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Mobile / Wireless / Contact


Microsoft Wallet: Retailers, Do It Yourself

June 27th, 2012
The mobile wallet that Microsoft unveiled on June 20 turns out to be a radically unbundled approach, at least compared to Google Wallet and ISIS. The wallet app itself just collects individual issuing-bank and loyalty-card apps, while Microsoft is handing off responsibility for securing payment-card numbers to mobile carriers. It looks like Microsoft isn't even touching transactions—which is good and bad news for retailers.

The good news: no Google-style POS changes required, at least not to meet Microsoft specs. The bad news: no help from Microsoft, either. Unless you build your own in-store shopping app, the Microsoft Wallet will basically do contactless card emulation—and not much more.Read more...


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Queue Busting May Be More Effective Than Initially Thought, Thanks To Line Psychology

June 27th, 2012
The idea of using mobile POS devices to queue bust is not a new concept, but the belief has always—logically enough—been that the line will accelerate solely based on how many shoppers can be checked out with the mobile units. But, bizarrely enough, one MPOS vendor has discovered that the units are accelerating all of the lines, not merely the ones where the mobile units are being used. It's yet another delightful, unintended retail technology discovery.

Here's how that magic works: A couple of MPOS-armed associates approach some of the overflowing lines and announce that if anyone has a payment card and would like to be checked out with a mobile device to please say so.Read more...


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Facebook’s Shopper-to-Shopper Locator, Up One Moment and Gone The Next, Clears The Way For Retail Testing

June 27th, 2012
The idea of retailers using mobile geolocation data to connect shoppers and products is almost irresistible, despite the challenges of being unable to fine-tune the location nearly enough and sometimes having databases that send customers away instead of helping them find what they want. But helping shoppers find one another—as Walmart has proposed—is a much more privacy-problematic concept.

When automated, do such tools facilitate good interactions and help customers encourage each other's purchases (such as saying whether an outfit looks sharp with those shoes or if that drillbit is the proper one for a particular fix-it job) or will it just freak shoppers out when it helps strangers approach them? In New Jersey, for example, a stranger approaching while smiling is legal justification for using deadly force.Read more...


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Visa Joins MasterCard In Relegating PCI To An Afterthought

June 27th, 2012
Visa recently updated its Security Best Practices for Mobile Payments, and it is interesting to observe how it mirrors key elements of the guidance issued earlier by MasterCard. The good news is that it sends smaller retailers a consistent message on how best to take cards using their smartphones, tablets or personal digital assistants (PDAs), pens PCI Columnist Walter Conway.

The less good news—at least from a QSA's perspective—is that Visa seems to have joined MasterCard in relegating PCI compliance to an afterthought. Read more...


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New Square CRM Features To Create Loyalty, But Mainly To Square

June 21st, 2012
When Square on Tuesday (June 19) added CRM features to its mobile payment system, it certainly provided a way to add more loyalty. But the system setup seems designed to guarantee the loyalty of retailers to Square just as much as it does the loyalty of retailers' customers to those retailers.

On the surface, the additions are innocuous, with new punch-card-like functionality integrated into the system. The effect of this, though, is for retailers to even more completely turn over crucial information to Square, which can use it for whatever purposes Square wants. If Square later wants to market to a retailer's customers directly—on behalf of itself or even possibly a rival—it theoretically can.Read more...


Domino’s Tablet Testing: Make The App Into A Game

June 21st, 2012
One of the challenges with a mobile app is figuring out if customers will actually use it. Domino's has tackled that challenge by launching its app first as a game. Not only does this approach give a strong indication of customer interest—pre-rollout—but it also is a practical way to debug. And if the initial version is buggy? Customers are much more tolerant of a buggy game than something with true E-Commerce functionality.

What the pizza chain came up with is a way for consumers to make their own pizzas, with the touch intensity and finger distance used dictating how the dough will come up, whether the slices are cut uniformly and how evenly distributed toppings are. It's a game—for now.Read more...


Microsoft’s Tablet Move: Not For Retail

June 20th, 2012
The tablet is quickly becoming the most interesting piece of retail hardware around, with the iPad getting as close as possible to having already cornered the in-store market. But it's not a done deal yet.

