Media Things

Samsung buys LoopPay: a jump to the head of the mobile payment queue?

As the digital wallet sector heats up, Apple and Google are jostling for position to be the brands that dominate the highly lucrative and competitive mobile payment sector. At the 2015 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Samsung’s chief executive, JK Shin announced its new Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge smartphones would feature Samsung Pay, the firm’s new mobile payment platform to rival Apple Pay. He also stated the new software would “push the boundaries in mobile payment”, a bold statement and one Apple and Google will be taking a close interest in.

Samsung’s ambitions in the mobile payments space does not stop at launching a digital wallet. The mobile giant recently acquired US mobile payments start-up LoopPay, which uses proprietary and patented Magnetic Secure Transmission (MST) technology to turn virtually any payment terminal into a contactless payment solution.

In the UK, mobile service providers are hampered by a lack of access to the hardware itself and the restrictions that exist around consumer banking licenses, meaning up until now brands like Apple and Google have been restricted to after-market stickers or cases – on first look, LoopPay appears to have a similar issue. The technology is currently an add-on compatible with most Android phones allowing the user to effectively install any card with a magnetic strip on to the system. Where it currently falls down is that it requires carrying a separate bulky “card” to activate payments, again this is seemingly a minimal improvement on the current options in the market. More importantly, this isn’t a more convenient alternative to paying with your Visa or MasterCard.

What makes Samsung’s acquisition exciting is that it could potentially include LoopPay into its component chain, allowing a swift roll-out of the MST technology across its mobile products, including its tablets and smartwatches. Combined with LoopPay’s claim that its technology will work with 90% of the payment terminals currently in use, Samsung’s ability to grab significant market share is very likely. Having the mobile payment offering built-in and removing the need to buy additional hardware to run it, Samsung has a point of difference that no other providers come close to offering right now.

The overarching factors that will differentiate the mobile payment platforms for service providers including Samsung and Apple will come down to ease of use, mass retailer adoption and security. Consumers and potentially retailers are reluctant to adopt mobile payments, because the current infrastructure does not offer a better solution to existing card transactions. In time, however, people will adopt the technology as it becomes easier, safer and more widely accepted. Another factor which may hinder early adoption of Samsung’s LoopPay is that it has not yet incorporated tokenisation encryption technology, used by Apple Pay to prevent fraud, but they are planning to introduce it in due course.

When Apple launched its first generation iPad back in April 2010, it had a meteoric take-up by consumers. Adoption was not simply down to its size and weight, but because the device was more immediate. The time a laptop takes to power up and down, versus the immediacy of the iPad, is one of its strongest USPs. If Samsung can offer similar advantages to consumers and retailers, there’s no reason why critical mass cannot be achieved relatively quickly.

As the technology continues to develop, the opportunities for new digital wallet applications seem limitless, expanding beyond simple over-the-counter, low-value purchases and into everyday transactions such as mortgage and utility payments, fundraising and donations, medical payments and personal banking, to name a few. The benefits of mobile payment adoption are obvious, not simply for consumers, but also for participating retailers. The retailers and banks want to prevent fraud and increase the speed of transactions, while merchants want to be able to accept the next generation of payments without changing their point-of-sale systems, a feature that LoopPay’s MST solution has promised since it launched.

In the end, it is likely that whichever mobile company delivers a system offering an optimal user experience, easy installation and universal compatibility will take market share. Both Samsung and Apple need to demonstrate the benefits of using their mobile payment software, by delivering slick and effective campaigns, followed up with relevant data and analysis showcasing results and adoption rates. Peer-to-peer advocacy is another crucial element to aid success. Once the main high street retail chains, transport hubs and commercial organisations have completed successful trials of enabling mobile payments, more will definitely follow.

