2014.18 | iOS8 for retail

CaptureiOS 8 will be released this week.  Among many changes to the operating system for apple mobile devices, there are a number of changes that are worthy of consideration to retailers.

Apple Pay – The moment Apple Pay was released, a flood of POS providers showed their support and ability to enable Apple Pay on their platform (my own employer among them).  Apple are releasing the program in the US with support from a number of well known tier one retailers.  While there is no way of knowing whether showing an apple logo on the retailer’s door will get people to finally jump to a mobile wallet, it’s a good strategy to keep options open in the event it becomes a commonly requested payment method.

apple-pay-retailers-iphone-6-announcementRetailers in Canada that implemented new pinpads for EMV  over the past few years enabled NFC on those pinpads as a matter of course.  With that NFC capability, they should be well placed to enable Apple Pay when it becomes available in Canada.  US based retailers that do not currently have NFC capability and are working through EMV certification would do well to include NFC and Apple Pay integration as part of that process.    The incremental cost of enabling Apple Pay as part of an overall EMV effort is likely to be minimal.  While it would be optimal to deploy quickly to take advantage of consumer interest, EMV takes time and if the devices onsite do not have NFC capability, a deployment of new devices will be necessary.

It will be important for retailers to track where and how Apple Pay gains traction.  The area of focus may vary – hospitality and small transactions could be the sweet spot, but perhaps it will be popular with shoppers at luxury retailers.  Retailers should watch closely and ensure that their shopper’s preferences are fulfilled.

Photo 2014-09-15, 9 09 00 AMScan Credit Card for eCommerce – While much was made of the ability of scanning scan credit cards to add them to Passbook, the ability to scan credit cards into Safari for eComm purchases is also a nice addition.  As someone who makes eComm purchases on my mobile devices for items such as movie tickets, making a purchase is an effort.  Shoppers must TYPE their full name, credit card number, expiration date and card security code.  I have those memorized, and it’s still clunky to do on a mobile.  For some retailers one also must type in a verified by visa password.   If that whole process can be replaced by a scan from my phone, or an autofill from my safari keychain, it saves a whole lot of typing and removes obstacles from mobile purchases.  Retailers who enable this function are likely to drive more sales through their mobile channel with the removal of obstacles.

Capture2Location Based App Shortcuts – On earlier versions of iOS, Passbook provided a lock screen notification for Starbucks if you were in a store.  Passbook also provided a lock screen notification for a plane or movie ticket if the time for the ticket was approaching.  While this was a convenient workaround an unnecessary pin code entry, it also required some setting changes.  For Starbucks, users had to identify “favourite” sites that enabled Passbook to provide the lock screen notification for Starbucks payment.

iOS8 provides a non-Passbook lock screen shortcut in the bottom left of the screen based on your GPS location.  Users have noted that their iPhones with apps from Vons, Tesco, Starbucks and more  show an app icon in the bottom left of the lock screen.  When users swipe up on the icon at bottom left, the app is opened with out a PIN [Update: you still need your PIN to access the full app.  Passbook = no PIN).    While it may appear that beacons are at play, it sounds like it may be driven by GPS as some users had no connectivity at the time.  One user also indicated that a Costco icon showed at the bottom left even though they did not have a Costco app installed.

Retailers stand to benefit from reduced barriers for shoppers to use their mobiles once again.  Making an app easier to access while actually at the retail location is a great idea.  Providing a visual cue right on the lock screen is even better.  This access sets the stage to enable retailers to bring online and stores together with some unique functionality.

CaptureHey Siri! – The latest iteration of Siri allows users to access the personal assistant without having to push a button.  iPhones can now listen for users to ask for help.  Siri is also finally going back to its roots with integration to more services.  Siri is able to listen to songs for you with Shazam to find and purchase the name of the song/tv show/movie you are observing.

While Siri will be a great sales tool for Shazam and iTunes to sell it doesn’t help other retailers much on the surface, but it does indicate a possible door widening to integration with other services.   When Siri was originally launched, it connected to 45 services, but after Apple bought them, it connected to only 12.  The founders of Siri are working on another service – viv – that promises to take the personal assistant to another level – and ideally connect it to a plethora of services that can access it via natural language.

Retailers that can make their transaction engines available to channels like AI personal assistants will be exposing their products and services in a new way.

Privacy – In past iterations, mac addresses were easily harvestable from idevices by pinging them with a wifi signal.  In essence, ‘free’ consumer tracking was possible.  With iOS8, iDevices provide a pseudo MAC address until consumers actually establish a connection with the wifi network.  This means that retailers and other consumer facing organizations will need to track consumers via an iBeacon option or even through accepting a wifi connection with shoppers.

