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PayPal Mobile Payment Trial Tripped Up By Lack Of Training

January 23rd, 2013

One manager said some shoppers tried doing returns of purchases they had made with the PayPal app, but he didn’t know how to do that. Instead of crediting the money back to the card, he just issued store giftcards. That manager said he understood that a different PIN was needed for returns than for purchases. But that’s not the case.

The manager at another of the participating stores said bluntly that no customers—who came into the store wanting to get the $10—were able to complete it while she was on duty, because she didn’t understand the process herself. If they insisted on PayPal, they were told they needed to use the card and not the mobile app.

The manager at another participating store said she appreciated the booth sending some traffic to her store, but it didn’t seem to help PayPal. “A lot of those guests did come to the store and a lot of them could access their PayPal account,” the manager said. “But they were having a lot of difficulty with it, so they all just paid” with cash or Visa or MasterCard.

That manager added that all of the customers who tried it were from either Europe or Asia. “The people who used it were tourists. Two of them didn’t speak our language,” she said.

That manager said she and a few associates had been given training on the PayPal system.

She also expressed concern about the distance from the booth. “We’re on the other side of the mall. You’d have to walk around two wings. That’s a little too far to walk” for $10, she said.

But it wasn’t simply a matter of laziness. “Realistically, if I was a guest, I’m kind of like the average consumer,” she said. “We’re so far away. They walk around the mall and, by the time they get to us, who knows if they even remember (the PayPal promotion). It’s December, and there’s all the hustle and bustle.”

On the one hand, December at a huge mall in New Jersey is a great time and place to test products. But it’s also the worst time, in the sense that shoppers are extremely distracted and have 30 other things on their mind.

One of the participating stores said that “no one” came into the store to get the discount, and this manager wasn’t even aware PayPal had run such a promotion. “No one has used (PayPal) at all this month,” she said in mid-to-late January.

Another store manager said explicitly: “We weren’t told about the promotion.” About “five or six” shoppers did try the trial in December, she said, but no one has tried in January. As for training, she added, “I don’t know how it (the PayPal mobile app) works.”

This trial raised some interesting issues. Despite these merchant-identified hurdles, a healthy number of customers tried it. That’s a good sign. But the intent behind these efforts is to show people how easy and intuitive these mobile payment apps are, with the hope being that shoppers will then start using it on their own without the bribes.

This trial seemed to send the opposite message: without someone trained in the app standing by to help, the mobile apps were anything but intuitive, if the number of shoppers who had trouble is a good indicator.

Fortunately, this is an easily fixed problem, given marketing dollars and training attention. The bigger issue, though, is whether shoppers will ultimately embrace this payment method. Will they like it? Will they find it valuable? Although some retailers are finding evidence that PayPal mobile payment should be compelling to shoppers, initial indications are that this trial did little to make that case.


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