If Samsung can approach the payments industry with a broad mind and deliver MST technology to an ecosystem outside their own product range, it has the potential to be a significant player in the market. Whether or not a critical mass of consumers adopts new mobile payment technologies ultimately boils down to ease, safety and reliability – for both consumers and vendors. If the functionality of LoopPay is as promised, Samsung could be jumping to the head of the mobile payment queue.

- THE GUARDIAN - Monday, 30 June 2014

New report reveals challenges facing retailers in serving online customers

• One in five customers have received problems with online home deliveries
• 61% of customers would switch retailer because of unacceptable online experience
• 32% of customers would pay a premium for same-day delivery

The continued growth of online shopping is placing further pressure on the capabilities of retailers as they scramble to scale their operations to meet record levels of demand. Many retailers are now offering click-and-collect services in an attempt to reduce fulfilment costs, improve service and offer greater convenience, but the challenge is ensuring they can scale for future growth and deliver a truly joined-up experience between their online and in-store operations, otherwise known as omni-channel retailing.

According to the latest findings from JDA's Customer Pulse Report 2014, this idea of an omni-channel operation is very much a work in progress: 57% of consumers reveal that they feel there is a lack of integration between retailers' in-store and online channels.

The report surveyed 3,139 UK consumers aged between 16 and 64. It provides an overview of the existing state of online fulfilment and shoppers' expectations when it comes to service excellence – both now and in the future. The report revealed that when it came to online home deliveries, nearly one in five customers had experienced problems over the past 12 months. Considering the size of the UK online retail market, this is significantly more than a drop in the ocean.

Problematic home deliveries
The issues experienced by consumers did vary: 35% had suffered from late deliveries; 28% said they had experienced missed deliveries, despite being at home; while 26% hadn't received goods, despite the retailer or delivery company claiming otherwise. These issues were closely followed by receiving damaged (25%) or the wrong goods (18%). This indicates that a significant number of home deliveries are falling at the last hurdle and damaging the overall customer experience.

At a time when many retailers are using third-party delivery companies to fulfil online orders, it was interesting to note that the majority of respondents (84%) still believed that the retailer should ultimately be held accountable if issues occur. Today's customer is demanding a seamless brand interaction. Retailers who fail to provide this risk damaging their brand through receiving rapid and negative exposure across social media.

The click-and-collect conundrum
Almost one in two consumers have used click-and-collect services in the past 12 months. However, a third of those customers had encountered situations in-store that potentially damaged their customer experience. Long waiting times due to a lack of staff was the most common occurrence, followed by a lack of a dedicated area in-store for click-and-collect purchases. The time staff took to locate orders, both in-store and on internal systems, was also a source of frustration. In the face of the continued rise of e-commerce and growing customer expectations, online fulfilment excellence will separate the winners and the losers. In fact, 61% of consumers said they would switch retailer based on receiving an unacceptable online shopping experience.

Faster fulfilment
When asked further about home deliveries, nearly a third of consumers (32%) stated they would be prepared to pay a premium for the immediacy and convenience of a same-day delivery. Breaking this down further, 54% of shoppers stated they would chose a retailer that offers same-day delivery over one that offers a standard services, while 40% even chose same-day over free delivery. Ultimately, customer demand for greater speed will start contracting delivery windows, which means retailers must be prepared for this change and establish how they can do this in an effective and profitable manner.

Ensuring online success
Online retail shows no sign of slowing down. Our research revealed that 69% of consumers envisage it being their main shopping channel in five years' time. In order to carry out online fulfilment profitably, retailers do need to think hard about how they operate, allowing fulfilment to take place from any inventory location in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.

- THE GUARDIAN - Monday, 30 June 2014

5 problems retailers must fix in 2014

Amid aggressive discounting, little foot traffic, a shorter holiday season and severe weather, the end of 2013 was disappointing for retailers. Now with barely any time to catch its breath, the industry is bracing for even larger sea changes, such as mounting privacy concerns after massive data breaches, and retailers' desire to wean consumers off discounts.

