Friday, 22 June 2012

The long tail of Mobile Commerce

I watched Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference last week in anticipation of the unveiling of the new iPhone with NFC. I was sorely disappointed but in no way surprised when said device failed to appear, but watched on to see what iOS 6 had to offer later this year. iOS if you didn’t know already, is the underlying operating system which all iPhone’s and iPad’s run, so any new features are eagerly dissected by the blogging community ready to second-guess Apple’s strategy.

Out of the 200+ new features coming in iOS 6 one stood out to me, that being Passbook their new Mobile wallet. The App digitally stores loyalty cards, gift cards, boarding passes, movie tickets and coupons directly on the phone. With the details saved within Passbook users can present their phone at the till to take advantage of special offers.

For example Starbucks loyalty card holders can be prompted with an offer whenever they walk near a store, once inside they can use their stored card to pay for a coffee via a QR code. The Starbucks loyalty scheme has long existed before, so Apple isn’t necessarily providing an end-to-end solution for merchants with new point-of-sales equipment or NFC readers. Instead they’re providing an elegant solution to aggregate all these cards under a unified banner for the user while using what infrastructure the merchant has already at the point-of-sale.

Loyalty Apps and e-wallet solutions have existed for a while but they’ve always felt like isolated silos with the user needing to use individual Apps for specific merchants and stores. Apple’s solution pulls these together into a central App with tight ties to the operating system of the phone.    

Standing back for a moment it’s clear that this could be an early toe-dip into the world of payments perhaps in time utilising their 400 million iTunes accounts with cards on file. We still have no idea if the next iPhone will come with integrated NFC so until then Passbook is likely to stay as it is, feeding back our habits to Apple.

And it’s with these habits that Apple will unlock the true value for Passbook on its iOS ecosystem. This will undoubtedly flow on through to the Mobile advertisers, campaign managers, high-street retailers, and of course the end-user. By leveraging functionality such as location Apple can help advertisers target campaigns to individual users and purchases.

After all commerce is not just about payments. Instead there is a long tail of actions and decisions starting from the initial offering or advertisement leading to the purchase, and not forgetting aftercare. By inserting Passbook in the center of this, Apple can help businesses reward loyal customers while inching consumers to the inevitable holy-grail of Mobile payments.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Opening the lid on the payments industry!

The payments and especially the financial industry can seem a mind field to navigate at times, especially if you are a business new to the industry. We often find businesses who are looking to start taking payment online or just want to re-asses the tools they use to manage their money, say there is so much information out there but it can be daunting to know where to go and who to trust.

With so many much needed changes on the horizon arising from the banking reforms, it seems that banks, who businesses have traditionally relied on for their business bank accounts and indeed merchant accounts may not always be the safest or most value for money option out there.

So with that in mind, I am going to be writing a series of blogs on how to navigate the payments industry, with practical advice on where businesses can find useful information, what solutions are out there, and most importantly how to gain value for money services to improve cash flow.

Watch the space for next week’s blog post!