2014.10 | mink | #amazoncart | google shopping express

mink makeup printerMink – 3D printing isn’t just for plastic toys.  Mink is a makeup printer that allows any colour to be printed on to makeup substrate so that home users can prepare their own favourite colours.  Instead of being limited to colours that are pre-made and ready in store, shoppers can build whatever they want on demand.

It’s obviously early days for this technology, but retailers generally have better results when they to recognize disruptive technologies like this early and either get on board or find something that accomplishes something similar.    This is the same story as mp3 and eBooks all over again as immediate gratification will make the status quo of purchasing pre coloured makeup less convenient.

It will be interesting to see the real solution itself and how easy it is to use.  A pretty white box looks nice and simple, but for a solution like this to fly it has to be dead simple.  As is the case with regular printers, they will obviously run out of substrate or colour just when it is needed most.  Having automatic fulfillment would avoid such issues. Retailers should be moving towards open and connected systems to enable automatic replenishment for clients.  Connecting a system like Mink to an ecommerce subscription service or standing order for automatic fulfillment online with the printer ordering its own supplies will be key to its success.    Expect an Amazon plug-in sometime in the near future.

amazoncart#amazoncart – As the retailer of every channel but a store (so far), Amazon recently expanded its ever growing list of channels it makes available for consumers to interface with them.  The newest is #amazoncart, whereby if twitter readers see a product that they like, they can reply to a tweet with a product link with the hashtag #amazoncart, and the item will be automatically added to their Amazon shopping cart online.

While not the right strategy for every retailer it is an interesting attempt by Amazon to strengthen their already extensive hold on default online shopping cart online.  If a shopper has an item in a retailer’s online cart, odds are good they will complete a purchase for that item, or at least have to remove it from the cart.  Allowing this functionality also allows Amazon to quietly capture the twitter account of their clients – which can be mined for more information on how often this strategy results in a sale, or to leverage big data solutions to improve other product recommendations.

This is potentially a great tool for Amazon devotees, but for products that aren’t carried by Amazon (yes, those exist, especially outside of America) and if shopper preferences skew to other retailers, there are many other ways of tracking items that don’t require sticking them into a cart.  Not all great items are found on twitter, but for shoppers using twitter, the web, or even an aggregator like Zite or Flipboard, shoppers can easily add items to services like Evernote, Pinterest and even Pocket to track shopping lists.  No need to remove from a cart.

google-expressGoogle Shopping Express – Google recently opened the gates on an Amazon Prime type offering called Google Shopping Express where shoppers can order items online for immediate same day delivery from retailers including Costco, Target, Walgreens, Whole Foods and more in Manhattan, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Jose.    The service is available online or via iPhone and Android apps.

Initial reviews and reviews for the apps indicate that the service works very well and is either free or very very inexpensive.  The service is reminiscent of Kozmo.com, a well known dot.com bubble company established to provide this very same service that expired in 2001.  That service suffered under the high cost of providing this service on low value items, but they obviously did not have the Google machine behind them.

The question that arises is whether Google will provide this service at a loss, charge clients a commensurate amount for the service, or find another way to finance it within other elements of their business.  There are a wide array of options they could investigate moving forward.  What current retailers need to carefully consider and be ready to move on is if Google mines all the data for items shoppers may want delivered in this paradigm and then decides to stock them on their own and fulfill them to shoppers directly.

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2013.09 | Barclay Center App | Reddit

Barclay Center – I find myself more than slightly jealous of visitors to Brooklyn’s Barclay Center.  The Barclay Center App has all of the nonsense we expect from all apps we download, team schedules, and pictures of the venue, but they also have some really incredible features made available from wifi in the stadium including:

  • play_e_slamcam1_gb1_576access to live in game video
  • access to the live TV feed
  • replays with rewind capability
  • up to four different camera angles
  • ordering food from your seat
  • submit messages for scoreboard display

It appears this is primarily used by the Nets, but is able to work at concerts as well.  What better way to allow fans a better view of the game from the worst seats than by leveraging the screens in their hand?  Not only that, but enabling in seat ordering is a real treat.  I’d be interested to see the operational side of the food ordering.  If it got too popular, it might be challenging to fulfill orders for delivery in a timely manner.  I’m sure the team at the Barclay Center would love to tackle that problem!