Microsoft on Monday (June 18) set out to prove that retailers have alternatives to Apple for tablets and that Microsoft still matters. Unfortunately, it ended up proving the opposite—for both.Read more...


So Why Is M-Commerce Struggling So Much In The U.S.?

June 14th, 2012

Does traditional mobile commerce have a shot anymore in the U.S.? Or has the industry muddied it up to the point where we need to start over, as Apple and Burger King are trying? We tried to address that politically sensitive topic in the first of our new monthly columns with Retail Week, the U.K.’s largest retail publication.

The reasons why mobile is having trouble are plenty, but it’s fair to say that when MasterCard is the one arguing that mobile payment PCI regulations should perhaps be ignored, something has changed. When MasterCard starts to sound like the most rational and reasonable one in the room, Alice, you know you’ve gone through the looking glass. Please check out the column on Retail Week or, if you’re not a Retail Week subscriber, you can check out a picture of the column right here. …


Apple’s Wallet-Without-Payments: If This Works, Maybe We’ll Try The Hard Part

June 14th, 2012
Apple's announcement on Monday (June 11) of Passbook, the iPhone's mobile wallet that does everything except traditional payments, is a classic unthinkable move: Apple did the easy part first. If customers like using Passbook for tickets, coupons and loyalty cards, then maybe Apple will tackle the hard part: mobile payments.

There are several ways Apple could do that. But one thing seems clear: After the fruitless straining of Google Wallet, ISIS and PayPal to get customers and retailers on board, Apple's design philosophy of "it just works" means the impact on retailers of iPhone mobile payments should be nearly invisible—except that customers may actually use it.Read more...


Burger King Trial: No PCI, No Hardware Changes, A Lot Of Cloud

June 14th, 2012
Burger King has been doing its own mobile payment trial at about 50 stores near Salt Lake City in Utah. But the fast-food chain isn't working with Google Wallet, ISIS, PayPal or any of the other major mobile players. Its approach is trying to avoid the political—and technological and security-related—friction associated with the more well-known strategies by using a Starbucks-style stored-value card, and then adding a heck of a lot of cloud.

Burger King's method can work on any iPhone or Android, completely denies any payment-card data to the retailer (keeping the whole trial out of PCI scope), requires no hardware changes and is all based on a cheap printed QR code stuck on the back of the POS or on a drive-through window.Read more...


Domino’s Touts Billion Dollars In Digital Sales and Points To Mobile, But 93 Percent Is From The Web

June 13th, 2012

Domino’s Pizza released an eye-opening figure on Monday (June 11): It has sold more than $1 billion worth of pizza (from mid-April 2011 to mid-April 2012) solely through digital channels. With all of the talk about the chain’s two mobile apps and its dedicated mobile site, that billion seems to suggest the power of mobile. But what Domino’s did not say in its statement tells a very different story.

Although it’s quite true that mobile sales are soaring, it turns out that 93 percent of those billion dollars worth of digital sales were on the plain old Web site. And 70 percent of sales are still the phone into a brick-and-mortar type. There shouldn’t be much of a stunner in that 93 percent figure, but with all of the mobile hype going on, it’s important to remember that figure to keep things in context. (Note: Domino’s also said that it’s selling more through its iPhone app than through Android. Given that the iPhone app has been out for several months longer, according to Domino’s spokesman Chris Brandon, that may not mean much.)…


Walmart, Safeway Fighting For Control Of .Grocery

June 13th, 2012
There's a .grocery domain in our future, and Walmart and Safeway are fighting over which chain will control it, while Amazon and Google battle to own .buy, .shop and .store. On Wednesday (June 13), the organization that oversees domain names—ICANN—unveiled 1,930 applications for new top-level domains to use instead of .com, and the list includes some of the biggest retail chains—and doesn't include even more big chains.

The retailers who shelled out $185,000 per name to buy their E-Commerce sites' domain names all over again include Macy's, Gap, TJX and Home Depot. But Kroger, Walgreens, CVS and Lowe's gave the vanity domains a pass.Read more...


Debenhams Pushing Free Wi-Fi Chain-Wide. A Different Strategy Or A Different Environment?

