Last Mile Redesign (Processor-Merchant)

21 Jan 2016

My favorite blog of the year was written by famed UK computer scientist Paul Graham – The Refragmentation. Paul’s blog aligns very well to the work of 2 Nobel prize winners in economics: Oliver Williamson (2009) and his mentor Ronald Coase (1991). Both were focused on the factors governing the “nature of a firm”. (particularly Transaction Cost Economics).  I covered how TCE relates to the sharing economy and the future of collaboration in my August blog Collaboration and the “Sharing Economy”.

If I were to pick the proof point for ‘refragmentation’ and TCE within the payments industry it would be processing. If payments is a network business.. processing is undergoing open access (think MCI/ATT), nodal redesign (think iPhone vs rotary), big data (democratized access), enterprise software (ERP/CRM), and direct sales (amazon) … ALL AT ONCE. Continue reading “Last Mile Redesign (Processor-Merchant)”

POS Integration: Build it and they will xxxxx?

Read in the press today about ISIS’ new SmartTap protocol. I may be getting to an age where I feel everything is on replay.. as Yogi Berra said “Its Déjà vu all over again”. How many ways are there to integrate to the POS? My simple pic below outlines 10-12. Integration is NOT a technical problem.. it is a BUSINESS VALUE PROBLEM.

8 Sept 2013 (sorry for typos)

Read in the press today about ISIS’ new SmartTap protocol. I may be getting to an age where I feel everything is on replay.. as Yogi Berra said “Its Déjà vu all over again”.  How many ways are there to integrate to the POS? My simple pic below outlines 10-12. Integration is NOT a technical problem.. it is a BUSINESS VALUE PROBLEM.

RetailIncentiveLandscape

Given we are all biased by our life experiences, thought I would share mine. I was very fortunate to work for Oracle from 98-03 and had a very, very good team… one of the areas I led was the solution architecture practice. In order for Oracle to sell software we had to define how it worked with everything else. We may have had the best Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS) or CRM in the business, but how does it work with SAP  SCM, or Peoplesoft Financials? Sometimes the challenges were all Oracle, I can still remember meeting the new Motorolla CIO in 2002, where he said “we have 124 ERP instances of different versions.. and they are all Oracle.. now it is our fault for buying the same product 126 times… but it is your fault for selling it to us… We can’t create a single integrated view of our company.. where do we start?”.

Perhaps my biggest “ah hah” moment came from working within HighTech Manufacturing (ex Cisco, Sony, TSMC, Samsung, …). The need for coordination in the supply chain was EXTREME (to avoid the bull whip effect).    RosettaNet was born… a set of XML messages that could be exchanged between participants communicating supply chain information like Work in Process, Shipment notifications, purchases, demand plans, …  There was nothing wrong with this specification… technically it was rock solid (much like NFC), but the adoption was terrible. Two reasons

1) Business. I was working with a supplier who was manually keying in WIP responses that they believed would placate Cisco (the Channel Master). When asked why he was doing this manually vs letting Oracle’s system do it he responded “if Cisco sees me falling behind in WIP they will shift demand immediately to another contract manufacturer…. I cannot risk having a system send this message to my most important customer”.  In essence there were no business incentives for participation. The “mandates” for participation were end run..  Thus demonstrating that technical integration is perhaps the smallest problem which exists in networking businesses.

2) Technical. To use our RosettaNet Connector you had to be on the latest version of our applications and Infrastructure (DB/Middleware). Less than 10% of Oracle’s HT customers were on a current release, as most heavily customized. Integrating a “connector” into the OS/Application was MUCH different than having a customer turn it on and use it. This dynamic seems to be forgotten by every enterprise software partnership/alliance.

With respect to ISIS, NFC and SmartTap. Everyone is learning the same lessons over and over again (business and technical).. For example, Micros is building “connectors” for ISIS, PayPal, Google, …etc. Verifone is also  building “applications” for the same.  There is a lost truism: Building technical capability is MUCH different than using it  (particularly if merchants must upgrade software and sign a new contract.. all for 2% of their customers that may have a new ISIS NFC phone). ISIS will also learn that partners like Micros do not sell the adapters they build.. nor do merchant have the latest version of their software. Merchant USE of an ISIS SmartTap adapter is MUCH different than building it.. Same holds true for Google, Paypal, … etc.