Reddit – While it doesn’t have the wide audience of Facebook, the ubiquity of Twitter or the slick visual appeal of Pinterest, Reddit represents a tremendous opportunity for retailers in two ways: to gain information and to influence customer experiences.

reddit

While Reddit is not nearly as well known as these other online communities, they still represent a huge swath of humanity with 37 BILLION page views in 2012 alone.    I would encourage retailers to get on Reddit as I have to read through what is being said about their brands and technology and see what can be gleaned from it.  Like any other wide open discussion, you can expect incredible enthusiasm, fantastic negativity, and lots and lots of stories and comments.  Take all of it with a grain of salt, but the information may change your perspective or drive discussion in your organization and is 100% free consumer input.  Visit reddit.com and type in your company name in the search box.  Before you visit, you may want to understand how it works.

I would not recommend retailers or their representatives fake a consumer post outlining the wonders of any item or their brand.  From my many hours on Reddit I have the sense that full on commercialism will get someone downvoted to oblivion, but even worse is the commercial disguised as a post from a Redditor.

Lots of actors complete an AMA (ask-me-anything) post to shill their latest movies, and Reddit welcomes that with the understanding that for a short paragraph asking for consideration of seeing a movie or reading a book (and maybe not even that), Redditors get a once in a lifetime chance to ask a question directly of a famous person.

If a retailer wants to drive their brand in Reddit, they could have someone famous and beloved by the tech/geek/youth community speak on their behalf and not be too forward about it.    A better vehicle for leveraging Reddit is the provided messaging capability between registered users.  If retailers see a negative or positive post or comment and act to remedy the problem as many have via Twitter and Facebook, Reddit represents a vehicle for customer service.  Getting more information from a failed customer experience and resolving it can provide positive feedback from a large audience.  Combining the advice from the recent Customer Service Podcast on CBC’s Under the Influence with solving complaints and problems seen in  Reddit could drive some real customer loyalty and interest as long as the intent is genuine.

2013.01 | 3D Parts, Sail, SilverCar

teenage engineering3D Parts Printing – As 3D printing becomes increasingly mainstream, we can expect to see more companies taking advantage of that to differentiate themselves.  Swedish Synth Company Teenage Engineering allows customers to print their own parts from CAD files on their website.  This is a wonderful use of the technology and while keeping clients happy, allows TE to spend their time on their next product instead of fulfilling low profit, manual, but very important requests for small replacement bits for currently installed product.  I would love to see more of this!

Capture2Sail is Done – Verifone Sail is discontinued already.  Released last year as a dongle for smartphones to be used as part of a service to accept payments aimed at smaller retailers, Verifone are apparently backing away from Verifone Sail as they say the segment is not viable in the long term, though the website is still up at present.  Curious challenge since this segment is the entire business model for Square, though their partnership with Starbucks provides an out for them to other business models.

unnamedSilverCar – SilverCar is a car rental service offering one kind of car – Silver Audi A4s.  That’s it.  Clients use the website or mobile app to book their reservation.  Clients build a profile that includes not only the usual information like dates and times for rental, but addresses that they plan to visit, and even their favourite radio stations.  When clients get to the airport, they enter in their information on their mobile and their car unlocks with all of their information uploaded to the vehicle.  On return, instead of dealing with a mobile wielding attendant, the app automatically charts out all of the costs and passes the receipt electronically.  Looks like they are only operating in Dallas at present, but will be very interesting to see how they make this work.  It could change car rentals everywhere.

2012.31 | Store Maps | Gyft | Cars

Store Maps – Google Maps for Android is now expanding indoors in select sites in France.  From their release it appears that they are providing maps of the inside of stores including Carrefour and Galeries Lafayette Montparnasse.    I love this idea, and hope it catches on in North America.  The greatest challenge with mapping places like the insides of stores is the incredible amount of change.  Like Google Streetview which can get dated with businesses changing on the street, there is a certain amount of upkeep required to ensure that sites will not become stagnant and not useful.   Hopefully the Google army keeps up their good work to keep their incredible mapping network at the forefront.