Making the MAC address data private is the right thing for retailers and shoppers alike.  All retail programs should be opt-in and retailers and all consumer facing organizations should be clear on data tracked, for what purpose, and allow shoppers the right to opt out of anything they are not comfortable with.  Selling is a two way street and being as honest and straightforward is possible will have the best returns in the long run.  Shoppers who are willing to provide their data for improved service are not hard to find, and everyone appreciates an honest trading partner.

CaptureIndoor Positioning –  Apples latest offering enables indoor maps and wayfinding to be more easily implemented by shopping centres and department stores.  Apple has made iPhone motion sensors available to their API.  With that API update and a more powerful processor, indoor systems can access phone data to make navigating large venues simpler.

Retailers that leverage any tool possible to provide access to their products and services make themselves more readily available to shoppers.

iOS 8 looks to be a landmark release with lots of new features and functions.

Check out a longer list of deep dive functionality, and please share any retail oriented features discovered at release!

2013.34 | loop | shop this

loop walletLoop – A new payments solution called Loop is looking to make its way into the ever complex pile of payments options.  The solution leverages current infrastructure in place by accessing MSR readers in place and communicating with them over the air via a case on the mobile device.   Using current infrastructure is a smart move. Anyone with real world experience in retail technology knows that changing out thousands of stores with even a small piece of technology is a significant effort.

The even greater challenge is getting mindshare from the general public.  The world has been overwhelmed with payment options; swiping, dipping, PIN, no PIN, tapping, scanning a barcode, RFID dongles, gift cards, scanning from mobile screens, NFC on mobile – there are too many choices and they are confusing to a great part of the population.  As Square found out at Starbucks, even a slight change to the payments process can easily confuse store staff.  Another unfortunate challenge is that the crowd that is most willing to attempt to use a mobile device to make payments are also the population least willing to stick a chunky case with a cable on their phone to enable payments.

From a selfish consumer’s perspective, the best way to deal with this sort of payments challenge is to put the payments infrastructure online and let the payments happen there.  Consider Uber.  For those that are unfamiliar, this app virtually flags down a cab / limo / SUV near you so they can pick you up and take you to your destination.  Instead of holding cars up on the road while people pass cash back and forth or tap cards, customers put their credit card in the app and store it there.  They request a car and see an estimated price.  When they ride is over, the approve the payment within the app.  The driver can validate payment received and everyone parts happily.  No new infrastructure required and there is less inconvenience for the consumer.

Buying movie tickets with the Cineplex mobile app works the same way.  Unfortunately one has to enter their credit card for every transaction, but still no need to wait in line once you get to the theatre.  While there are risks from those who would use stolen cards, Cineplex found a way to deal with it, and I’m sure others will as well.  While it’s a pain to have to enter credit cards in all of these apps, it beats putting some crazy case on my phone that will only work at some places.

While these are definitely point solutions and not the universal wallet that solutions like Loop are trying to enable, there are more and more mobile or tablet point of sale solutions and passing a card or cash (or God forbid a cheque) seems like more of an anachronism every day.  It would be great to put it online, get away from readers of any sort and be done with it.  Payment systems that do not depend on tapping, swiping or scanning ANYTHING are the best path to the future.  If geo-fenced payments like pay with square or paypal here or even iBeacons could be used to enable geo-fenced payments so we could all quit with the crazy swiping, and signing that would be perfect.  Fundamental changes like this take time, but every step counts, and I appreciate solutions like Loop trying to move us all in the right direction.

If anyone is looking for a real nut to crack, let’s figure out a way to put ID cards like Health Insurance and Drivers Licenses on mobile.  Then we can really ditch the wallet.

Photo 10-22-2013, 10 30 59 PM

Mastercard Shop This – Wired magazine (tablet edition) subscribers can access Mastercard’s Shop This functionality in the November edition.  The concept is that with Shop This, consumers register their shipping details and their cards with Shop This and then they can buy items directly from the Wired magazine tablet edition without exiting the magazine app.  Removing the need to enter details every time you wish to purchase something removes the barriers to purchasing, and that’s what Shop This enables.  I found the initial version a bit disappointing as the Shop This logo doesn’t appear on all the items.  Expect more of these sorts of schemes to enable simple payment and shipment in the same vein as Amazon and iTunes.  In fact, iOS 7.0.3, released today, enables keychain capability to extend to iPhones to allow Safari to remember address and credit card details across devices and browsers.