Take a look at the diagram above.. I didn’t even bother listing “integrations” from the payment terminal, yet Verifone established a Verix architecture to enable a segmented area where non payment applications could run (within a payment terminal).  Google built an adapter here in Wallet 1.0. Someone should ask Verifone how many applications run in this environment.. and how many merchants integrate back end non-payment data to a payment terminal (ex line items, loyalty, …). Answer is very close to 0…. the idea that a merchant would use a payment terminal as a consumer integration point is just ludicrous. The very existence of a specialized payment terminal is due to the need for “specialization”.

Cloud is where Payment belongs

As I stated in Battle of the Cloud  – Part 3, if everything is connected, why on earth would I want to store anything in the phone? Everything should be in the cloud.. and all that is needed it a form of authentication to pull in everything I know about the customer. For retailers why would you want a teleco to manage your loyalty program for you when a Starbucks/Square/Apple Passbook paradigms shows QR code options? For that matter why would you do anything that Apple is not supporting? (the best most affluent customers).

Riding existing rails seems like an obvious approach to circumvent some of these integration challenges. But current network rules and participation are based upon existing data flows, current rails are poorly equipped to handle new business models. For example I asked a top 3 Retailer if they would ever share transaction data with Google. They said if it was good for their customer and good for them then perhaps…. But this data would never ever flow though visa, the banks or any other payment network… as they have proven to be very bad partners in commerce.

Thus my view on why the problem is NOT technical.. just ask one simple question.. ISIS what does this do that Apple Passbook or Google wallet can’t do already? Isis should have asked micros… How many retailers use these kinds of integrations (of the type I’m building). Micros answer…. We have no idea. .. We don’t get paid when they are turned on…

On the technical front I will make a predictions.. not only will ISIS realize retailers don’t want to turn this on..  Customers will reject the solution as SmartTap requires 2 serial NFC transactions, first payment, then for “other” .. meaning a tap and “Hold” for up to 3 seconds. If the customer just wiggles their phone around during that 2-3 second time the second transaction is lost. This is what happened to Google wallet 1.0 2 yrs ago..

Square

Payments Winners/Losers?

If you are a BANK… you can do anything you want to on a PIN DEBIT network (you control).. For example, First Data owns STAR.. they are leveraging the Star network with Cardspring to transfer non payment information (offers/incentives). This is a great example of how to construct a solution within the constraints of existing networks

21 Aug 2013

Of course I can’t answer this question.. but it is THE question most frequently asked by investors. I certainly don’t see anything US Debit WSJthat would significantly dent Visa, MA or Amex’s growth internationally. The concentration of electronic payments is tremendous, fully 92% of all electronic transactions occurred in the top 10 OECD 20 markets. Internationally, as markets mature, banked consumers increase, market facilities like credit bureaus improve coverage, credit starts to flow…  I went to work for Ajay Banga at Citi after listening to his fantastic interview w/ Mike Mayo (then of prudential), Ajay talked about 600-800M new people gaining access to financial services globally. V and MA will be prime benefactors of this global growth.

Domestically? Well that is another story. OECD 20 countries have begun to price debit transactions at cost of ACH. EU (SEPA CF), Canada (Interac), Australia (EFTPOS)… now the US is following with a Durbin rate likely to be $0.07-$0.12/transaction (12c is the fee in Australia).  This rate change impacts $5-7B of bank fee revenue (see Reuters). Of course banks are not in the business of loosing money, and must find a way to make that up.. capgem1 noncash pmt

This brings me to the obvious loser in next 5 yrs: Retail banking in the US. Prior to this latest Durbin change, fully 40% of mass market retail bank customers were unprofitable.  This latest change to debit fees will accelerate bank moves to reduce cost to serve (Branch Infrastructure to Online channels).. Retail banks must either find something new to sell consumers (ex Amex/WFC), or charge them more. (see Blog Future of Retail Banking: Prepaid?), many are seriously considering what BAC did 2 yrs ago .. adding a fee.. (see CNN/Money Article).. remember the reaction back then?

