Google Creating Platform for a New Mobile ECONOMY

16 March 2015

How can Google, Samsung or anyone else ever hope to catch Apple? It depends on what they are chasing!

My view is that Google has just begun a major transformation to the physical (offline) world with Android as the key enabling “platform” (beyond search to orchestration) for a new business network. This transformation involves 5 primary vectors:

  1. Enable Android as the secure platform (SE Linux, Trustzone)
  2. Create participant incentives for commerce “network” to invest and transact on “platform” (Advertiser, MNO, Bank, Retailer, …)
  3. Improve physical world insight/data collection to enhance targeting and attribution
  4. Capture and manage consumer identity
  5. Create/enhance consumer engagement platform for commerce

Mobile Industry vs. Mobile Economy

Apple is the #1 company in the world. (A very BIG period). Apple’s position is well earned through focus and hard work. Operating as a  consumer champion that captures a mind numbing 93% of the mobile industry’s profits.  The most obvious question to address in this blog: what could ANYONE do to dent this? (operating from a basis of under 7%). In other words, what could Google do that would possibly matter?

Answer: The “Mobile industry” is not what Google is chasing (nor are Amazon, FB, Twitter, …). “Industry” is an old world classification that does not account for most aspects of the MOBILE ECONOMY (advertising, beacons, shopping, shipping, social, payment, identity, …etc). The mobile economy is about commerce. Perhaps my favorite “stat of the year” to exemplify the impact of mobile outside of the traditional “industry” came from January in Tech Crunch. Amazon’s business has shifted from 5% mobile to 60% mobile in 5 years!! (see Convergence Blog for more detail).star network

As mobile and IOT encompass ever larger roles/touches which impact our behavior, Google is moving to support both: Android as the embedded OS (connected everything) and Google core as the center of commerce (the orchestrator).  This blog focuses on mobile commerce and I will try to outline a few of Google’s strategic moves that are redefining the mobile economy.

Google’s core is centered on connecting businesses  and consumers, delivering services to all.  At the center of this star network is the indisputable “data” utility which becomes more efficient with every insight they gain on both sides (consumer and merchant).  Today millions of businesses and billions of consumers are investing “energy” to connect to Google (all with unique incentives)

Businesses, Banks and Consumers are all wondering if the beautiful simplicity of Google’s bright shining star [network] is a Faustian Bargain, much worse than Apple’s walled garden. Google’s position today is quite a feat given its humble beginnings as a free Open Source mobile OS that Google bought in 2005.

How is Google building platform and network? Moving to a model of shared incentives and partnerships?  Before we go deep here, let me first attempt to paint the picture of Apple’s dominance (and weakness).

Apple

Apple’s success is completely driven by the consumer, logically this means their organization and investment are focused on delivering great consumer products which operate within a giant walled garden. This walled garden works well in a small world (individual’s control: telephone, music, calendar, pictures) where Apple can control, but not very well in coordinating interactions outside of the garden. Stated differently, Apple’s approach of “my way or nothing”, means it has few friends.

As I outlined 2015 Predictions blog, competition is no longer about camera resolution, storage, and screen size, that enable you to manage items in your small world.  The visible (obvious) attributes of mobile competition have become a commodity; as well as the small world problems that your phone solves.  My view is  Apple’s greatest assets are consumer trust and its unique ability to change consumer behavior (see blog Apple and Physical Commerce, and Consumer Behavior). These assets allow Apple to assume a leading role in connecting and orchestrating consumers in the real “connected” world , however they are 5 years behind Google, Amazon and Facebook in their ability to execute here.

Why is Apple falling down in IOT/Connected Commerce? Apple has 4 primary strategic weaknesses: 1) it does not partner well (closed network and proprietary standards) and 2) it relies primarily on hardware for revenue, 3) its entire organizational culture and focus is on hardware 4) it locks consumers into its walled garden. Today pointing out these weaknesses is like telling Peyton Manning that his singing was out of tune, or Albert Einstein’s flaw as dancing. These shortcomings just don’t matter in a world where Apple is 3 years ahead of everyone else in profitability, quality, loyalty, integrated OS and Hardware.

Apple’s business model is perhaps the best example of how closed networks win through the domination of a benevolent “channel master” (see iPhone 6 – Apple’s Strategic Opportunity). Cisco, Microsoft, Intel all operate in this model. Apple’s star network is much smaller (ie connected business) but its bonds are much stronger. However, their success may become a hindrance.. as merchants, banks and others want to “own the consumer” too.

Compared to Apple, Google’s world is much more democratic, it wins by delivering value through customer choice every day (search, maps, mail, play, HCE, …).  Google is a commerce enabling, which tilts toward the consumer (on the phone) and toward the merchant (in advertising). Where Apple has a walled garden; Google is a semi open platform that supports many gardens and clusters.  Where Apple’s business is driven by hardware margin; Google’s is driven by daily consumer and merchant choice. Where Apple delivers value to consumers and itself; Google delivers value to every merchant, bank, MNO and almost every consumer (even on iOS). What other businesses are enablers of consumer and merchant? My list is fairly small…

Apple’s inability to make the iPhone work outside their garden, means that they are dependent upon device only margin (currently a fantastic business model). Critics will point out that Apple runs a fantastically successful App Store Platform that is 8x-20x more profitable than Google’s (with less than one quarter of the handsets).  However this is Apple’s walled garden.. where Apple made 30% from $2B from App store sales benefiting 500k odd top app developers, Google’s US Ad sales last year were $30B driving at least 20% of $185B in US eCommerce Sales. Google’s role was much more impactful to the overall economy (and almost all businesses).

Platform is turning out to be an opportunity lost for Apple. The iPhone 6’s security has made it the first “convergence device” with the ability to broker interaction in virtual world and the physical world (NSA, CIA and everyone else are still working to break industrial grade security). Yet Apple has no plan to leverage this identity management outside of their platform (see Brokering Identity), or even use basic identity information to assist banks with identifying ApplePay fraud (until very recently).