Gyft for Passbook – The release of Passbook on iOS this week has renewed the hopes of the technophile community that the electronic wallet may finally be making its way into the mainstream.  Online giftcard seller Gyft has announced that their solution is now Passbook enabled, so that giftcards you purchase from Gyft can be used directly from iOS devices.  I love the idea of being able to give and recieve a giftcard electronically to a giftcard wallet on a mobile to ensure it isn’t forgotten or lost.  Since Gyft already does mobile phone redemption, I expect all of their merchants are ready to read codes directly from a smartphone screen.  Great solution and the perfect use of Passbook.  I was pondering how Passbook could move us away from the wallet, but I’ve always wondered how we get remove the requirement for ID cards like Drivers Licenses or Health Cards.  Check out Wired Magazine’s Christina Boddington’s articles on living without a wallet for a month.   Turns out a picture of your drivers license on your mobile won’t get you into a club.

Cars – While these items aren’t directly retail based, consider the potential changes to retailing down the road (pun intended).

First, Tesla allowed Elon Musks’ personal Tesla S electric sedan to be extensively test driven and it sounds like it’s pretty amazing.

Second, as part of their plans to deploy electric cars on a massive scale, Tesla also announced they are deploying free to use Solar Powered rapid car charging stations.  The stations can replenish 3 hours of driving time at 60 mph in 30 minutes.  The stations are as shown in the above image – a tall black and white monolith.  You have to admire their vision!

Third, autonomous vehicles are now legal in California thanks to recently passed legislation announced by Sergey Brin of Google and the Governor of California.  Google has already logged over 300,000 miles in cars that drive themselves, and this the beginning of making that an option for everyone.

Put those three things together and ponder the potential repercussions to various retailers.  Cars may not need gas anymore, fuel may be free or supplied at home.  People may need to fuel by sitting in one location for thirty minutes, and people may be able to pay little or no attention while they are driving (that part doesn’t seem different).   These are some extreme changes to society that could influence the petroleum industry, convenience stores, and all retailers.  Should gas stations become electrical fuel stations? Not likely.  Could parking lots and parking spaces be wired to charge everyone’s cars?  Maybe.  If we aren’t driving in a car, could we be shopping or validating our next destination?  Definitely.

None of these things are certain societal changes, and none of them will happen overnight, but they can certainly influence retail businesses, and owners should be watching for an opportunity to change to meet the needs of a new generation of consumers.

2012.27 | Starbucks and Square

Starbucks has already blazed a trail with their current iPhone and Android mobile payments app.  Yesterday’s NYT article indicating that Starbucks will be moving to Square for payments processing puts them even further along the curve of mobile payments.  This is a watershed change in the way that payments are processed in a national retail chain environment.

The article in the Times indicates that Square will process payments for Starbucks in the US, and the description of the implementation indicates that the Pay with Square (previously known as Card Case) application will be implemented as a future phase of this solution.

For the uninitiated, here is how Pay with Square works today:

To use the solution, customers have to have an iOS or Android mobile device with a Pay with Square App installed and be a registered Square User.  That registration includes the users personal details, including a photo, and a credit card connected to the account.  Customers then register with certain vendors where they wish to be recognized.  (Like having a tab at your local establishment)

When the customer goes into a store that uses Pay with Square, their proximity to the store causes the mobile app of the user to register that customer with the point of sale device in use at the store.   A customer would place their order, and at the point of tendering, the cashier can see a list of customers registered in the store based on their proximity.  The customer identifies themselves by name, and that person is selected by the cashier based on validation of their image on the screen of the point of sale register.  The payment is placed on the users card and a notification of purchase is sent to the customers mobile app.

The customer has paid by name and not pulled a wallet or a phone out of their pocket.  They simply walked into the store, asked for a Latte and said, put it on my tab, my name is Pete.  No cash, no card, no mobile, no PIN, no signature, no paper.

Starbucks may use the Pay with Square mobile apps and operate in the same way indicated above, or they may link this functionality to the Starbucks app.

