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Mobile / Wireless / Contact

When Does A Telephone Company Become A PCI Service Provider?

April 21st, 2010
PCI Columnist Walt Conway asks, "At what point does a voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) vendor become a PCI service provider?" In other words, at what point does VoIP begin to affect your PCI compliance?

To that end, Conway was once asked, "If a VoIP network is used for cardholder data, what sections of PCI DSS would apply?" It was an easy question to answer: All of them.Read more...


Going From Mobile To Plastic? A Step Backward, But A Clever Short-Term One

April 21st, 2010
A vendor named OfferIQ is pushing an idea that, at first, sounds positively backward. It's a way to take a mobile digital coupon and convert it to be accessible by a plastic credit or debit card. What's next? Taking SMS messages and routing them to a paper fax machine?

But the idea is actually grounded in reality and boosts near-term revenue. Like it or not, mobile coupon redemption is not especially easy for most retailers. Read more...


Is The Anti-Loyalty Program A Fun Way To Get Competitor Intelligence?

April 15th, 2010
A UK coffee retailer had an unusual idea, something he called a Dis-Loyalty Card. It was designed to take customers coming into his shop and to reward them for leaving and visiting that shop's direct rivals.

What if instead of a disloyalty cardboard card, this approach became a disloyalty mobile app? Instead of forcing the rival store to do anything, the phone's GPS (geolocation) kicks in and confirms that the consumers are where they claim to be when they click an icon for that rival retailer. Read more...


The Three Stooges Vendor Accountability Program

April 14th, 2010
Franchisee Columnist Todd Michaud is sick and tired of his vendors using the "other guys" excuse as the reason they miss their deliverables. He currently has a project involving three different vendors that is going to miss its second deadline extension.

Each of the vendors is basically crossing its arms and pointing at the other two. The next person to tell him, "Hey, we did everything right; you need to talk to those other guys." is not going to like the conversation that follows.Read more...


Does Sports Arena Test Make Bluetooth In Retail Look Promising?

April 8th, 2010
As retailers try and explore every possible way to squeeze revenue out of smartphones, tactics for leveraging short-range Bluetooth have been rare. The security issues and the very narrow window of opportunity make it daunting. But there are some opportunities, such as when a consumer is standing in front of a mannequin, wanting to know more about the clothing on display. Or perhaps when a consumer is walking near a product that a CRM sweep says is on that customer's "can't resist" list.

For those who take a long view of short-range, a very interesting small proof of concept for Bluetooth was deployed at a Florida sporting event back in February. It was at a 6-hour-long Tampa Bay Rays baseball fan fest event.Read more...

Verizon Makes The First Move On Direct Mobile Payments

April 8th, 2010
When Verizon announced it plans to charge consumers for mobile payments directly on their phone bills starting this Spring, the inevitable mobile payment wars began. Will consumers ultimately pay for such services through their carriers, their banks, their PayPal accounts or even through cash at a Western Union office?

Retailers are nervously watching from the sidelines, with one eye on their phones and another on the millions they're spending on interchange fees to payment processors.Read more...

Generating Loyalty By Saving Customer Lives

April 7th, 2010
The millions of people who have food allergies in the U.S.—and especially the parents of allergic children—are a fiercely loyal group when it comes to retailers that flag potential problems. Given that an unflagged ingredient may prove lethal, such loyalty is not unexpected. How can retailers make a concerted effort to help this rather large group? A university-vendor-food company alliance is trying to craft a way by leveraging mobile phones.

Smartphones scanning barcodes is easy. The tricky part is accessing a frequently updated database that knows of the smallest ingredients—a recent CDC probe identified a food poisoning culprit as contaminated black pepper sprinkled on salami—and current non-obvious food triggers.Read more...

PayPal Mobile App Tops One Million Downloads

April 7th, 2010
Existing for just barely three weeks, PayPal's mobile iPhone app has now seen more than one million downloads, PayPal confirmed Wednesday (April 7).

Although that's certainly an impressive achievement, the much more telling figure is the one that wasn't released: the dollar value—or even simply the number—of actual transactions coming from the free app.Read more...

Starbucks, Target, In Largest U.S. Mobile Payment Trial

April 7th, 2010
The potential significance of such a large-scale trial—especially given the three powerful players behind it: Target, Starbucks and Apple—to mobile payment can't be overstated. But it will also be far too easy to overanalyze the results.