This retail bank pricing pressure comes at a time when retailers are offering banking lite products (WMT/Bluebird) AND new bank aggregators are forming which would allow ANY company to deliver banking services. Best example here is Wirecard in Germany.. as a payments specialist and bank which enables MNOs to offer banking services.In the US we see early stage examples of this same model, OTC: IEBS Independence Bancshares (nD Bancshares) has been recapitalized w/ Bob Willumstad (former AIG CEO) as Chairman.

What is Credit? Debit? Charge? Pre-paid? How are they different? With debit costs moving toward $0.. consumers (and start-ups) have access to “real time” settlement at ACH “like” pricing..  This is the heart of Bank’s concern.. and their subsequent efforts to establish rule changes on “wrapping”.  Banks don’t want Paypal, Google, or anyone else using debit this way.

top reasons for selecting

As I stated in Controlling Wallets: efforts to “control” have unintended consequences.. like holding onto your Jello by squeezing it..  PIN Debit may be the first “break” where you can have your cake (Visa Bug) and eat it too (enhanced data w/ merchant).

PIN DEBIT.. the Dumb Pipe Switch

If you are a BANK… you can do anything you want to on a PIN DEBIT network (you control)..  For example, First Data owns STAR.. they are leveraging the Star network with Cardspring to transfer non payment information (offers/incentives). This is a great example of how to construct a solution within the constraints of existing networks and rules…. And KEEP your Visa logo.PIN Volume2

Unfortunately there are few PIN debit cards that are not also signature debit cards.. When the Visa logo is on the card.. it is the customer that decides. Merchants LOVE PIN.. as pricing was different. Now (in the US) PIN and Signature debit pricing is is the same (for banks over $50B in assets).. Offsetting this confusing PIN/Signature furball is the requirement that both signature and PIN debit must have at least 2 options (each) for routing AND several PIN networks are not owned by issuers (Pulse, NYCE, Star, …). This gives FIRST DATA, FIS, Discover opportunity to deliver services that SWITCH debit for the benefit of the MERCHANT (ex Cardspring).

Is “PIN debit” the baseline product for retail network consortium? It is how I would construct it.   Target’s Redcard is the model, but it is closed loop. Expanding a Target Redcard through a PIN debit network would provide for Open loop (multiple merchants participating). Operating in a PIN debit network also gives the PIN network control over rules on acceptance. Although there would be no real interchange cost savings here.. there would be a real advantage to retaining customer data.

The other advantage of processors which also own a PIN network.. is that they “see” all transactions for their merchants.  If McDonald’s processes a debit card transaction.. their processor (ex FirstData, FIS, CMS, …) has flexibility in choosing whether to process as PIN or signature.  PIN is not routed through Visa, Signature is..  First data could see if card is registered for any loyalty/incentive programs.  This is what what JPMC has done (partially) w/ the Visa deal.. without acquiring a PIN network. Allowing them to use signature debit and credit as rails for non-financial data and routing which will not go through Visa.

Credit Cards

Beyond Retail banking, the traditional Credit Card Product seems ripe for change. Why would consumers with good credit accept 18% rate on a credit card when the bank is paying them 0.1% interest? The top issuers know they must improve the merchant and consumer value propositions.. but are largely failing. Its hard to turn around large portfolios and create new value propositions that don’t cannibalize your core business.redcard

This brings me to Winners.

