mobile system is quite simple in construct: an ad indicates, “Low fares at Southwest.com” with a clickable button connecting users to the mobile site. Once there, users can toggle through four main areas: 1) Booking 2) Check-in 3) Change Flight and 4) Cancel Flight, all of which are protected through an account system that users access with a login and password.