As the new year kicks off, retailers are smack in the middle of three to five years of major changes that will redefine the industry, said Alison Paul, vice chairman and U.S. retail and distribution leader at consultancy Deloitte.

Paul hasn't seen change like this since big-box discounters such as Wal-Mart began to gain momentum 50 years ago. "I would say the last time there was this big [of] a change in the industry was in 1960, when many of the big boxes opened up and really opened the huge discount department store," Paul said. The biggest change before that—the invention of modern retailing in postwar America.

"I'm not even sure that either of those compare to this," she said. Adding to industrywide nervousness has been a ho hum end to 2013. Holiday retail sales last year gained 3.8 percent compared to the 2012 holiday, according to the National Retail Federation. That 2013 gain fell short of its forecast 3.9 percent uptick for the sector.

Looking ahead to 2014, industry experts at this year's retail federation convention in New York had plenty of ideas for what's ailing the sector.

1. Boring physical store experiences
E-commerce was one of the most buzzed about trends in 2013, a year that saw online sales far outpace physical store revenue gains. Despite this meteoric growth, more than three quarters of retail transactions are still made at brick-and- mortar locations. But lately, that in-store experience sometimes has been diluted to transactions, with little engagement between brands and shoppers.

"We started with this theme last year and this year it seems to be resonating even more," said Paul Steinberg, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Motorola Solutions, which provides communication solutions to retailers. Experts at NRF said shopping needs to be an experience, and retailers should take advantage of their physical assets to build a connection between consumers and their brand.

For example, Intel's booth displayed a full length "mirror" that allows shoppers to try on multiple outfits, then view, compare and share photos of the outfit with friends. Technology from Motorola scans what items consumers bring into the dressing room. Consumers can then tap a screen to order an out-of-stock item before they change back into their clothes.

"A pure transaction is more efficient online ... but retail is far more than just a pure transaction," said Jon Stine, retail industry director at Cisco Consulting Services, a unit of Cisco Systems.

2. Shopping using smartphones isn't great
Although e-commerce made significant strides last year, the capabilities of smartphones are still waiting to be realized. Smartphones are a great place for shoppers to browse items, but conversions to sales are very low. As a result, many retailers are exploring new ways mobile devices can be used in-store.

"The mobile device is essentially becoming the mouse to the physical world," said Jay Yanko, managing principal of retail for Verizon Enterprise Solutions, part of Verizon Communications. Retailers are exploring mobile apps that track customers as they shop, sending them tailored offers when they reach a certain section of the store; recommending items based on past purchases; or allowing shoppers to program automated shopping lists. Forward-thinking companies need to create an "augmented experience" for shoppers. But while retailers are beginning to acknowledge the importance of incorporating unique mobile technology into their stores, the trend is still several years away from being widespread, experts said. Another challenge is where to assign the sales credit when an order is placed online and fulfilled in-store, said Janet Sherlock, chief information officer for Carter's children's store.

3. Reduced privacy in exchange for deals
Of course high-tech sales and personalized recommendations and coupons through smartphones raise all kinds of privacy questions—especially after industry-rocking data breaches for at least two major retailers, Target and Neiman Marcus. A key industry question is: "Where is the line between helpful and creepy?" Some shoppers welcome targeted coupons, while others prefer not to be tracked. "It's absolutely a fine line and it's one that the industry's worried about," said Brian Girouard, an executive with global IT consultancy Capgemini. Experts already have found there are key factors that determine how much information a shopper is willing to share. Age is a big player, as millennials are much more accustomed to sharing data, said PwC's Moncrieff. Others are willing to share data as long as they receive some sort of value in return. According to a study by Cisco, 52 percent of shoppers are willing to share information with retailers if they get a discount on their next purchase.
The decision also comes down to the particular retailer, as shoppers are more willing to share information with high-end stores, Capgemini's Girouard said. The most important thing when implementing a mobile strategy, Cisco's Stine said, is respecting shoppers' boundaries. They need to be transparent and educational—meaning if a retailer sets up a camera in its stores, it should tell shoppers it is analyzing shopper behavior, not tracking each person as an individual. They also need to set up a method to allow consumers to opt out of these services.