How to combine assets in the new Mobile Economy?

We need collaboration! The last 10 years has seen every major fortune 100 build big data facilities that work with nothing else. Banks, MNOs and others have all invested billions in an attempt to build an advertising business to rival Google’s. JPM Chase has a new data division on par with the investment bank, Verizon has built PMI, Walmart has WMX. All are constrained by their partial views of the consumer. Advertisers are challenged to work within these new proprietary efforts. The market need surrounds incremental insight engaging consumers in the channel which they prefer .. which means combining data.Data options

US MNOs spent over $600M+ trying to make their NFC play work. As my good friend Osama said at a recent MNO event “in order to create value sometimes we must let go of the assets we treasure most knowing that value is only created when they are combined with the assets and interests of others”.

Google provides a massive closed market (Ad Words) with unsurpassed consumer insight and trust. No company can choose NOT TO participate in Google’s economy, after all advertisers and retailers must go to where consumers are (not where they want them to be). Google operates in discovery, awareness, engagement, selection, sales, delivery and support.

Google is perhaps the only company in the world that is both loved and feared by merchants, banks and consumers. Particularly as their traditional open source, closed market, and “do no evil” approaches become more proprietary and less transparent. Google’s insurmountable advantage is in using data and insights within its own organization, where everyone else must be diligent with sharing (externally).

Today that fear is not well placed. Few understand just how myopic Google’s current data dominance is. While Google knows most about you online (search, mail, maps), they know very little about you in the real world. Google indexed the internet to create a common directory of public data, yet it has very little insight into private data (even your actual identity).  Facebook, Apple and Amazon all have far greater consumer identity insight.  Physical world (off line) data is of far greater value than online data, and online eCommerce sales are only $185B (US) comparted to $2.4T in offline Commerce.

Google

Perhaps it’s easiest to start this section by outlining what has changed in the last 12-18 months?Google economics

As stated in intro paragraph, I believe Google has begun a major transformation to the physical (offline) world with Android as the key enabling “platform” (beyond search to orchestration) for a new business network. This transformation involves 5 primary vectors:

  1. Enable Android as the secure platform (SE Linux, Trustzone)
  2. Create participant incentives for commerce “network” to invest and transact on “platform” (Advertiser, MNO, Bank, Retailer, …)
  3. Improve offline insight/data collection to enhance targeting and attribution
  4. Capture and manage consumer identity
  5. Create/enhance customer engagement platform for commerce

Android as Secure Platform

Android is transition from open source Linux to SE Linux (which was oddly enough created by the NSA).  One of Androids major shortcomings was its dependency on OEMs (minimal say on hardware). While Apple worked to create innovations like touch ID that is stored within the secure enclave within the A7/A8, Google had to work with prime OEM vendors like ARM to build the equivalent (both Apple Secure Enclave and Google’s new equiv are based upon ARM’s Trustzone/TEE).  Android is making big bets in security, as managing information (and authenticating consumer) is key to orchestration (see  Authentication – A Core Battle for Monetizing Mobile).

Poor SamsungPay. These guys obviously don’t read my blog or they would have clearly seen the implications of Google’s new MNO deal. SamsungPay will not be pre-loaded onto Samsung’s own phone. Samsung not only lost in payments, but also in owning a proprietary security construct that secured the token (Samsung’s proprietary Arm TrustZone implementation). Even if a consumer loaded SamsungPay onto their phone, it will not work without Samsung leveraging the new Google/ARM firmware for secure credential management.

Apple’s biggest lead (with no apparent threat) is in touch ID. While SE Linux and Secure Storage are important… you must know WHO is coming in the front door. The Android approach seems to be more about behavior and forensic identification than biometric.

Incentives for participation

In 2011, the US carriers wanted an estimated $3B from Google for the “rights” to NFC (and the secure element). Google correctly responded.. “how about we figure this out together and see if we can make it work” (skin in the game approach). Last month we saw Google’s purchase of ISIS/Softcard for $60M with a new strategic partnership, with unknown revenue share, and unknown mandatory Android features (ie Wallet/Play/ ?) with the Carriers that redefines the “secure” standard of a new Android platform.

Whereas Apple has complete control over every aspect of iOS. Google has created a network for revenue/sales. Retailers advertise/engage/create, MNOs rev share, Banks manage payments.  You can only guess which platform Banks and MNOs would prefer to invest. This common platform may be a turning point for collaboration and Commerce 3.0 (my year of partnerships).

Offline insight

Google’s mission is to use the phone to cross the chasm into offline. The reason a new platform is needed has to do with offline data. For example, Mobile advertising will never work without an understanding of intent and behavior. This [private] information is locked up in millions of businesses (with a copy at the NSA).  data evolution

Today’s data business is just insane. Take a look at someone like CVS, Catalina is one of my favorite data companies (along with ADS), and Catalina works well with Nielsen to target and measure television ads. However they don’t work well digitally, thus CVS has to provide Datalogix (now Oracle) will all of it loyalty data (your SKU level purchase data) to play with Facebook (see my blog for background). Can you imagine having all of your data in multiple locations? Trusting these aggregators use it appropriately? Combining is with their proprietary models and other external data sets? What are they “gleening” from this data?

Google’s approach is to own the data and insights created from their services. Google now wants to create mechanisms to “share”.. the problem is that this “sharing” involves giving data to Google and getting customers back. This allows Google to create great experiences, but the price for data owners is loss of control.

Logically, nothing in biology or in capital markets has this amount of centralization. The title of this section is “combining assets”, is the only answer to combine assets giving them to someone else for unstructured use? This is what my NewCo Commerce Signals does: providing the plumbing for federated data where data owners retain the control over their data, determining not only who they should share data with, but also for what use (next blog). I’m fortunate to have a few big retailers, banks and MNOs that share this view (within Commerce Signals).