The initial favorable results from the October 2009 Starbucks trial may not prove to be that meaningful. Many of those sales may have been driven by the "gee whiz" novelty aspect, activity that would likely drop sharply over time. That skew is magnified by an order of magnitude because of the high-tech young consumer communities where the trials were conducted. Seattle, Cupertino, Mountain View, Sunnyvale and San Jose are hardly a diverse representation of American communities.Read more...

PCI Compliance Is Good; Data Security Is Better

April 7th, 2010
If you are like many CIOs, a lot of your security budget is driven by compliance requirements, including PCI DSS. Many merchants feel they are secure once they achieve PCI compliance.

But that is not necessarily true, pens PCI Columnist Walt Conway.Read more...

JCPenney’s Breach: Differences From Feds, Gonzalez, JCPenney Itself

April 1st, 2010
In November 2007, Albert Gonzalez's crew was in the midst of hitting their laundry list of major retailers when they used their SQL attack on JCPenney.

But just how deep they penetrated the $18 billion clothing chain is unclear, with the Justice Department, JCPenney and intercepted messages from Gonzalez IM conversations all painting very different pictures.Read more...

Study: E-Commerce And Self-Indulgent. Perfect Together?

March 25th, 2010

A new multi-university study (Univ. of Minnesota, Univ. of New Mexico and the Rotterdam School of Management) of green buying habits has some interesting implications for E-Commerce. The study (full text here) found that when consumers shopped publicly (in-store), they became self-conscious and tended to make purchases that they wanted to be seen making, such as buying items that would be seen as good for the community and the planet (“green”). When shopping privately (E-Commerce, M-Commerce), consumers tended to be more self-centered and bought that which they truly wanted, but perhaps were less proud of.

Clearly, there’s nothing very surprising about this conclusion. But how should it be internalized in E-Commerce-land? Does this mean that the green elements—fuel efficient, organic, only made by factories that have always banned child laborers, etc.—of products should be played down online, in favor of comfort, price, speed and sex appeal? For in-store, are there ways to design traffic flow to encourage public viewing of purchases that people want to be seen buying? …

Apple’s iGroups Patent Has Strong Retail Potential

March 25th, 2010
Apple has applied for a patent (full details of the Patent application are here) for a concept called iGroups, where iPhone users could privately share information with others in their groups who happen to be in a very specific place, such as a music concert, a tradeshow, a rally or a wedding. The patent includes a token-based security approach that should provide sufficient security.

Apple's approach is interesting in and of itself, but how might iGroups apply to retail? What if this approach was applied to a very large shopping mall? Or perhaps even a large, freestanding department store? What practical benefit could it have for consumers? The true advantage of the approach is in the discovery of online contacts who just happen to be there when you are. If a consumer goes to the mall with nine of her friends and they want to split up to divide and conquer the shopping, there are so many easier ways to communicate wirelessly. The iGroup idea only moves from mildly interesting to truly powerful when you factor in the discovery.Read more...

Best Buy Trialing Ultrasonic Waves To Finetune Customer Location

March 25th, 2010
Mobile geolocation is a tricky game, assuming you want to establish what product a customer is examining—or not examining—at a particular moment. It's good at identifying the building the customer is in, but not much more. Best Buy has started a trial "in a few stores" where it's using ultrasonic waves "as a fingerprint to say exactly where you are within the store," according to a Best Buy marketing exec.

Describing the smartphone as a "cord to my soul" and a consumer's "most personal device," Tracy Benson, senior director of Best Buy U.S. marketing, said the trial is promising some contextual relevance to know precisely where a customer is standing and what direction they're looking when they have their phone. Today's mobile technology "doesn't tell me where the customer is looking. This uses different sound waves to detect precisely where they are."Read more...

ABI: Retail Tech Spend To Hit $21 Billion By 2014

March 23rd, 2010

ABI Research is predicting that overall retail tech spending will grow to nearly $21 billion in 2014, an almost 50 percent increase from last year. The global integrated POS new sales segment alone will likely be at $6.56 billion this year, growing to $7.2 billion next year and $8.5 billion by 2014, said ABI Research Director Larry Fisher.

In North America, those integrated POS figures will be $3.3 billion this year, barely rising to $3.6 billion next year and inching up a bit more to hit $4.3 billion by 2014. The slower growth in North America is overwhelmingly because of installed base. As the sales are limited to new sales, it’s going to reflect much smaller percentage growth for an established market such as North America. …

Item-Level RFID At One Cent? By 2015, Printed Tags Could Do It

March 20th, 2010
Last week (March 18), a joint U.S.-Korean university research project announced a new approach to item-level RFID, one that is already delivering 3-cent tags and could easily hit 1-cent in volume production. The engineering differences are extensive, with the approach (a collaboration between Sunchon National University in Korea and Rice University in Houston) abandoning silicon-based tags for printed tags. Printed passive RFID, which could easily be woven into paper and plastic product packaging, has been a common RFID experiment for years, but the universities' 13.56-MHz 1-bit approach also abandons ink-jet printers for a gravure process. It uses single-walled carbon nanotubes for printing thin-film transistors. The schools have crafted a very specific methodology, even down to non-traditional cleaning liquids to prep the dielectric layer.