4. Too much discounting hurting the bottom line
Discounts plagued retailers this holiday, as lower foot traffic had caused stores to slash prices. As a result, a laundry list of retailers have lowered their earnings guidance for the current quarter or 2013. And according to a note from Morgan Stanley analyst Kimberly Greenberger, many stores do not expect the intensely promotional environment to end in 2014.
One way to end this endless hunt for discounts is to innovate on products and unveil new must-have apparel items. "If retailers want to be around for a long time innovation is key, but also a good idea is probably worth exploring if you want to continue to differentiate," said Deloitte's Paul.

5. Botched retail basics
Fancy brainstorming aside about new products and technology, 2014 largely will be about executing the basics of the industry such as on-time delivery and shoring up security. Many at NRF also emphasized that data breaches not only have an impact on the stores that were directly affected, but on the industry as a whole. Industry leaders called for a move away from unencrypted magnetic stripe cards found on most credit and debit cards. "It's not about one, it's about everybody," Deloitte's Paul said. "What are we doing to protect our consumer data because in the end if you don't have trust, you don't have that consumer."

- CNBC - Monday, 15 January 2014

3 Big Challenges for Small E-Commerce Retailers

Thanks to the growing number of website-building and e-commerce tools available, it's easier than ever for aspiring entrepreneurs to launch an online store. But with large retailers like Amazon setting the bar for shipping and customer service so high, it's also easier than ever to get trampled by the competition.

E-commerce experts discussed three of the biggest challenges small online retailers currently face, and shared advice for how to overcome them.

Shipping and tracking
Same- and next-day delivery, easy tracking options, and hassle-free return policies are just a few of the standards that e-commerce giants have set in place for the industry. Customers have come to expect this level of service, no matter what site they're purchasing from, which places a lot of pressure on small retailers.

"Many e-tailers simply give up and charge flat shipping rates because integrating real-time rates is too difficult," said Jarrett Streebin, founder and CEO of shipping application programming interface (API) EasyPost. "This costs them money when shipping is higher than the flat rate and leaves money on the table when it's not, or the customers just never buy because shipping rates are too high."

But shipping really does matter, and customers notice when their options are limited or vague. Transparency is the best policy when it comes to shipping, said Brad Stronger, co-founder and chief technology officer of Kickstarter product shipping-fulfillment service

"People will buy based on shipping, not on product price, and that's really telling about how consumers are thinking," Stronger said. "They'll look at a small retailer's site [with a lower price], but don't get an accurate shipping estimate. If they buy through Amazon [Prime], they know they'll get it in two days."

Streebin noted that the demand for easy delivery tracking has increased as well. Instead of making customers do the legwork and track their own package, retailers should be proactive about communicating with their customers about delivery status through email or text-message notifications. It may cost you some money up front to integrate the necessary systems for flexible shipping, tracking and returns, but once they're in place, your customers will keep coming back.

International sales
Once an e-commerce merchant has established itself as a national retailer, the next frontier is to expand overseas. However, the number of legal and shipping hurdles required to sell internationally can make some smaller businesses hesitant to jump into the global market.

"Many small retailers sell online domestically but are afraid to expand internationally," said Amine Khechfe, co-founder of shipping software solutions provider Endicia.

"We encourage our clients to sell to international markets because overseas buyers will generally pay more for [U.S.] products."

Khechfe recommended starting with English-speaking countries like Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom to start boosting sales and growing your business. Other countries have different commerce regulations, so do your research to make sure your business is legally compliant.

Payment fraud
One of the biggest concerns today's consumers have is the risk of fraud when they're shopping online. With highly sophisticated malware and savvy cybercriminals, customers' card and bank information can easily be stolen if a merchant doesn't take the proper security measures. Mike Keresman, founder and CEO of e-commerce payment solution provider Cardinal Commerce, noted that the consequences of fraud are much more severe for small businesses.