Either way, consider the impacts of this partnership:

  • Square will obtain access to millions of payments every day.  Starbucks already processed 42 million payments over 15 months with their mobile app.
  • This no scan solution is a perfect fit for Starbucks clientele, product mix, and transaction types.
  • The no scan solution is a logical extension of the current mobile app and users accustomed to scanning their phones will easily transition to this payment method.
  • Non-technical users no longer have to be concerned about anything beyond registration.  They can get help with that and proceed with confidence where they may not have paid with mobiles.
  • No cards, no phone scanning, no pins, no signatures could speed transaction times.
  • eReceipts may finally mean the end of treat receipts and postcards in the mail for the free  beverage after every 15 purchases.
  • Millions of users could transfer to this mode of business, driving demand from consumers to simplify payments at other similar establishments.

Of course, the implementation of this solution opens up some other questions:

  • Pay with Square’s Retailer Solution is currently an iPad based app solution.  Will there be an API ported to the current POS HW/SW solution?  Moving to an all iPad solution seems unlikely given the sophistication, customization and inter connectivity to other systems of a POS solution in place at a Starbucks.  Moving from a POS for order taking to another device for payments would be sub-optimal. Current MSRs could potentially be used.
  • Will Square look to integrate with pinpads in future?   For EMV payments, hardware isolated pinpads are required.  Current design uses only an MSR.
  • What if someone doesn’t put a valid photo on Pay with Square?  Will the barista have to turn them down?
  • What if there are too many people in the store with the app.  Does the app have a sort function by name?  If the list is too long, it may make life difficult.
  • How will this interface with Apple Passbook expected in iOS 6?
  • What sort of fraud can we expect?  For a coffee purchase it doesn’t seem worth it or likely.  If you were selling HDTVs, this would be more concerning.

No matter what happens, this mode of payment acceptance is moving beyond experiment now, and we’ll soon see if it is fully accepted by the public.  Expect others to watch this closely.  This is a significant departure from the current paradigm.

2012.22 | Tablets

While the iPad is certainly the standard for tablets, two new releases over the past couple of weeks may lift the bar for the essentially non-existent competition for everyone but the nerdiest of users.

Microsoft Surface – Leveraging the upcoming release of Windows 8 with its interface that works with desktop and tablets, Microsoft made a relatively big splash with its “Jobs-like” reveal of the soon to be released Microsoft tablet.  While some will deride Microsoft Surface as the Zune of tablets, there is some potential behind Surface. While much of the Surface tablet is speculative at present (price, release, user experience) Microsoft does have some things going for it.

Magnetic Cover with Keyboard –  iPads are not optimal for data entry and entry intensive uses.  While there are a number of bluetooth keyboard options, most of them mar the sleek look and profile of the iPad. If the keyboard included with the Surface tablet works well, it overcomes a missing element on the iPad without sacrificing the look and simplicity of the unit.

Windows 8 –  While iOS receives well deserved attention for its simplicity and ease of use, the OS has not changed a great deal in years.  Those who haven’t seen the look and feel of Windows 8 or seen a recent Windows Phone OS will be impressed.  In my opinion, the dynamic, configurable tile based interface leapfrogs the iOS interface in both ease of use and looks.  Another small item that might be useful in a tablet from a retail perspective is NFC capability.  Windows Phone 8 has NFC enabled and that may provide a way for retailers to get past dongle after dongle issue for payments in Windows 8 if that functionality can be ported to Surface.  It would certainly help here in Canada where EMV readers for tablets are hard to find thus far.

Display Size – It isn’t a massive difference, but the Surface unit has a 10.6 screen with a 16:9 ratio.  It’s slightly bigger than the iPad which is helpful for using the iPad as a shared screen.  Most video is wide format now, so it could display more full screen for demos in a retail environment.

Productivity Applications – While Apple came at tablets from the mobile side, Microsoft comes it from a desktop perspective.  Microsoft Office apps are much more feature laden and better for most business than Pages, Numbers and Keynote.  Much as Apple has some incredible templates and wonderful toys (using iPhone as remote for Keynote), they lack the depth of features that Office has.  If Microsoft ports Office to Surface with full functionality, they will be much more useful in a business environment and have a broader following in business.  Whether this is useful in a retail environment will depend on the application.

