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
In an effort to further connect with consumers while they are shopping in-store, Aldo has launched an interactive gaming platform. The basic crux of the game is to allow shoppers to engage with the Aldo brand, remain in the store for a longer period of time, and offer a chance to win $500. It also supports Aldo’s current foray into mobile with the recent launch of a mobile commerce platform.
Dubbed ‘Shoe Paradise,” the game and mobile site was developed by Dynamo, a Quebec-based company specializing in digital media. Alex Nemeroff, Interactive Director at Dynamo, added “This in-store game was created to fulfill two goals, to extend the Shoe Paradise microsite concept to mobile customers and introduce an experience tailored to Aldo’s recently-launched mobile commerce site.”
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The game is being promoted through zoloftanxiety.com in-store signage, which includes a call-to-action for customers to visit www.aldosp.com on their mobile browser. Details on the game then follow, with a featured shoe from which users can earn rewards as directed by the app. In order to enter to win customers must play three different levels of the game, each one at a different Aldo location, with prizes including free gear.
This initiative further cements Aldo’s mobile presence and is an example of how technology and smart devices can play an important role in uplifting brick-and-mortar shopping experiences.
Mirroring the introduction long ago of magnetic stripe technology to point-of-sale systems, the payments industry is now experiencing another important evolution; the dawn of mobile smart devices and our hyper-connected world by virtue of the Internet.
Leading theory on the future of POS is predicting it to become the second revolution in mobile technology, an all-encompassing integration with day-to-day merchant needs. From lowering transaction fees to accepting all sorts of payment types, monitoring and bookkeeping, the future role POS systems will play will be under tremendous scrutiny and importance. Future success will largely be dictated by the emerging technologies launching today.
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Key factors that will shape the POS of tomorrow:
– Mobile: the next 12 months will witness the proliferation and rise of mobile as a permanent fixture as payment method. Smartphone usage rates are growing exponentially, and the creation of many focused offshoot technology companies is helping pave the way for future payment platforms.
– Security and progression to EMV: With any rapid technological advancement (especially one that handles sensitive personal payment information) security becomes an important issue. The handling and integrity of payment information will be a hot topic with policymakers and governing bodies. Furthermore it is stated that all American-based merchants will need to adopt EMV-capable POS systems by the year 2015.
– Contactless Payments: NFC is driving this trend…but will it only remain a trend? As mobile smart devices become go-to daily habits for consumers, technology like NFC could take a permanent place.
– New Technology: Innovation begats new technological advancement, but certain companies in the traditional payment industry may find it hard to deviate from the well-beaten path. Payment goliath VeriFone made a huge leap for their business by acquiring global outdoor advertising network Clear Channel Outdoors Inc, and will introduce a promotional platform to integrate with POS and payment systems.
Balance for the future of POS will lie between two paradigms: 1) the desire to enhance current systems for ease of use, or 2) to solve existing problems. The latter idea is more reactive by nature and may not be sufficient in being innovative, but nonetheless it will be interesting to see how the payment industry continues to evolve in the years to come.
U.S. Bank and Plastic Jungle Inc. have partnered to change the game on how balances of closed-loop gift cards can be used and treated as currency. This latest initiative has been launched to allow the ability for gift cardholders to transfer balances into credit card reward points.
Essentially, the initiative allows FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature cardholders to swap Plastic Jungle gift card balances for FlexPoints, a program that is among the most used within U.S. Bank services. FlexPoints can be redeemed towards airline tickets, car rentals, charitable donations home and other consumer products.
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By simply visiting the FlexPerks Visa Promotion Centre online, cardholders can log-in to their account, enter gift card details and have them converted by Plastic Jungle into FlexPoints. The number of points largely depends on the popularity and usability of a given gift card and not a standardized calculation.
Plastic Jungle’s core business is to provide solutions to customers by allowing the transfer or exchange of outdated and unused gift cards into something more suitable and usable. This initiative is a natural progression to integrating Plastic Jungle services with complementary businesses such as Visa.
Recognized major US department store Macy’s has recently launched a new mobile campaign highlighting its latest spring 2012 product collections at rock bottom prices.
The initiative has been launched through Us Magazine’s mobile site, and aims to get attention from Macy’s on-the-go customers and to drive a new direct to consumer discount channel.
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Mobile ads are placed in favorable locations at the top of the Us Magazine’s mobile site landing page, demonstrating a clear call-to-action for consumers to click through to another mobile site showcasing Macy’s “Spring Spectacular” sildenafil pills sale items. Users can also browse the retailers’ entire product inventory and benefit from free shipping.
Not a newcomer to mobile ad campaigns, Macy’s sees this component as crucial to move sales in new directions and continue to develop their mobile component. Having already launched augmented reality platforms to SMS marketing, Macy’s has tapped into the emerging mobile space in a big way.
“How much is that doggy in the window?”
An age-old adage to the somewhat lost art of window merchandising.
Retailers have come full-circle recently from the increasing pressure within the retail space, emergence of e-commerce, and mobile. What was once a staunch tradition has evolved into an engaging entry point to brick-and-mortar stores.
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Iconic UK-based clothiers Ben Sherman launched an innovative window display that allows for interaction with consumers from the outside in. A simple control button is housed in a casing just outside the window where customers can activate a pressurized system that sends clothing through a carousel and can be viewed one by one. The idea is to create the desire for customers to interact with the display due to the novelty, but actually stumble on a piece of clothing they may like and therefore enter the store.
Using a similar tactic, Starbucks launched an integrated window display that uses a touch screen to allow consumers to select a series of gold stars that then transform into information about their My Starbucks Rewards program. It was originally launched in select stores in Toronto and Vancouver to support the Tazo brand push.
The strategic use of technology, as demonstrated, can turn a once two-dimensional process into a complete immersive and interactive experience.
Austrian mobile network operator A1 and Paybox Bank have enlisted McDonalds to launch a new, test NFC mobile payment system from now until mid-2012. Five hundred end-users have been selected to assess this new system dubbed Paybox NFC.
The system aims to deliver mobile payments utilizing NFC contactless technology, but unlike other recent digital wallet and mobile payment solutions all transactions will be handled in “the cloud” over the standard EMV point-of-sale terminals. The goal is to allow users to pay for transactions below the €25 mark without having to enter a PIN number.
A1 currently hosts numerous models of NFC phones including the Sony Xperia S, Blackberry Curve 9360, HTC One X and Blackberry Bold 9900. For those interested in usage outside of mobile devices, contactless stickers will also be tested as an alternative.
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As far as functionality goes, the process is quite similar to most digital wallets and contactless payment systems currently on the market, however Paybox NFC does not use Visa’s PayWave or Mastercard’s Paypass solutions. Paybox and A1 offer the service in tandem, and all transactions are handled directly through a designated bank. Users simply sign-up for a Paybox account then direct it to their bank of choice and then download the Paybox app, which is coupled with their current A1 mobile service. No important payment information is stored on neither the NFC enabled chip on the mobile device or on the supplemental NFC stickers.
“Cash is still the most popular means of payment, especially for amounts of up to €25. Searching for small change or waiting to be given money back is time consuming. With Paybox NFC, we can offer our customers a state-of-the-art alternative,” noted Bernd Hartweger, CEO of Paybox Bank.