June 13th, 2012
As mobile in-store is becoming a more critical issue, the need for Wi-Fi has ironically lessened. That's because of increasing penetration in major areas of 4G. Some chains—such as Eddie Bauer—are opting to do without Wi-Fi entirely, while others believe it's essential to make sure the mobile performance is fast.

Debenhams, a $4.2 billion chain with 167 stores across the U.K. and Ireland, sees it differently and argues that free Wi-Fi—which the chain will shortly announce chain-wide—is crucial. Is this a U.S.-U.K. difference or a difference in strategy?Read more...


Eddie Bauer: With Mobile, Less Really Is More

June 7th, 2012
In recent months, the retail mobile mantra seems to have been that more is better. Whether that's small chains pushing functionality as far as they can or chains trying to get involved in as many trials as they can. Jamba Juice, for example, is citrusing it up with mobile efforts with PayPal, Google Wallet and ISIS.

But 337-store apparel chain Eddie Bauer is going against the trend, deliberately opting for a minimalistic approach. No Wi-Fi in its stores, no in-store product location, no geolocation to locate stores and no mobile app at all. With a primarily female demographic aged 35–55, Eddie Bauer Digital Marketing Director Michael Saracino talks up his chain's new mobile site and said he is focusing on what he calls mobile's "practical features."Read more...


Oracle’s Patent Play: Go Ahead, Make Larry Ellison’s Day

June 6th, 2012
Oracle has jumped into an E-Commerce patent fight with guns blazing, asking a court to invalidate patents that have been used to sue Walgreens, Best Buy, Sam's Club, CVS and other large chains in the past year. The lawsuit, filed on June 1, says Oracle's customers are being sued or threatened for using its Web-commerce products, including its live-chat support feature.

What's unusual isn't that Oracle is stepping up to defend its customers. It's how the database giant is doing that: by using its initial court filing to list dozens of previous patents that, Oracle says, prove the Patents-in-Suit should never have been issued.Read more...


Most Consumers Use Alternative Payments On Mobile, A Complete Reversal Of Desktop Pattern

June 6th, 2012
When an E-Commerce firm this week analyzed two months of recent online shopping data (for all of April and May), it found an interesting disconnect between shoppers using a mobile device versus those using a desktop device. When using a laptop or desktop, 62 percent of shoppers used a payment card, with the remaining 38 percent going for an alternative payment (PayPal, Amazon Payments, Google Checkout, etc.).

But when those same shoppers worked with the same retailers using an iPhone, iPad or Android device, 67 percent of them opted for alternative payments.Read more...


The Next Batch Of Monthlies Barely A Week Away

June 5th, 2012

Just a reminder that StorefrontBacktalk now has five free monthly newsletters, each one focusing on a different key area for us: E-Commerce, Mobile, PCI/Security, In-Store and CRM. The Monthlies—see the descriptions here—are available to anyone via a quick E-mail sign up.

The Monthlies publish the first half of each month, and they are a great way to catch up on all of the news in a given area. So before you miss the June Monthlies, sign up for your free copy. …


PayPal: Chains Get PINs, Small Fry Get The Good Stuff

May 31st, 2012
PayPal's strategy for its retail mobile payments program is clearly a two-tier approach. For large chains—the existing Home Depot rollout plus imminent deployments from JCPenney, Abercrombie & Fitch, Toys"R"Us, Foot Locker and Barnes & Noble, in addition to 10 others—the mobile services will be barebones, identical to the phone-number-and-PIN system that Home Depot is using.

The more interesting PayPal mobile capabilities, such as displaying a headshot to confirm customer identity and alerting the store as soon as a registered customer walks in, are only being offered for much smaller retailers, typically one-location boutiques.Read more...


Could The BlackBerry Save Mobile Payments? Maybe It’s The Only Thing That Can

May 31st, 2012
Everybody is waiting for Apple in NFC mobile payments—the theory being that the iPhone's try-anything-if-it's-Apple owners will embrace tap-to-pay as soon as the company endorses it. But Apple is in no hurry, and Google Wallet and ISIS aren't exactly taking off, while PayPal prefers phone numbers and PINs. The one player desperate enough to jumpstart NFC mobile payments may be RIM.