2012.41 | New Ways of Retailing with Tech

googleshoppingGoogle Shopping –  It seems almost everyone is expanding their retail presence, making it possible to buy anything, anywhere, and anytime.  In addition to Google Play –  Google’s online store for android apps, ebooks, movies and music, consumers can also visit Google Shopping – a shopping portal apparently on the rise.

Consumers have another shopping channel and retailers have another confusing choice to make around partnering with Goliaths like Google.  Do retailers rely on Google to point clients to them for free, pay with adwords, or leverage a sponsorship with Google Shopping?  Do they post an enhanced catalog on Google Catalogs?  Increasingly retailers lean towards curation of goods and services to provide differentiation.  Does Google take away some of that differentiation with top 10 lists and 360 degree views?  Perhaps, but it could potentially drive more traffic in the near term.

PepsPassbook Promo – While still underwhelming and in need of expansion, Apple’s Passbook is probably the best mobile offer/ticket/giftcard platform out there by potential user count and likelihood of uptake by consumers.  Consmr recently offered a reasonable bribe to new users.  Download Consmr, and receive a Passbook ‘coupon’ for a free Pepsi Max redeemable at Kum & Go stores.

This is the first notable campaign to use Passbook to meet my notice.  Getting that large base of users to try a coupon via Passbook can only help expand the footprint.  There will certainly be lessons to learn, as this is not nearly as simple as it appears from the perspective of those offering the free Pepsi Max

Hopefully this Passbook offer only provides a one time only coupon code that is a unique code.  If it doesn’t, all the user has to do is take a screen capture of the coupon (It’s as simple as pressing the power button and then home button and then waitning for the flash on iOS.  Swipe your hand across the screen on newer Samsung Android for the same result.) and then use it again…and again…and again.  Just because coupons are electronic doesn’t make them less subject to fraud.  In fact, a user could send out that coupon to all of their friends in seconds – negating the intent of the offer as only one person had to download the Consmr app to get the coupon.  Beyond a unique coupon code for each user, retailers can also tie coupons to unique identifiers as part of a loyalty program to ensure redemption matches the expectations of those making the offer.  Retailers and marketers have to be sure the target audience AND the technology are all considered or losses and campaign failures can result.

sbuckssquare

Square GiftcardsSquare is now offering electronic gifts as part of their service.  Square Wallet Users can give and receive credits for businesses that use their payment systems.  This is an intelligent and logical progression of the payments system and provides another potential expansion point as everyone’s mom joins Square to try to give their grown techie offspring a free coffee or book.

The article says they are waiting on Square giftcards for Canada.  Seeing as we don’t have Square Wallet here today and won’t until 2013, that seems a valid point.

2012.35 | Passbook Opportunity

When I first saw the presentation of Passbook at the iOS 6 press event earlier this year, I found it intriguing.  Apple had finally chosen to dip their pinky toe into the world of electronic wallets. I’ve watched so many other organizations with good intentions make this attempt, so why not Apple?

Passbook is intended to be your wallet on your iOS – or at least your billfold.  It’s the default Apple app where you can assemble and keep your loyalty cards, your coupons, your gift cards and your tickets.

Having all of those items in one place sounds like an improvement.  Even better, your iPhone can automatically pop up an indicator on your screen that enables a shortcut to Passbook and your usable item if you are near a store or it is time to use your ticket.

The benefit to the user here is to simplifying the process to use your mobile device as a wallet.  As mentioned many times, redemption of cash, coupons, tickets and loyalty cards needs to be dead simple and quick.

If Passbook works as advertised, one does not need to unlock the device, find the right app, and then look in the app for the ticket, coupon, or loyalty card.  For example, a person can connect a Starbucks card to Passbook and when they are near a Starbucks, they can get a reminder on their locked iPhone screen that they can touch to immediately access their Starbucks card.  If I have a flight on Air Canada, my ticket pops up on my screen when it is  time for my flight so I can use my ticket.  If I’m looking to use a gift card, I don’t have to look for some retailer app I never use and then navigate through a non-standard menu on their app to find my gift card.