Capture Consumer Identity

Remember when you purchased that new iPhone? You couldn’t activate it until you created an iTunes account. That iTunes account required a credit card. What a brilliant Apple move!!  This year Google will finally catch up, as I believe a key facit of new MNO agreements is to make the Google Play account mandatory (with CCN/Token).

Knowing the identity of the consumer is important, authenticating them is quite a bit more difficult.  I believe third parties like Payfone will play a leading roll here. Payfone is jointly owned by top 6 US Banks, Amex, Verizon, RRE and a few other investors. They are tying together identity information of carriers, banks and platforms to score transactions and enrollment.

Customer Engagement

Google has many, many efforts here:

Retailers and Banks are loathe to give Google data, or let them assist directly in consumer engagement. However as long as Consumers choose Google’s services first, Google is in the driver’s seat. Companies that share data more effectively with them will reap greater benefits.

Wrap up

EVERYONE works with Google… it is where consumers are. Consumer behavior on mobile is changing much faster than anyone has anticipated. No one company can ever hope to compete with Google, they are moving fast to reshape the mobile economy.. where consumers spend 3 hr/day.

mobile_vs_tv_1_v1b-1

Android is a much easier platform to make investment. It’s a more predictable standards based environment compared to Apple (ex Sapphire glass or that darn lightening connector), with a strong partnership track record. Google’s democratic nature allows for experimentation. The path toward rewiring commerce is much easier in a Google world.

Having Google at the core of data is not without risks. Companies must work with many parties after all. How do you track the interaction between all of your partners today? Who has your consumer data? What will you share with whom? How can you accelerate trials and tests?

How do you combine your assets to create value in this new future? Without loosing control. This is the problem I am focused on.

 

 

2015 Predictions

3 February 2015

Payments, commerce, data and mobile is this blog’s focus. I’m very very fortunate to have so many great friends, customers and partners in this area. My thoughts are not my own, as I’m greatly influenced by my “environment”.

I’ve made many new friends because of this blog. The funny story that comes to mind was in August of last year when the CEO of a Fortune 50 company comes into the room and says “ahh.. the INFAMOUS Tom Noyes”…  (never a good way to start off a first date.. but we had a good laugh and thrilled he reads my blog.. ). Honest dialog has a way of creating great friendships. Thanks to all of you for providing such a fantastic environment! You make writing this thing fun.

2014 Prediction Eval

Before you bother reading my 2015 predictions you should probably see if it is worth your time. Best way is to evaluate what I projected last year in my 2014 Predictions

  • Consumer Privacy. Grade – C. Not much happened in 2014 on consumer side. I’m holding with my prediction, just not certain of timing and “tipping point”. How will we know when it happens? Imagine a Sony like incident with consumer data.. Regulated businesses like MNOs and Banks are highly attuned, Apple is the best in class here (consumer champion of privacy see Blog). The Ad industry is dependent upon tracking and data sharing in a very, very grey market approach. There is a better way… 2014 is perhaps the year of “awareness” with Snowden, DEA tracking license plates, State department keeping all of our phone records, to new super cookies on mobile. The next logical phase is ACTION.
  • Retail banking. Grade – A. Huge transformations going on. Prepaid and GPR products are segments growing at over 35% CAGR, US branch footprints are shrinking (see Blog)
  • Debit Volume. Grade – D. Not much going on here, after the DC court of appeals struck down Judge Leon’s ruling on debit interchange (March 2014).  Not much consolidation in PIN debit either. I do believe US debit will evolve to look like Canada’s Interact and Australia’s EFTPOS.
  • Mobile BEACONS. Grade – F. Nothing happening in 2014. Looks like more of a 2016 thing. I’m holding to my projection.. but missed timing completely.. thought Apple would launch beacons at their Sept 9th
  • mCommerce Payments. Grade – B. Summer 2015 is where we will see substantial progress. We see that the networks have turned over the new 3DS CNP scheme to EMVco last month (see link). As Payments move into the OS (see blog), Paypal doesn’t have one. Amazon, Google, Apple, will make SIGNIFICANT dents in Paypal as the platformcontrols authentication and authorization. Amex/Visa/MA’s new rules on tokens, combined with consumer privacy concerns, will accelerate the trend.
  • Specialized HardwareGrade Gives way to Commodity Hardware- Grade A.. makes way for commodity hardware and software. Launch of POYNT and CLOVR are best examples.
  • Host Card Emulation. Grade – B (for 2014), Grade A (by August 2015). Google did indeed push HCE into Android. With the death of ISIS and SEs in US phones.. things will be heating up in 2015 with a new Google launch.
  • EMV. Grade – D?. It appears to be happening.. I bet it would have been pushed back… I have the cards, but don’t yet see the retailer infrastructure. The chip and signature (vs Chip and PIN) is still a very strange one. It would take me 3 days to explain the politics behind it. What really baffles me is Samsung’s planned launch of LoopPay this summer (with Visa support).
  • Banks have given up on payment innovation. Grade – A+. I have a copy of the ApplePay issuer agreement (Sept 2014). Just can’t believe the banks have taken it on the chin like this.. not only ceding mobile to Apple, but Tokens to the Network and 15bps. What do they have left?
  • ISIS WILL DIE.. Grade – A+. Money ran out in Dec 2014, sale will be complete by March.
  • Apple will have NFC. Grade A+ … ApplePay 9/9/2014.. I was wrong on 3 things.. I projected October (it was 9/9) and there would be no SE, and Beacons would be part of launch (to wake up payment app). Big news (below) is that ApplePay will be in browser by summer 2015.. Paypal will be crushed with a double whammy on “value”: usability and a new rate tier (20-40bps off credit) for tokens in CNP.
  • Unlocking the cloud and authentication. Grade – B+ . Apple has done an amazing job here. See my blog on brokering identity.