Surface may not have the cache of iPad.   Surface may not be the tablet the customers at Starbucks are using, but it may well represent the evolution of the computer at work. From a retail perspective it provides another potential low cost option with a slightly larger beautiful screen. The ability to add data entry without sacrificing usability and portability for client based solutions will help with some applications as well.  Add the ubiquity of Windows as a platform in retail in North America, and Surface could find a foothold in retail applications.  There are lots of details to shake out, but don’t discount it without investigation.

Google Nexus – Google also announced a new tablet recently.  One of many interesting releases from Google this week, the new tablet is made by Asus.  Much different from the iPad and Surface, the new Nexus tablet is a much smaller and low cost unit.

Priced at $199, the unit seems a more fitting competitor to the Kindle Fire.  Like the Fire, it is more of a paper back sized device purpose built to consume media – read books and magazines, watch video, play simple games and browse the Internet.  Like the Kindle Fire, the Nexus is closely tied to a content ecosystem in Google Play.  Nexus leverages the latest version of Android for Tablets  – Jelly Bean.

While not as feature laden as the iPad and Surface, tablets like this will continue to drive expectations of low cost devices that can be harnessed for many uses.  This relatively sophisticated technology is being driven closer and closer to a $0 item used as a loss leader to drive consumption of media, lowering the desire for consumers to pay without clear benefits.

The impact of this device on retailers is more on increased competition for the likes of Amazon, Kobo, and Kindle for electronic media.  It would be surprising to see these devices used in a retail environment as a selling or transactional tool, but that could all change tomorrow.

2012.17 | New Canadian Ikea & Lowe’s Apps

Check out the new apps available for Canadian consumers to use at local retailers.

Ikea Canada recently released a new shopping app for iOS to complement their current catalog app.  The app has the quirky and fun look and feel that Ikea always uses to great effect on the mobile app.

The start screen shows a number of offers.  Touch them for more details, and then be directed to applicable product.

There is also a great product lookup sorted by area that is simple to navigate and very responsive.  Products can be added to a shopping list that keeps individual prices and a cumulative total to plan your shopping trip.

My favourite aspect of the app is that when you touch an item you can see the availability of the item by location by selecting the store and even better, it tells you exactly where the item is located in store by aisle and location.

Given the size of the average Canadian Ikea store, this is a wonderful service to save time and walking!  The app wisely reminds you of the time that you checked the inventory and has a refresh button right on the page.  What a thoughtful idea.

The app provides all details on all sites, including a direct link to maps to allow users to enter their home address and get driving directions.  The app also has some direct links to useful and important information such as catalogs and product recalls.  All of the images and text are laid out in a manner very easy on the eyes in what one assumes to be a bid to make it easy to use while navigating the friendly Ikea maze.

While there is nothing here that is earth shattering, this is a well thought out and simple to use app that is appears easy to use in store.

Lowe’s Canada put out something a bit more creative last week.  In partnership with LG and Red Piston, Lowe’s Canada released an iOS and Apple App to provide an augmented reality experience with a recently released advertisement.

Users who download the Lowes Virtual Experience app to their iOS or Android device can see and interact with a a 3 dimensional virtual refrigerator, washing machine, or dryer in real time on the display of their screen as an overlay of the camera view in their current environment.

Users place the ad (you can download a copy of the ad here) on a counter top with good lighting – preferably at waist height.  With the app open, the greater part of the window displays the view from the camera.  When the User points the camera at the flyer on the counter a 3 dimensional rendering of the product associated with the ad will be shown above the ad on the screen as an overlay to the camera view.

Users can tap on small blue icons to open the doors of  the appliances.  The doors are animated to open as though the unit is really sitting on the counter in your environment.   Small green icons provide useful commentary on the benefits of the product.   If users walk around the ad, or rotate it without blocking the image on the ad, all sides of the product can examined in excellent detail.

While the app only has a couple of products to examine for the present, it’s a very clever use of augmented reality.  The app provides a big wow factor for those to whom I have shown it, and almost all feedback has been positive, saying what an interesting, novel and useful solution it is.