That was the promise.  Unfortunately, based on my usage of Passbook over the past few weeks, I find it to be a sub-optimal electronic wallet in its present incarnation.  There are a number of reasons for that:

  • What is this thing?  Not all of the millions of iPhone users watch the keynote presentations on iOS updates.  Passbook is a lonely unexplained icon on many devices from my experience with friends and colleagues.  If an iOS user doesn’t have an enabled app, and there still aren’t many Passbook enabled apps in Canada, there is no indication of how Passbook is supposed to work.  If Passbook is selected, the user is presented with a little screen that points you to the app store that shows Passbook enabled apps.  The link is nice, but how about a link to a video or a page about  Passbook benefits at the most elemental level?  How about a link of how to set it up?  Most people are not going to try to hunt down what something is or how it works.  Why should consumers use Passbook instead of the app from their retailer?  Passbook has to have a clear and simple benefit over their current process, or consumers won’t even try it.  It’s not clear today.
  • Adding stuff to Passbook is not simple. Once users understand what Passbook is supposed to do and you  ownload a Passbook enabled app, the way to leverage Passbook with that app is not always clear.  For example, when I installed the Passbook enabled Starbucks app, I had to select my card in the app, choose Manage and add the card to Passbook.  When I did this, it asked me for favourite stores so that Passbook could provide quick access to my card, but I didn’t have time to set my parameters, so I closed the app.  When I went back into the app later, I could not  figure out how to add favourite sites.  There was no help section on Passbook within the app, so I had to figure it out through trial and error.  We can’t blame all of this on the Starbucks of the world or their app developers who are trying to use Apple’s Passbook App. There should be an ability in the Passbook App itself to scan the apps on the phone and allow users to pick from a list of potential items to add to Passbook.  There should be settings in Passbook to allow us to make any adjustments to how Passbook is used. Setting up each card you want to use and interconnecting with each retailer app is needlessly convoluted and will lose the majority of users.   At install of a new Passbook enabled app, Passbook should tell us we can use Passbook and ask how we want to do so.
  • Location based notifications are inconsistent – One of the biggest potential benefits of Passbook is that it will pop up automatically when we want it.  After I set it up correctly, it still took days before Passbook actually recognized when I was near a Starbucks store and actually gave me the notification of such.  I have an iPhone 4.  Perhaps this will be better on my iPhone 5, but lots of people use older hardware.  If the app is not consistent and accurate about bringing up the card, I have to unlock and find Passbook.  That’s no better than using the Starbucks app.  I’m not saying this happens to everyone, but I WANT to use it and I find this frustrating.   Good luck with the less nerdy demographic.
  • Accessing Passbook via popups was not explained – Once I finally got the notification that I could access my Starbucks card in Passbook, I was baffled as to how to get the card to come up on the screen.  I’m embarrassed to admit this as I’m a relatively savvy iOS user.  I swiped from the top.  I swiped across the screen.  I tapped it.  Then it went away.   After conferring with friends and looking online, we finally discovered that you have to touch the icon and swipe it across to have Passbook pop up.   This isn’t a bad system, but how about some explanation in the Passbook app?   How about a message the first time it pops up to explain it?  This swipe method is not intuitive to most users I’ve conferred with in my decidedly unscientific study.
  • Passbook doesn’t refresh on the fly – When I use the Starbucks app, it refreshes my gift card balance after I use it.  I can’t tell if my coffee was free or not! Passbook doesn’t.  This is less helpful than the retailer app.  Not more helpful.
  • Is this secure? As someone who works with retailers and is involved with payments, I assure you that a lot of time is spent on security.  If I swipe on the notification for Passbook it will bring up my Starbucks number and I don’t have to enter my iPhone security PIN.  If I leave my iPhone somewhere, someone could theoretically troll around and when they are near a Starbucks, my card will come up.  They could get a free cup of coffee or two if I didn’t notice.  If they are more insidious, they could take an image of my screen and use it to pay a little at a time.  Not entering the iPhone PIN is convenient for using Passbook, but I think it should be a configurable option.

While I’m sure all of these criticisms don’t sound like it, I’m glad Passbook exists.  I thank Apple and Starbucks, Cineplex, Air Canada and all of the others for trying to integrate their apps.  I want to try them.  I like using the apps. I want them to succeed!

I think Passbook is a great idea.  I fully comprehend the complexity of allowing all sorts of other organizations and developers build apps to leverage Passbook.  Getting consistency will be difficult.  There will be problems.  Operationalizing a wallet into retail is hard for anyone and everyone.

Apple needs to put together a very specific program about what the Passbook experience should be with feedback from retailers.  Keep it simple.  Make it easy for people to use it and show a benefit to the users.  If that happens, I think Passbook can make some headway.

I hope this input is useful to the developers of Passbook and I look forward to using it as it improves.  It’s certainly no worse than many other mobile wallet schemes I’ve seen.  But it’s no Pay with Square.