Summary Grade: B+ . Looks like I’m a little aggressive in projecting the new stuff (Beacons, Identity, EMV, HCE). Except for EMV and Debit, I’m still confident in the predictions (philosophically) but my timelines are too aggressive in most cases.

2015 Predictions

These predictions based upon the Structural Changes in Payments which I discussed last month.

Big Picture Predictions

  1. The Year of Partnerships, new Clusters and multi-tenant walled gardens (forced by Apple/Google Dominance).
  2. Mobile moves from Small World organization to Real World Orchestration (my next blog)… starting with merchant friendly value propositions. You must be where customers are, or influence them in the real (offline) world. We have spent the last 10 years enabling a handset that does more than take calls and connecting it to the virtual world. We will spend the next 10 connecting it to the physical world. From POS Payment, Google Shopping Express and Beacons to Door opening and document signing.
  3. Tipping point of Privacy (Apple Defines Best Practice)
  4. Politicization of networks. Government regulation in internet prioritization, payment networks, social networks, advocacy networks and advertising networks. Networks are needed for the efficient life of a firm. Star network resembles dictatorships in social networks, and “channel masters” in business networks. Star networks are optimal for business, however we have grown quite used to the state of `organized criticality’, the scale-free, democratic and highly complex social net. Government involvement in networks usually does not improve efficiency and can lead to significant disruption.  Take a look at what Europe has created in SEPA.. a standard that no one will invest in.
  5. Collapse of “wallets” into Payment in the OSmCom trumps eCom. Tokens take over in eCommerce w/ ApplePay, Visa Checkout and Google Wallet
  6. Marketing… the year of measurement… and beginning of pay for performance
  7. The most trusted consumer brands will remain: Apple, Google and Amazon… with banks suffering most as their products become commodities and mobile rendering physical footprints moot.

Tactical/Deal Predictions

  1. Apple will launch aggressive effort to bring ApplePay into Browser by Summer 2015
  2. We will have a new rate tier from Visa and Mastercard based upon tokens in CNP (see EMVCo 3DS PR)
  3. Google will GO BIG in launch of new wallet in an HCE model akin to ApplePay. It will have dynamic tokenization. Google will excel in getting retailers private label and loyalty cards integrated, and pass Apple in BLE integration (in store).
  4. Alliance Data will be bought by JPM, C, Paypal, Hedgefund+Acquirer or Amex. ADS is my top stock recommendation for 2015, V/MA are my long term.
  5. Samsung will Launch LoopPay with support from Visa by September 2015.
  6. Visa will complete purchase of Visa Europe (hopefully at a 2015 discount) with strong dollar and weak EU growth.
  7. MCX will pivot to a payment instrument within another wallet (think Target Redcard) vs a wallet unto themselves .
  8. Beacon pilots will launch in top 20 retailers. In store navigation, product location, couponing and gamification will be first uses.
  9. Facebook payment will go live and be integrated into a new form of social advertising, where you are paid based upon your ability to influence your network, will see first pilots. Facebook will remain king of CPG advertising
  10. Behind the scenes there is tremendous progress in the collaboration of Banks, Telecos, and Mobile Platforms to Validate Identity. Short term impact is near elimination of mobile payment fraud. 2015 will be year of formalizing an identity verification infrastructure (in the cloud).

2015 the year of Partnerships

Google and Apple against Everyone Else?

I don’t have time to go over all 15 of my projections.. will do so in coming weeks. Over the last 6 months network and system design has consumed my thoughts like nothing else: proprietary networks vs. open networks, integrated vs modular, distributed innovation vs controlled platform, Apple vs. Google, Amex vs Visa, net neutrality vs. prioritization. At what point does OPEN win? My blogs on the subject was Value Creation and Distributed Innovation, Banks non-Banks and Commerce Network and my two favorite books are Platform Leadership and  Weak Links by Peter Csermely (viewable on Google Books here).

Any analysis of this area must focus on Apple. Wow! What a machine! The most loved brand, the most profitable, highest in consumer satisfaction, most sales per square foot, creator of new categories, inventors of new consumer experiences, trusted by the most affluent demographic, champion of privacy… on and on. Is Apple an exception?  Can any company ever aspire to replicate their success in any industry? How can anyone else compete in areas they touch? Do the rest of us just pick up the crumbs? Apple’s latest results show that their model is improving, garnering over 86% of the “mobile” industry’s profits (see Forbes).

network evolution nodes to consortium

Open networks are harder to build, and are certainly less profitable than closed. My prediction on “year of partnerships” is due to necessity, NOT the efficacy of collaboration. Few companies can compete with the data advantage of Google, Amazon and Facebook. Apple’s trust and reputation advantage is perhaps even more insurmountable. For large companies it may take 2-5 partnerships in a focused area. Imagine the data challenges small companies face.  This is not a technical challenge as much as a business one. How many successful partnerships have you seen (elephants dancing).  Remember that are injured elephants facing as structural changes in consumer behavior, mobile, information, distribution, trust … impact products and strategies. CommerceSignals is working to help bridge this gap, but that is for another blog.

Where Google, Apple and Amazon are self sustaining Stars (networks), clusters and multi-tenant walled gardens are forming to compete in a quasi open model.  The challenges here are not technical, but organizational and value creation. History reveals few consortiums renowned for their efficiency.  Value is best created where it can be controlled and monetized in “small worlds”.  Networks in business are functional in 2 areas: around a specific function with broad use (Visa/MA, Credit Bureaus, ?Android?) and where market forces can take operate (NASDAQ,  …). This is my big hypothesis… would greatly appreciate input here.