For those of you in Canada, be sure to download the app and the ad and give it a try. Let me know your thoughts on it!

 

2012.11 Mobile Pizza | Produce Scanning | Pay with Square

Mobile Pizza – Love this new bluetooth fridge magnet to order Pizza from Red Tomato in UAE.  On receipt, customers sync the bluetooth magnet to their mobile phone once, and then whenever they want pizza, they press the button on the fridge and their favourite order is automatically placed for delivery to their home.  The customer gets a confirmation text and a pizza for dinner.  Hope the battery on that thing lasts for a while.  Great and novel idea.

Produce Image Scan – Toshiba TEC recently showed off a new scanning solution that enables scanning of produce with images in order to speed checkout.  The imagers can apparently recognize the produce held in front of them instead of the more traditional methods of requiring a barcode, PLU code or the use of a pick list on paper or electronically.

Interestingly while this is touted as a new solution, I have seen versions of this technology for some years now – most often by scale manufacturers.  Imaging is certainly much better than it was even a few years ago, so this technology must have improved since I looked at it last, but I still see some holes.

– Can it tell the difference between organic and traditional produce?  Not sure how that could possibly happen based on colour and texture.  Last I checked, there is a serious price delta between those two items – both in cost and price.   This sort of shortcoming is a real problem for North American supermarkets, as this is a potential revenue and margin loss at checkout in a very small margin business.

– Can it still tell the colour and texture through plastic packaging?  In most North American supermarkets, produce is not purchased without some sort of packaging – particularly if more than 1 item is purchased.  Might work, but I would want to see that.

– The spokesman says it will come with a database, but what does this do to store infrastructure?  Does it have to reside on every POS?  Is it large as it has images to compare on it?  How does it get updated after implementation.  Nobody has a complete database of produce, and if they did, it is bound to be large.  No store actually would have all produce meaning the full database would be larger than necessary.  To include only what is on hand in a store would require database management.  Even if the database was comprehensive, new products are always coming on the scene.  As items like the newly released Sumo come on the market, they will have to be carefully added to the database.  How does that happen?  One can’t just type in Sumo – 49 cents per pound with a PLU.  It would need to be a carefully orchestrated update.

– I hate to pick on their ergonomics, as this is obviously a demonstration, but those poor cashiers would eventually hurt themselves bending to pick up produce from a basket to scan and place in another basket.  It makes more sense to slide, or at least have a table at the right height to lift from.  There is also no scale, so pricing would only be per unit and not by the pound.  If this were to be implemented it would need to be part of a scanner -scale solution.

I think it’s a great idea and I would love to see it work, but there are a lot of kinks to be worked out before this thing hits the public – in North America in any case.

Pay with Square – Square recently rebranded their Card Case solution as Pay with Square.  The payment system allows for payment without removing a wallet or phone from the users pocket.  It’s based on geolocation.  Users are identified by the pictures on the point of sale device.  Beyond the rebranding, the app has been redesigned with a more functional interface, and to allow full functionality on both the Android and iPhone versions.  Still waiting for Canada, but expect EMV makes that unlikely.

2011.35 | MasterCard Mobile Paypass: Not Mobile Payment

BMO Mastercard announced yesterday that they are offering the BMO Mastercard Mobile Paypass –  a mobile payment solution using NFC and specifically the Mastercard Paypass solution.

I find it perplexing, though not particularly surprising that Mobile Paypass  is receiving a relatively loud fanfare in the press here in Canada – 27 articles as of the writing of this post on Sep 13.  The headline “First Big Bank to Launch Mobile Payment” is somewhat misleading.   The solution that BMO are offering is not remotely new, and it is not what I would consider a true mobile payment solution.

This solution is a sticker with an NFC tag that can be used to pay at NFC payment terminals at the POS in the same way that MasterCard Paypass Cards are currently used.  Customers tap the Paypass Tag on the back of the mobile device on the payment terminal and the card details are passed to the terminal for payment.