But even setting aside the price, the technology still has several technical hurdles to clear. The current footprint is about three times larger than today's barcode and it's been testing with a read distance of anywhere from 2 centimeters to 10 centimeters whereas project leaders say that it needs to read at about a full meter—at the very least, a half-meter—to be effective.Read more...

PayPal Literally Bangs iPhones Together For Money Transfers

March 18th, 2010

Strong mobile applications today understand the need for extreme efficiency of movements to allow for actions with as little effort as possible. That’s been the problem with mobile payment trials; they simply haven’t proven to be any faster than swiping a credit card. A new PayPal iPhone app—dubbed Send Monday—grasps this ultra-convenient attitude and attacks the nightmare of splitting checks.

By simply banging two iPhones together (gently, please. Those things are mostly glass), payment data is shared. “With bump, users can put two iPhones together and funds are quickly transferred between their PayPal accounts,” a PayPal statement said. “The Split Check feature lets users conveniently divide and quickly reimburse each other for the cost of a meal, including tip and tax, for up to 20 people. Collect Money allows users to request money from multiple people for a joint gift, team dues, concert tickets and more.” …

Some Radical IT Ideas From An Exasperated IT Exec

March 18th, 2010
The payment industry is ripe for a new disruptive technology to come along and tip the banking world on its head. For too long, the banks have been living off a protected revenue stream from interchange that pays for a bloated and archaic system. Why is it that Google can offer a 2-hour high-definition movie streamed to your PC for free but the average credit card transaction ($100) carries an interchange fee of almost $3? The problem, opines Franchisee Columnist Todd Michaud, is that most innovation is happening at the consumer and retail end of the transaction.

What would happen if we turned NFC on its head? For example, rather than the phone making a payment to the POS, it makes a payment to the restaurant's bank in the cloud. What would happen if the restaurant deducted the cost of lunch from Facebook credits? What if the guest could earn a free lunch by promoting the brand on Twitter? What if restaurants gave guests their menus on an iPad? What if that menu was customized to each diner’s likes, dislikes and allergies? What about a restaurant booth that has a video-conferencing setup that allowed to people to have lunch together without being in the same restaurant? Read more...

Target’s Mobile Coupon Move Interesting For What It Did Not Offer

March 10th, 2010
Coming on the heels of last month's support of mobile gift cards, Target's announcement on Wednesday (March 10) that it was embracing a mobile coupon program does not seem that surprising. And it isn't. But Target's decision to have all offers delivered to all customers—and updated only once a month—is.

The power of a mobile coupon program is not just in the convenience of the always-with-you device format. It's in the customizable nature of it and the related upsell and CRM implications. Why wouldn't Target offer consumers the ability to pick and choose—from their desktop machine—from a huge selection of offers? Those choices would provide valuable targeting information on an individual shopper basis. And if Target's decision is indeed to offer one blanket list of mobile opportunities, why not use existing CRM data to target certain offers to specific customer segments? Plus, why update those offers only once a month?Read more...

Bribes Make Citibank India’s NFC Trial Work Well

March 10th, 2010
In a major near-field-communications (NFC) trial in India—one lasting six months (ending last month) and involving more than 3,100 consumers, 44,000 transactions and more than 26 million India Rupees (about $573,000 U.S.)—Citibank saw how extremely willing consumers in Bengaluru were to use NFC to make purchases. That is true, of course, as long as the bribes are substantial. Not only is this the most extensive NFC trial we're aware of, but Citibank and some key technology partners have issued a 37-page report detailing the study's results, warts and all.

The Nokia 6212 used in the trial has a list price of $240; trial participants paid $110. But if the consumers made 12 purchases, they got to keep the phone for free. With six purchases, the phone's cost dropped to $55. Some 86 percent of participants made more than 12 purchases and, therefore, got the phones for free. The report dubbed the 18 percent who made exactly 12 transactions "gamers, customers who want to participate at exactly no cost to themselves."Read more...