2015 must be the year of merchant friendly value propositions. Logically, the majority of commerce happens in a retailer.. and hence the “solutions” must as well. The inability to partner will give way to platforms that enable partnership… optimally platforms that would allow millions of “lightly structured” interactions to test 1000s of value propositions until something sticks (this is Commerce Signals). Take beacons for example.. we know that Apple can maintain security and confidentiality.. but the retailer must install beacons that work for everyone and have a business case (consumer insight). Consumers want to know how insights will be used. How do you manage the agreement between Manufacturer, Beacon Provider, Apple, Retailer and Consumer?

iPhone 6 – Tipping Point for Platforms

As I outlined in iPhone 6 – Apple’s Strategic Opportunity, I believe the iPhone 6 represents the dawning of a new age of mobile “platform”. What was a music manager with a phone has turned into the most secure, easy to use device ever created. The factors of competition have changed, it is no longer about camera resolution, storage, and screen size. The visible (obvious) attributes of competition have become a commodity; as are the “problems” that your phone solves (telephone, music, calendar, pictures).  Where previous phones helped you manage items in your “small world”, the iPhone 6 has become both the secure key to the cloud with the ability to broker interaction in the physical world (NFC, BLE, identity, tokens). The “convergence device”. See my blogs Brokering Identity and Authentication in Value Nets.

Unfortunately, Apple is so focused on the consumer it has no ability to partner. While there is no company better in creating devices that thrill a consumer, there is perhaps no company worse at building partnerships and business models where value is shared. Given Apple’s cash hoard, my top recommendation.. create a new division focused on network.. helping connect consumers to the physical environment they live in (thermostats, health, retail, cars, advertising, …). This is NOT a handset function.

Abrupt end here.. this blog has been in partial completion mode for 6 weeks. I had to get it out. Will articulate my views on the other “Top 5” predictions this month.

Apple’s Platform Strategy: Consumer Champion

Apple’s Platform Strategy: Consumer Champion

I’m trying to read the tea leaves on Apple and it seems they have devised a unique.. brilliant platform strategy around securing consumer data. I think of it as the anti-Google strategy.  As we see so much commonality between the functionality of IOS and Android.. along with the associated legal wrestling, what could Apple do that would be something Google never could?

Per my previous blog Apple and Physical Commerce, Apple has an unmatched level of trust with the consumer, and ability to change consumer behavior. I also outlined how Apple is completely reworking the role of authentication in the platform (see this great article from Networked World), this work, combined with Apple’s efforts to limit ad tracking are frustrating advertisers (see Tech times ). But there is hidden genius in all of these mechanizations.  Apple seems to be making a bet that there will be a tsunami of coming issues with privacy and anonymity. In this they are turning themselves into the ultimate consumer protector… both online and in the physical world.  They are the gatekeeper… the only entity that can know what a consumer is doing.

How can they monetize this role? In hardware sales…  Don’t look at them as an ad business.. (although they could build it later).. but right now protecting your consumer from data leakage and loss is a VERY big competitive differentiator, a feature that is particularly well aligned to Apple’s demographic. It is also a very hard one for Google/Android to match.

 

Thoughts?

Payments.. global growth.. with controlled chaos

6 April 2014

Sorry for the poor flow here. jumping on a plane and wanted to get some of this out. feedback appreciated.

Objective

A brief view on what is happening in global payments growth, debit, banking and data. Why moves here are so important to banking, commerce and payments.

Background

Nothing will dent the 20%+ CAGR of Visa/MA, as 92% of electronic transactions are completed by less than 10% of the world’s population. Perhaps the best analysis done on global payments is from Cap Gemini (2013 World Payments Report). Markets like Asia and CEMEA are growing electronic payment volumes by over 22% CAGR. The network effects are enormous, it is like mobile in the late 90s, or the internet since the mid 90s. No investor can stay out of payments.

 

Payments is a rather complex environment. I’m not speaking from a technology standpoint, but from a value, control, political and regulatory one. Just as electronic payments are exploding internationally, there are several forces that are acting against established payment networks in OECD markets. For Example

Thus, It is important to view the changes occurring in payments with changes in other networks: social, telecommunication, retail, mobile, supply chain, demand chain, advertising, banking, commerce, education…etc.  The lines that separate retailers, advertisers, platforms, MNOs, Banks, … are beginning to blur much more substantially. For example

Historically Banks supported commerce by providing access to capital, support of markets, specialized instruments, all of which created value through their unique ability to manage risk (using their information advantage).  Consumers chose banks based upon their physical presence to support  the interaction with (and transformation of) different forms of value: cash, check, electronic, …etc, as well as gain access to credit, and provide return on assets.  Bank strategists created retail financial “supermarkets” where transactional accounts acted a loss leader to cross sell 100s of other consumer financial products. The majority of consumers never participated in this cross selling effort, and therefore the mass remains unprofitable to these “supermarket” banks.

As cash, and check are displaced by electronic payments, the value of the branch and “supermarket banking” has shifted to the value of electronic payments for a large majority of the population. The information advantage that best positioned banks to manage risk has decayed. Further, the billions of dollars spent in transactional risk management has been eliminated by mobile authentication (see Perfect authentication a nightmare for Banks). Regulators are working globally to open up payments to non-banks (ex EU ELMIs), but conversely holding banks responsible for everything. Governments and Banks have grown addicted to data surrounding electronic payments, leaving many consumers to search for anonymity (ie Bitcoin).

The entities that are currently best equipped to deliver consumer value and monetize data are companies that the consumer most frequently chooses to interact with (Apple, Amazon, Google, WalMart, …). Banks are working from a position of control, and must pivot to a position of value, trust and choice.

A Story….