Yes, everyone hates the last-generation E-mail king, which on Tuesday (May 29) announced an operating loss and layoffs. But earlier this month RIM also finally agreed to let carriers and banks use NFC-enabled BlackBerrys for payments in Canada—without coupons, ads or a cut for RIM.Read more...


The Danger Of Comparing Mobile Stats

May 30th, 2012
You say potato, I say integrated mobile commerce infrastructure. Three reports released this week illustrate that however much confusion exists today about mobile commerce terminology, there's always room for more. When you see mobile projections, think hard and ask a lot of questions before you paste the data into a PowerPoint. Let's start with Tuesday (May 29): Two respected marketshare companies, Gartner and IHL, released reports about the mobile market.

Gartner said: "Worldwide mobile payment transaction values will surpass $171.5 billion in 2012, a 61.9 percent increase from 2011 values of $105.9 billion." Within minutes, a statement from IHL said: "Mobile in all aspects of retail is now a $5.5 billion market worldwide."Read more...


Mobile POS Moves Forward, With MasterCard’s Blessing

May 30th, 2012
PCI Columnist Walter Conway has just seen the future of mobile point of sale (MPOS), and he thinks those ubiquitous plug-in card-reading dongles may be winning. It doesn't matter that these MPOS approaches pose risks for cardholder data, that the payment applications are not PA-DSS validated or that they are not part of a point-to-point encryption (P2PE) solution as recommended by the PCI Council.

MasterCard on May 23 released formal guidance giving retailers a roadmap to implement MPOS using smartphones, tablets and other devices equipped with a "card reader accessory." The problem? The recommended best practices may not be PCI compliant and they conflict with MasterCard's own rules, as the card brand acknowledges.Read more...


Gap’s Piperlime Problem: Online To Stores Isn’t So Easy

May 23rd, 2012
Moving a brick-and-mortar retail chain online is a pretty well understood process at this point. Gap is now facing the opposite problem: how to turn its online-only Piperlime store into a brick-and-mortar business. The verdict so far: This isn't as easy as it was supposed to be.

The irony is that opening new store brands online is easy, once a chain has its E-Commerce presence up and running. Infrastructure can be shared, and the challenge is mainly making the new brand distinctive. But if anything, going the other way is actually harder than opening a completely new physical-store brand from scratch.Read more...


Apple’s Mobile Payments: Not Bluetooth, But Maybe Closer Than You Think

May 23rd, 2012
Does Apple really plan to use Bluetooth instead of NFC for mobile payments? Probably not, but you'd think so based on the buzz over the past week from the Apple-watching echo chamber. The consensus: All iPhones and iPads now have Bluetooth built in. It will take years for NFC to get into enough phones to matter. Ergo, Apple will use Bluetooth for its mobile wallet and sweep the table.

That's unlikely—if widely deploying a technology was the problem, contactless cards would have wiped out magstripes years ago. But will Apple use Bluetooth for payments? We may know by the end of the summer.Read more...


With Massachusetts’ Blessing, All States Prepare To End Item Price Labels. It Begs The Question: What Will Price Mean?

May 23rd, 2012
Legislatures first enacted requirements that grocery stores and other retailers individually price items because they simply didn't trust the barcode and other price-scanning technology. But now, argues Legal Columnist Mark Rasch, the government doesn't trust the retailers.

What is the "price" of an item? New technologies enable the prices charged, and the display of those prices, to change instantly. Ask anyone trying to purchase a plane ticket from New York to Detroit what the "price" of that ticket is. Read more...


ISIS Launches Trial With Significantly Fewer Retailers Than Planned

May 17th, 2012
ISIS has finally named retail names for its mobile-wallet trial this summer in Salt Lake City and Austin. On Tuesday (May 15), the mobile-operator consortium announced that some (but not necessarily all) area Macy's, Dillard's, Foot Locker, Champs Sports, Aeropostale and Jamba Juice stores will be accepting mobile payments during the ISIS trial, along with 19 local merchants in Austin and 29 more in Salt Lake City.

That's not a bad turnout for a normal technology trial. But ISIS is promising just hundreds of locations in cities with a total population of nearly a million—and considering the weak consumer response so far to mobile wallets, anything less than an overwhelming assault may already be doomed.Read more...


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