"Sometimes, hackers will target small merchants because they can't fight it," Keresman told Business News Daily. "[Larger retailers] that have a lot of orders might be able to underwrite a 2 percent fraud rate, but smaller merchants can't afford to play the numbers game."

There are many solutions available for preventing fraud, such as consumer authentication and utilizing trusted, established payment platforms like PayPal and Google Checkout. However, Keresman warned against placing too many layers of security between your customers and their purchase.

"If you're too uptight with fraud screening, you might insult a good customer and lose their business, " he said. "The easier and more comfortable you make the buyer experience, the more likely the customer is to make an order."

- Business News Daily - Thursday, 06 March 2014

It’s Simple: Make Your Business Mobile-Friendly, Or Lose Customers

The Pew Research group reports that more than half of the U.S. population is mobile tech enabled — 58 percent have a smartphone and 42 percent have a tablet. More and more people get their news, do research and purchase products on their mobile devices. Smart companies are gearing up to support this mobile revolution, and smarter companies have been catering to smartphone users for years. Get your business and web presence mobile-ready. Without doing so, you’re recommending more and more customers to shop with your competitors ever day … unless you’re into losing money and that kind of thing?

What is the Impact of Mobile Access?
Tech Crunch reveals that 21.8 percent of the Black Friday sales last year were through a mobile device. Tablets accounted for 14.4 percent of the sales and smartphones 7.2 percent. KPCB predicts by the end of 2014, 25 percent of the Internet traffic globally will be through mobile devices. And smartphones will be used more and more for actual transactions, not just browsing then switching to a tablet or desktop for the transaction.

The Google Mobile Path to Purchase showed 48 percent of research on mobile starts with a search engine users started a search on a mobile device. Nearly 55 percent of those mobile searchers made a purchase within one hour. Do you want that purchase to be with you? Or with your competitors? The mobile user wants access to concise information through which they can make a quick decision. Your business needs to cater to these mobile searchers to stay connected.

Mobile-friendly Business
Forbes writer Joshua Steimle goes as far as to say that if your website is not mobile-ready in 2014, you may not be around for long. Making your website and content available to mobile users is key to competing with companies that have made the change. The three primary ways to manage this are through responsive design techniques on your website, by creating a separate mobile site, and creating a mobile app designed for specific devices. The path you ultimately take to be mobile-ready really depends on the type of content you’re serving up.

Websites and Responsive Design
Responsive design is a way to make your web presence look good and function well on any device, whether that’s a desktop computer, tablet or smartphone. Websites with responsive design will detect any of those devices you are using and format the page accordingly. Your website will display correctly without the user having to zoom in on portions of the page. They will have buttons that they can actually press without zooming in or pressing two buttons at once. Viewing your site is one thing, but making it easy for the mobile user to select items, fill in fields and check out is critical.

If you have a fairly new website, or it’s simple and for information only, implementing responsive design shouldn’t break the bank. If you haven’t touched your site in years, you may want to do a total rewrite to get the benefit of the best of responsive design techniques. You might invest several thousands of dollars on a rewrite with a responsive design, but your investment could place you ahead of slower moving competitors. Just remember that good web developers today think about responsive design first, not just an afterthought when you’re already knee deep in a website redesign that then adds big dollar signs not in the agreed upon budget.

Some of the areas addressed by responsive design include:
•    pages adjust to the size of the device’s screen
•    images resize automatically so they stay within their sections
•    page headers and footers remain small to allow for more content to display
•    custom menu systems are created to allow the mobile user to navigate through your site easily
•    search boxes are easy to find and use
•    product images are used as a focal point instead of text
•    product options are easy to select on a mobile device
•    cart and checkout buttons are easy to find and use

- Shopping Pal - Monday, 28 April 2014