Most of you know that today’s Google wallet has a central transactional account of a non-Durbin Mastercard (see blog). Google pays each issuer with a card in its wallet the FULL rate on its cards (example 210 bps to FDC/Visa/Chase) and the merchant incurs a debit fee of 105bps. Google eats the cost.. In this model the bank wins, and the merchant wins. The consumer wins because they can put their preferred payment instrument in the wallet (ie Debit). In fact Google is the ONLY wallet that has debit cards in it.
You would think everyone would like this right? NOPE. Banks want Google to stop wrapping their cards. What are Banks upset by?
#1 Banks don’t like Google seeing the data,
#2 Banks don’t want debit use on mobile.. they want mobile to be a premium credit service
#3 Banks want part of GOOGLE’s revenue in addition to their full interchange.
This story should scare the pants off investors in the payment space, Google has invested a billion dollars, takes a loss on every transaction and has a value proposition for everyone.  (see blog)

My recommendation to Google? Tell the banks that they can shut you off whenever they want to. It is in their control to decline your transactions. I can just imagine the customer message from Google  to a consumer “your bank has decided they don’t like you using your credit and debit card with us, here are a list of banks that you can use, ….” .My recommendation to the Banks? Don’t trust Google with your data, find a way to work with them to accomplish your objectives. I have several ideas for you if you want to chat.

Five important takeaways from this section:

  1. There are no technology problems in Payments
  2. Mobile handsets and authentication are a threat to banks
  3. Banks are running away from the mass market, and Retailers/MNOs are running to fill the gap
  4. Google has done all the right things, invested a billion, takes a loss on every transaction and still can’t get traction with retailers or banks.
  5. Customer CHOICE is a threat to established players

Durbin – What Happened?

As reported Friday (see Bloomberg), the 3 judge panel at the US Court of appeals upheld the Federal Reserve rules, overturning Judge Leon’s ruling that “The court concludes that the [Federal Reserve] Board has clearly disregarded Congress’ statutory intent by inappropriately inflating all debit-card transaction fees by billions of dollars.” and the Federal Reserve failed to ensure that merchants enjoy access to “multiple unaffiliated networks” to process each debit-card transaction, as also required by the Durbin Amendment. Senator Durbin reacted to this Friday stating that the appeals ruling was “a giveaway to the nation’s most powerful banks and a blow to consumers and small businesses across America.”

Retailers and Senator Durbin argue that the clear language of the law directed the Fed to set the price of Debit at “reasonable and proportional to the cost incurred”. The Fed’s internal team came up with $0.12, but the Fed then came up with $0.21+5bps. Judge Leon had struck that fee down in July 2013 (see analysis here). For more background on Durbin and Fed see this this Federal Reserve Article.E:\Pictures\Blog\2013 number of payments in US.PNG

Debit – Industry Perspective

Debit is the most frequently used payment product in the US, with the lowest fraud rates (see Charts, and Federal Reserve 2013 Payment Study). Debit is a product that evolved from your Bank’s ATM network. This is why you have all of those logos like NYCE, PULSE, STAR, Interlink, … on the back of your card, and why you also use the card to get cash out of the ATM. I covered this topic 2 years ago in Signature Debit is Dead. Visa’s big innovation was turning their 1987 interlink win from a PIN debit acceptance network to a signature network. By placing the Visa log on the debit card, and forcing the “honor all cards” rule on merchants, they successfully drove network expansion. As the NYTimes outlines

Seizing on this odd twist, Visa enticed banks to embrace signature debit — the higher-priced method of handling debit cards — and turned over the fees to banks as an incentive to issue more Visa cards. At least initially, MasterCard and other rivals promoted PIN debit instead.

Why all the regulation? A picture is worth a thousand words

E:\Pictures\Blog\interchange rates US Fed 2.PNG

Clearly the pricing here does not seem to indicate that effective market forces are at work, as debit network expansion was followed by tremendous fee increases.

Canada, Australia, UK, most of Europe have debit pricing of around $0.12.  A fantastic analysis of all these countries was done by Europe-Economics in The Economic Impact of Fee Regulation in the UK – June 2013. The universal regulatory goal is to establish (or retain) debit’s role as the central access point for transaction accounts.  As in the Australian example, the hope was that the removal of debit fees would result in merchant savings, which would in turn result in consumer savings. Unfortunately, banks successfully recovered most of the lost interchange through new bank fees, and merchants did not pass along the cost savings.

In Australia, 85 per cent of debit card transactions are processed using an EFTPOS terminal. Interchange Fees (IFs) for such transactions are imposed in inverse direction to that of credit cards as they are paid by the issuing bank to the acquiring bank. [Post regulation] Issuing banks suffered from a revenues reduction from IFs worth AU$647m for 2006. However, as in the Spanish case, banks responded to the reduction in their revenue from IFs by increasing the level of other fees. Annual fees increased by AU$40 on average, which for 2006 represent an estimated AU$480m in issuer revenues. As a result, issuing banks recovered 74 per cent of the lost revenue from IFs.

Beyond debit, Europe is considering caps on credit card as well (see Digital Transactions – Europe’s Fee Conundrum). Visa Europe Fee structure provided below for background.

E:\Pictures\Blog\Visa Europe Fees.PNG

For more detail see my blog Debit Wars. My summary view is that debit payments are going toward a common bank owned service operating at cost (Average $0.12 globally). Visa is impacted slightly here as 19% of revenue is from debit. Thus banks are working aggressively to move payments to high margin credit.

Retail Banking Impact

This debit dynamic plays heavily into a larger retail banking strategy (see Future of Retail Banking, and theFinancialBrand). The business of managing your transactional account was never a great business for a bank. Gallup estimates that retail banking is unprofitable for 80% of consumers, McKinsey’s analysis shows it is over 40%.    Durbin’s impact on debit fees cost US Retail banks over $7B (see Forbes).

E:\Pictures\Blog\retail banking branch transactions.PNG

Branches have historically been the #1 factor in consumer acquisition. During my time at Wachovia, over 80% of our customers selected us because we were the closest branch to home or office. This branch convenience is still the primary factor, although actual use of the branch has gone down dramatically.