  1. Companies that can help retailers become better publishers and marketers (see blog)
  2. Company that can construct a better customer experience (Square, Apple, Payfone)
  3. Companies that and orchestrate COMMERCE, not manage payments (Google, Amazon, Facebook)
  4. Companies that can enable anyone to ADD ON banking services (Wirecard, GDOT, IEBS, )
  5. Companies that can CONTROL the mobile phone (Google, Apple, Samsung, ??MNOs)

Sorry for typos.. I publish these things before I proof them.. any corrections appreciated

See my disclaimer above. I have equity in GDOT, Wirecard, Goog, AAPL, AMZN

Payment News for May.. What a Month!

I’m actually starting to change my attitude on Visa. Its not just that Jim McCarthy is down the street from my in North Carolina… but rather Charlie is changing the culture there from one that alienated everyone.. back to a network that wants to add value to all.

15 May 2013

I’m in overload on information this week. Just don’t know what to comment on..

In an effort to conserve energy, let’s just say that there are MANY announcements.. but little real progress…  If you were a retailer.. would you exclusively advertise through Groupon? Through Visa? Through anyone? Of course not you have a price promotion strategy and multiple marketing programs which to accomplish objectives in each.  You would choose your channel based upon the ability to REACH the customer (ie Radio, TV, ?email…). As a retailer you also want loyalty to YOUR BRAND.. not some card, bank or start up…  Most of these entities have NO REACH.. having customers is MUCH different than being an effective CHANNEL TO INFLUENCE them.

With respect to POS.. the world needs change. Both Square, and Paypal have the merchant value proposition about right. Their respective terminals solve a short term cost/complexity issue. Square’s product is much further ahead as it also solves inventory management and marketing problems.  PayPal’s value proposition may be higher as they could manage payment costs more effectively (given consumer paypal account penetration), and many merchants already have a merchant account. Perhaps Paypal is taking my advice from 2 yrs ago.. focus on the merchant side first.. I hear that the paypal card is Don K’s pet project.. but John and Marcus may be finally tiring of the poor performance.

I’m actually starting to change my attitude on Visa. Its not just that Jim McCarthy is down the street from my in North Carolina… but rather Charlie is changing the culture there from one that alienated everyone.. back to a network that wants to add value to all. One example is emerging markets, where Hannes of Fundamo has done some REAL work in creating new VisaNet transaction sets to support emerging market solutions. Unfortunately their offers platform is stunted, as the mix of issuer “permission” and consumer experience makes this unworkable basket level program that I have already discussed many times (See CLO). Visa does not keep transaction history (with exception of debit hosted service of a few DPS banks), thus any offer targeting would be driven off a visit to a single store, or single event. This enables it to be a switching service..  Buy something at Macy’s and BOOM get a 10% back offer from Neiman Marcus. From the PR:

Most importantly, the Visa POS Offers Redemption Platform provides real time ticket reduction as part of the offer redemption during the authorization process, delivering an alternative option to the need for statement credits or paper coupons. This functionality streamlines the checkout process by enabling instant redemption of rewards and has the potential to drive incremental transaction volume. Once the reduced transaction amount has been approved by the card issuer, consumers are immediately notified of their savings via receipt printout and SMS text, or email message. (The Next Web)

Customer Experience? The Visa “POS Offers Redemption Platform” is really a “credit” that COULD be given on the receipt if the retailer’s POS interprets the message, and IF the issuer allows it. Thus the entire platform suffers from targeting, basket level redemption, consumer experience, POS integration, Issuer permission, … (need I go on)? American Express’s focus is completely different. They work with the retailer to help them gain insight into their most valuable customers and work with them to create programs to reach them. Visa can’t do this.. as they don’t own the customers.. nor does Vantive.. NO WONDER JPM wanted to opt out of VisaNet.

Google.. lets wait 2 weeks here (after I/O). I already discussed what was reported on Android Police in November. My guess is that the cost of this program was going to be pretty big… even for Google.. If it was successful. Eating 100-150bps in physical commerce ($2.4T) can be quite a big hit, even if you take only 1% of the market ($240M-$360M in US alone).