Cyberthieves Using Bluetooth To Steal Gas Station Credit Card Data

March 4th, 2010
When cyberthieves plant skimming devices inside POS PIN pads, they typically have one of two headaches. First, they have to return to the scene of the crime to retrieve the device and its stolen data, which is dangerous. If the thieves use the device to wirelessly phone the data to one of their own, it's safer initially. But if that data is detected and examined, it could lead law enforcement right to the culprits—a.k.a., problem number two.

But one group of cyberthieves in Utah—as yet uncaught—has hit about 200 gas stations in that state with a toothy tweak: Bluetooth-y, to be precise. By arming their skimmer with a Bluetooth transmitter, the stolen card data was beamed out indiscriminately to anyone nearby—make that very nearby—who happened to choose to listen for it. When such a device is found by law enforcement, it reveals nothing to point to the thieves' location—past or present—and nothing to even indicate how long it's been there. The devices in the Utah case had no local storage whatsoever, police said; they simply grabbed the data and instantly beamed it away.Read more...

Cloud, Mobile, Web Logs The Future Of Security Nightmares

March 2nd, 2010
A funny thing happened here the other day. In reviewing the top sites linking to us, we often click on some of the referrals to see the context of the reference. While trying to back out, the user's complete Inbox was revealed—with full read, delete, modify and send privileges. In searches that we've conducted, we routinely stumble on confidential E-mail exchanges that were clearly found by a relentless spider.

This problem is likely going to get much worse as the efficiencies of cloud computing tempt companies to place the contents of server after server on the cloud for faster and easier access. Easier access is certainly right, but for whom? But cloud computing is not the only new target for security holes. Mobile computing and especially M-Commerce have an even greater potential for issues. Beyond the inherent breach possibilities with anything wireless, retailers are going to feel the need to push more functionality onto these consumer devices.Read more...

Target Decides Payment Method Incentives Work

February 24th, 2010
Changing consumer shopping behavior is about as easy as motivating a salesperson: Just speak with money. This is how you can tell the difference between what retail executives really care about and what they need to say they care about.Contactless payment, biometric payment and self-checkout are just some of the more obvious examples of payment processes that retailers have said they want to push, and yet they have never done the only thing that's almost guaranteed to work: sharp discounts. If a grocery chain decided it wanted to push more consumers through its self-checkout lanes, all the chain needs to do is announce that product prices in self-checkout are sharply less than those rung up through staffed lanes. It can even dictate the percent of change by deciding the percent of discount.

Target, for example, has decided that its in-house payment cards are a priority, so it's trialing a program in Kansas City that—in part—offers customers who use the card "5 percent off on every item, every transaction, everyday," Target CFO Doug Scovanner told analysts in a Tuesday (Feb. 23) conference call discussing the chain’s earnings.Read more...

Sausage Stylus: Putting The Link Into Mobile-Commerce

February 23rd, 2010

Reports from South Korea have grocers selling huge numbers of one specific line of sausages because they can be used to activate the touchscreen on an iPhone. The need for any kind of stylus for the iPhone is because the screen cannot recognize gloved fingers; the glove blocks the finger’s electrical impulses. But not just any sausage will, apparently, do. Only sausages from CJ Corp. are packaged with electrostatically charged plastic.

Let’s skip over the question of why sausages would be packed with electrostatically charged plastic. Is the Monty Python/Daily Show-caliber ludicrousness of Koreans bundled up in a cold subway car checking their E-mail with cylindrical breakfast meat enough to prompt all touchscreen manufacturers to insist that some kind of cold-weather stylus (preferably not edible) be integrated into the unit’s casing? Come to think of it, at what temperature (if any) would the touchscreen stop functioning? For doctors trying to Tweet their surgical thoughts, can the touchscreen see through rubber gloves?…

What Could Retail Do With A Spying Laptop?

February 23rd, 2010

When news of the spying laptops from Lower Merion, PA, first surfaced, my initial reaction was fury. No, not at the laptop spying itself (when the Supreme Court sanctioned strip-searching students for over-the-counter medication, I gave up on school privacy). My fury: They’re giving free MacBook Pros to thousands of high school students while my kid’s school is laying off teachers.

But what’s a lot more interesting—especially given the federal, state and county law enforcement probes—is the district’s reliance on the contract that students must sign when they are issued the laptop. If that small-print defense is upheld, retailers will have a field day. Imagine laptops that will report back to the mother ship about every online purchase made, which rival’s sites are being visited and the disposable cash of that consumer (hello online tax returns and personal finance programs). With the Webcam activated, you can now see what the customer is wearing and with what accessories and even listen to what he/she is saying about it. If that case doesn’t come down hard against the school district, they will have at least completed part of their education duty: they will have taught a lot of people some new ways of making money.…


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