This, together with the maturing of digital channels, has led to a culling of branches with banks like Chase looking to take upwards of $1B from branch cost.E:\Pictures\Blog\branchesA.jpg

The US is progressing along the lines of Australia, as the non-exempt banks add new fees to make up for the debit loss (see American Banker). However, unlike Australia, the US has 2 alternatives: Exempt Banks/Credit Unions (CUs), and Pre-paid Cards. Deposit growth in the exempt banks is growing 5-6% YoY, but the real winner seems to be pre-paid with growth over 36% (See 2013 Fed Payment Study and Bank Innovation ).

My simplistic analysis of pre-paid is that the growth is driven more by a need for access to electronic payments (by the unbanked), than a need for “banking”.  Example.. need to buy something on Amazon. This seems to fit well with experience of other unbanked success stories globally. A way to view this is that value of traditional “banking” is shifting to the value of electronic payments for a large majority of the population.

What we have seen is that the Value of a big bank brand is diminishing very quickly. The brand, infrastructure and data advantages that banks held are rapidly diminishing in value. The big buildings and beautiful vaults have no advantage over an Amex Bluebird card in a box (deposit insurance levels the field for everyone). Retailers, MNOs, and Platforms have better brands, better pricing and more physical distribution and/or direct consumer “touch” than banks could ever hope for.

Nothing in this area changes quickly. But here is what I see as the most likely strategies by key players.

Non Exempt Banks (Citi, JPM, BAC, WFC, …)

Strategy #1 – Try to leverage data advantage, and grow data services (JPM)

Strategy #2 – Go up market (Citi)

Strategy #3 – Be the best retail bank (BAC/ WFC). Protect consumer information

Strategy #4 – Get into the Mobile/data/advertising space

Strategy #5 – Develop new bank lite product (ex Chase Liquid). Seems to be going poorly as they just killed the product

The modern form of retail banking envisioned a “financial supermarket” (see Forbes Sandy Weill) where the transactional account was a loss leader for cross selling 50 odd other products, the new “banking like” product is centered around electronic payments with an access network (think Greendot, WU, ATMs, …) to get money into and out of the system. Ubiquitous merchant acceptance, and employer direct deposit further drives out the need to provide “cash out” facilities (branch like services) within the network. This simple payments product fits nicely into retail environments with regular foot traffic.

The Non-Exempt Bank dilemma now becomes apparent. A classic “innovators dilemma” where the loss leading core deposit account has been undercut by pre-paid for a majority of consumers, as the services surrounding electronic payments has made branch distribution a significant millstone in cost to serve. As if that weren’t enough, 90% of the money supermarket products must be sold face to face (need a branch).  While the retail bank could adapt to compete, the rest of the organization is forcing it to keep the branches and move upstream to the affluent high margin clients.

Tech Companies

The biggest news for payments investors is that Apple, Google, Amazon DO NOT want to have their own payments network. They are all consumer CHAMPIONS.. They all want the consumer to have their CHOICE of payment instruments “Let the consumer decide how they want to pay” is their common mantra. I heard again this week that Google wanted to buy paypal and I spit out my coffee laughing.. “where did you hear that bullshit?” Not only is this a regulatory headache, it is not the centerpiece of how any of them make their margin. Customer choice is highly disruptive barrier to entry in a commerce/mobile platform. This is why Apple’s BOD decided not to buy Square in Jan/Feb.

Apple: Consumer Champion and Gatekeeper

See Apple in Commerce

Apple is setting itself up as the consumer champion. They are not great at partnerships, advertising, data… but they are great in just about everything else. Apple’s will keep your data safe in the phone, in the store and in the cloud. Consumers anonymity will be protected… even wi-fi tracking will be nearly impossible. UUIDs are a thing of the past for advertisers. If you want to know who an apple iPhone customer is.. you will need to work with Apple.

Apple is well positioned to benefit from the future tsunami of issues concerning data privacy. They are most focused on adding value to the consumer.. rather than retailer, advertiser or bank. They have the best consumer demographic on the planet and you will work with them in their model if you want to play.

Funny story here. The big banks were approached by Apple a few months ago to “pay” for getting their cards into the new iPhone wallet. The banks immediately called up V/MA and said “you guys are going to let Apple PATENT the process by which my card goes from their phone to the POS!!?”. Hence the rushed joint announcement on tokens (see PR here). Yep.. Apple made that happen.  The funny part comes in later.. Apple now has some small changes to accomodate new V/MA standard but the banks ask apple.. “we would really like that biometric.. can you send it to us”… my guess at Apple’s response “price is the same as card registration we told you before announcement”.

Google

Consumer Champion.. but with all of your data too.  Much less robust security plan, but the best in class company for orchestration. See blog for detail.  Google is attempting to work with Retailers, banks and advertisers. They are proving their value to consumers everyday with services that help them gain more consumer insight which in turn feeds better services. Google has no desire to be a bank, or a retailer… their value is in bringing everyone together. Just like apple, their fist priority is to the consumer.. everything else flows from that.

Retailers

… will need to make this a part 2. Obviously retailers differ on consumer choice just a little..

Payments – Wrapping, Rules, Acquiring and Tokens

if Google had challenges pulling off POS innovation (after ~$1B in investment), rest assured you will too. Banks are well positioned to throw sand in your gears … focus on delivering value within merchant –consumer relationship.

18 June 2013 (sorry for typos)

Thought it was time for blog this week. Primary objective is to inform the venture community of changes which may impact payment related start ups. Sorry that the title isn’t a little more polished (you can tell I’m rather left brained). The exec summary of this blog: don’t ever bet your business on someone else’s rules… particularly if they themselves don’t own them.