2012.34 | Square Canada | Watch2Pay | Passbook Canada

Square Canada – Square is now available in Canada.  Now small businesses in Canada who want to take credit cards or operate a very simple cash register on an iOS device can take advantage of the Square offer.  Can’t wait to see which Canadian businesses show up on their Canadian directory of users.   Should change payments in Canada as we know them if they use Pay with Square. [Interesting point – turns out they are just using their MSR dongle and not a chip and pin solution to read the card.  Not ideal in Canada where EMV is the norm, as retailers bear the risk of an MSR (non chip) transaction!]

Watch2Pay – Watch2Pay, which sounds a bit like a wig for your watch, offers an NFC enabled watch.  Basically, one purchases a watch and it includes a PayPass NFC enabled Mastercard as well as a MasterCard Watch Card.  The Watch Card looks very much like an old school SIM card but is actually an NFC chip.Plug the Watch Card in the back of the watch, and you can use your snazzy new watch to pay anywhere Mastercard PayPass enabled payments are available. Watch2Pay is currently available in the UK and Poland, and appears to be coming soon to the US and Russia.

Passbook Canada – As an iOS user, I’ve been using Passbook where I have had the opportunity – mainly as a Starbucks customer. So far in Canada,  Cineplex, Starbucks, Porter Airlines, Canada’s Wonderland, Living Social, Valpak Coupons and Air Canada have released apps that support Passbook.    If you know of more, highlight them in the comments.  I’m also interested to hear experiences with using Passbook in Canada.

While it works as a place to keep your loyalty cards and tickets, I don’t find that Passbook is working for me.  Tickets and cards are supposed to be easily accessible via alerts based on your proximity to where they would be used, avoiding the need to unlock your mobile, open an app and find the applicable item.  So far, it’s been a mixed bag on usability and functionality.   I have another post in the works where I’ll share my limited experience with Passbook.  For now, let’s say I agree with Rene at iMore on Passbook.

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.

2012.30 | Passbook | Touch Wall | TipJar

iOS 6 Passbook – With the release of iOS 6 comes Passbook, and those of us in retail can start to see how pre-cursor to a mobile wallet really works.  As someone who uses tickets on my mobile for movies (Cineplex) and airlines (Air Canada, WestJet, United), this is an idea I can get behind.  I also have a bunch of loyalty cards I already use, some on my mobile, and some in my glove compartment

On the ticket side, I really look forward to avoiding screen caps, and then having my ticket autorotate as photos do when I turn my phone from portrait to landscape, or dim when I’ve been waiting too long.

I’m just updating my iPhone tonight, so I haven’t tested it on my own device.   Lots of keen users have already started posting their experiences.  There are a number of apps that are already Passbook CompatibleCineplex appears to be my sole option in Canada, and it’s sorta working.  It turns out you can also add passbook items to your passbook without an app passing the data via PassSource.

Let me know your experiences with Passbook.  I’ll be sharing mine.

Touch Wall – Looking for an entire wall of touchscreen LCDs so that you can blow your clients’ minds with interaction?  Engage Production in the UK has a new demo screen for clients that is composed of 24 linked 55 inch touch displays.  While there are some incredible things that can be done with a space of that magnitude, you have to wonder at all of the associated costs and how that can be used to drive business.  It’s difficult to come up with engaging content for any space let alone something so large!

It would be incredible to use this as a giant video wall display or split into screens with various types of media playing, and then allow customers to touch a spot anywhere on the display to initiate an individual screen usage area that could be defined by the application.

Now an interactive self service applications that is defined by the hardware in place has a great deal more flexibility.  Just turn on the app at the site, and give customers the option!

Customers could touch on an image of a shoe on the wall, and see a 360 degree representation they can manipulate.  Perhaps the system can have store staff  paged to bring a sample shoe to try for fit.  If the product is out of stock in their size, provide directions sent to their mobile on how to get to another store, or have the shoes shipped to their home.  If new products or ideas come up, change the apps and how clients interact.

TipJar – Seems like someone figured out one answer to my question about how we deal with
the age old tips problem in the age of electronic transactions.   The problem many of us have is that we never carry cash, but on the rare occasion where a cash tip is the only option, running to the ATM for $20 isn’t really a viable option.  Enter DipJar – a jar with an MSR built in.  If you want to tip someone, you dip your card in the MSR/Jar, and $1 is passed.  No more cash or someone stealing tips from the counter.  At the same time we can maintain the Funny Tip Jar tradition.

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.

2012.17 | 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!

 

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