The MasterCard Mobile Paypass can adhere to the back of a mobile device, but it can be just as easily stuck to your iPod, your leather wallet or your keychain if you so wish.  Effectively one can also do the same thing today with a BMO MasterCard plastic card.  It fits in the cover on the back of an iPhone, and nothing stops anyone from doing that and leveraging a ‘mobile payment solution’.

If MasterCard Mobile Paypass is considered a mobile payment solution, Esso Canada SpeedPass and Shell Canada’s EasyPay should be as well.  These solutions are wireless key fobs connected to an account with a credit card number that effectively do the same thing, and have been on the market and available for consumers for many years. While not ‘offered’ by a big bank and only usable at a specific retailer, they have certainly been in the mainstream for many years.

All of the hype around mobile payments should be around a true mobile wallet versus using a sticker or a key chain to make credit card payments instead of a physical credit card.  While these are wonderful stepping stones that I use and will continue to use, the exciting part is getting to that true mobile wallet.

The following are my criteria for a true mobile payment solution:

1. Integrated Communication to Payment Terminal – The NFC or whatever communication technology that communicates with the mobile payment device is physically ‘built in’ to the mobile device.   As far as I am concerned, a true mobile wallet is not physically separate from the mobile device.  That module could be part of a SIM card perhaps, but it should be integrated to the phone electronically in some way.  NFC is preferred, as it does not require cellular or wi-fi data accessibility for payments to be processed.

2. Mobile Wallet Application Software on the Mobile Device – A mobile wallet requires a mobile application that can leverage the NFC or other communication technology as though it were a peripheral.  It should be possible to see multiple cards from various banks and card issuers and their details at the very least.  A more sophisticated version should also include loyalty cards, gift cards, transaction details, coupons and offers, tickets and even receipts for all purchases made with the card.  While the solution could be browser based, it should have an offline function at the very least for times of no data connectivity.

3. Ability to pay with Multiple Cards – The wallet should support multiple payment cards that can be chosen on the screen with the same NFC interface to the payment terminal.  Could be any credit card (Visa, Mastercard, Amex, etc) or any debit cards from any bank. Should also be able to work with retailer offered gift cards.

4. Card Additions, Removals and Changes – The wallet should have the capability to have cards added or removed in the wallet by the user or bank or card issuer.  The cards would use the same NFC interface on the mobile device to connect to the payment device.  The wallet should have a the capability to be ‘deactivated’ remotely by the user or card issuer.

5. User to User Funds Transfers – Ideally, it would be possible to pass funds from one user to another by tapping the phones together, based on the account of choice by the user.  This could be a release 2.0 feature.

This sort of solution is very different from attaching a tag to a mobile device and calling it mobile payment.  The keys to getting a solution of this kind in place have been covered many times in this blog, but the fundamentals in Canada are a widely available and popular NFC enabled mobile device, and an application backed by a company large enough and trustworthy enough that consumers will be comfortable enough to put their credit card numbers in their hands.  Both are challenges.  I won’t even mention encryption, security, EMV, or PCI.  That it must work within those parameters is a given.

Google Wallet is closer to this reality than anyone else, though there are always rumours of Apple, RIM and Paypal as well.  When the mobile wallet I describe above is offered, we will have arrived.  Until that point, beware the inflammatory mobile payment headline.

Update 9/15/11 – I understand from another article that e-mail receipts are also available with this option.  That is a slight change, but considering it is mainly for purchases under $50, the value of receipts for double-double at Tim’s.  Still, it is a step forward to e-receipts and less paper that I am definitely in line with.

Another consideration is that if a purchase does happen to be over $50, I’m not sure what the process will be.  With my current BMO Paypass card, there is a chip on it, so I insert the card into the pinpad and enter my PIN for more than $50.  I don’t think there can be a chip on this card, so we might be back to signatures.  I expect that they will have to put a signature space on the card so clerks can check it.  Now one has to pass the clerk the mobile device so that they can check the signature (don’t like that), and get a paper receipt which negates the benefit.  I don’t think retailers will love gathering receipt slips again now that EMV is in place.  It’s a good stepping stone, and I’ll be very interested to see how it works out!  I’ll get one if I can.

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