Background

All Networks are working on unique token schemes (as I outlined in: Payment Tokenization, “New” ACH System, Visa’s Token Plans and Business Impact of Tokenization). The business drivers here are: #1 Control, #2 Mobile Payments. The US Banks have gotten together in The Clearing House (TCH Tokens) and are in the midst of piloting with 2 providers. In this TCH token initiative, the banks have logically determined that if a customer doesn’t need to see their Primary Account Number (PAN), then they will provide a number which they can uniquely resolve. For example, in mobile payments Citi could put in a unique Citi 16 digit number that is not a MasterCard, not a Visa card, not an ACH account number.. its just a Citi “token”.  Citi can decide how to resolve this number adaptively.. based upon what the customer wants, or what products they have with them.  There are MANY benefits to this approach:

  • Banks control account
  • Banks control DATA (transactional and account information)
  • Banks own network rules
  • No fees to other networks
  • Set unique (NON DURBIN) pricing for a NEW payment product.
  • No restrictions on “Routing”
  • Enables banks to “switch” providers of any payment service or network clearing
  • more detail here…etc

This is a BRILLIANT move by banks. I believe that this central bank “facility” within The Clearing House will be their centerpiece for consolidating all of Debit, in addition to the mobile play.

TCH Tokens are not the only game. Visa, Mastercard and Amex (through Serve) are also in this token game, and others like Payfone (through phone number as token at VZ/ATT), Google (through TXVIA) are also on the periphery. My view is that the BEST tokens are ones you don’t have to issue (ie Square/Voice, Apple/Biometric, Google/Facial Geometry, Payfone/Phone #…).  I outlined dynamics of the strategies in my blog last year “Directory Battle Part 1 – Battle of the Cloud”.  Its amazing that this topic is not covered more broadly in the mainstream… of course most of these efforts above are not discussed at all, and sometimes denied.

Of all the token initiatives, I believe Visa is most likely to succeed. This is not a typo… I’ve been very negative on Visa in the past.. as they have alienated everyone. But Charlie has started to change the culture, he has pulled the JPM relationship out of the toilet and has made a tremendous hire with Ryan. Why do I like Visa’s token prospects? They failed in their first initiative (non 16 digit PAN required big changes by everyone), and learned their lessons. However, most importantly, they can change the rates through rules on CNP and risk “ownership” creating a “new” version of VBV, with the best payment brand.

Wrapping

Currently the networks are at war with anyone attempting to wrap their product and add incremental value. As I outlined in Don’t Wrap Me, and Battle of the Cloud Part 3

The threat to banks from “plastic aggregation” at POS from solutions like Amex/Serve, PayPal/Discover, Square/Visa, MCX, Google is real. Make no mistake, Banks have legitimate concerns surrounding ability support consumers and adjust their risk models. But the real business driver here is to “influence” mobile payment solutions that do not align to their business objectives. Key areas for bank concerns:

  • #1 CUSTOMER DATA
  • Top of wallet card (how does card become default payment instrument)
  • Credit card ability to deliver other services (like offers, alerts, …)
  • Ability for issuer to strike unique pricing agreements w/ key merchants
  • Brand
  •  …etc

Visa, MA, Amex, DFS are in a great position to “stop” wrapping. What does this mean? They have initiated new rules, fees, cease and desists, threats of litigation …etc. Banks are thus looking to circumvent these restrictions by placing their “token” with the customer. This token is thus a new quasi acceptance “brand”.

Acceptance is therefore the new battle arena (who can convince merchants to accept their tokens, rules, rates, …). eCommerce may have slipped away from the banks and networks (PayPal), but they are determined not to let this happen in mCommerce, or at the POS.  JPM has structured its new agreement with Visa  to give them the flexibility on rules in acquiring and network routing for a new acceptance brand (Chase Merchant Services – CMS).

Retailers

Retailers are not the dumb mutts that banks assume. The MCX consortium realizes that greater bank control does NOT benefit them unless the Visa ratesservice is ubiquitous and standard so that banks can compete against each other, with no switching costs. Analogy here is internet traffic routing…They just want the payment cleared, with transparency/control in price, speed, risk.  Retailers also want the death of bank card rewards schemes, and if they can’t kill them instantly, want the ability to deny “preferred” cards. I told a major retailer yesterday that they should offer an “X Prize” to anyone that can make sense of Visa’s rate structure in a youtube video.

Many Retailer’s also have a “token” in form of a loyalty card.. with Target’s Redcard, and Starbucks demonstrating the model in which a retailer led payment scheme could work. For retailers, their loyalty program is fundamentally about selling data, and trade spend.

As a side note, the “big” secret in acquisition is that most (~60%) of profits come from the bottom third of retailers.. specifically the small independents that don’t know enough to negotiate (hence the ISO business). Companies like Walmart negotiate heavily with the top issuers to reduce rates from “standard”.. and still end up paying over $1B a year.Square fees

I see a substantial opportunity for acquirers to participate in what I would discussed within Payment Enabled CRM. This would change their profitability from one driven by small merchants to data/analytics. This is undoubtedly what JPM sees within CMS. Retailers know that they can’t further empower the big bank with their data, but rather need an independent party to run the CRM platform for them.

Summary

I’ve already spent a little more time than I was anticipating here. For start ups my message is quite simple, if Google had challenges pulling off POS innovation (after ~$1B in investment), rest assured you will too. Banks are well positioned to throw sand in your gears … focus on delivering value within merchant –consumer relationship. The Mobile-retail interaction is greenfield, and there are 1000s of different flavors.. no one company will be the centerpiece here. Avoid POS payments.. or be the “arms provider” to the big institutions as they duke it out. My view is that the key for MNOs, Apple, Amazon, Google and Samsung’s future value is

#1 Authentication (Linking the Physical and Virtual World)

#2 Orchestration (Coordinating Virtual and Physical World Processes, Data and Value Chain)