WMT’s Pre-paid success.. and impending MCX efforts are making the banks itchy. Somewhat ironic, as banks really don’t want WMT’s mass consumer customers in their branches.. while WMT loves them in their stores. Think the banks really don’t like having their “banking lite” services productized and sitting on a retail shelf to buy. They don’t want consumers to think of them as a product which can be bought.. and switched. Of course some banks have seen the light (Amex, Discover, GreenDot, BankCorp, Meta, …). Competition, transparency, and product selection are core elements of efficient markets. Of course it makes sense to ask your regulator from protection against consumer choice. But this is certainly not to benefit the consumer.

Bitcoin? where to begin.. ? Unlike most currencies, bitcoin does not rely on a central issuer, like a central bank or government. Instead, bitcoin uses atransaction log across a peer-to-peer computer network to record transactions, verify them and prevent double spending. It is a VERY INNOVATIVE mathematical crypto innovation (that is used extensively in illegal activities). Bitcoin stands in dramatic contrast to all of the data sharing, bank controlled, transparent stuff above. Its success demonstrates that there is a tremendous need for anonymity in payments.  There is no centralized authority here.. which is what alarms governments..  Thus there will be very strict controls on how coins can be converted into currency. Thus Amazon’s coins can only be used to purchase games/apps.  For those investing in this space, you should thoroughly research eGold.

Payment is still a red hot market.. expect significant M&A activity over next 12 months.

Private Label.. “New” Competitive Environment?

Clearly there are opportunities for new retailer friendly networks. The new incremental value TO BE delivered is centered around influencing and rewarding the (consumer in partnership with merchants). Given that retailers compete with each other, loyalty is thus useless for retailers which don’t offer competitive products at competitive rates. Thus a “community” of retailers is not as valuable as a “community” of consumers (ie Facebook, Twitter, Android, Apple). Thus platforms which serve the community of consumers will be much more effective.

1 April 2012 (sorry for typos, 2 hour quick blog here…you get what you pay for)

Updated

Remember the BIGGEST Retailer challenge is to know WHO THE CUSTOMER IS. A PL card combines loyalty card + customer information + payment information (closed loop) + possible payment information open loop. What Retailers gained by giving up their PL cards was access to credit without credit risk.. what they lost was the ability to know who the customer was. We now have models where they can have their cake and eat it too.

Most Retailers spend very little of their own money on marketing… it is the manufacturer that provides credits in form of “trade spend” to help Retailers advertise. Retailers thus seek new innovative tools to channel this spend. It is an arms race as retailers work to compete in selling commodity goods at the highest possible prices. A Retailer that has a new fun way to engage the customer will have a quantitative edge… and attract greater trade spend if they can engage customer. Manufactures want brand loyalty, Retailers want retailer loyalty, Platforms want platform loyalty, Banks want Card Loyalty. Best case study by far is Target Redcard (read great Mercator Report) which now accounts for 6%+ of sales (debit) from nothing just 2 years ago “net cost of offers”.  To restate above, with respect to Retailer “marketing spend” it is not the Retailer’s money.. it is the manufacturers. Few people understand this game.. which is why most Retailers laugh at silicon valley types with no retail background. The macro effect of new payment networks will be to shift AD spend from less efficient channels (TV, Radio, …) to more effective channels (?Trade spend). The money does NOT come from the Retailer.. but enables the RETAILER TO BE A BETTER MARKETER by using their data.

What is the business driver of the JPM deal?

If you were a bank which had all of the technical assets to run a 3 party network, but were constrained by rules in which your assets operated.. what would you do?Interchange Rates US Fed

Institutional investors constantly tell me that the Visa is efficient and that the overall network “costs” are very small in proportion to the benefits of universal acceptance.  Well there are very big assumptions in this statement of efficiency….

  1. That all parties are benefiting from universal acceptance
  2. There are no competitors operating in a different model

Both of these assumptions are wrong. If we look at it from a macro view, a 2% tax on sales is not very “efficient” at all, particularly when combined with a 15-20% interest rate on ANR of a typical card. The “value” of credit cards is highly biased toward banks and affluent customers.  As the Fed Study below illustrates, Affluent customers receive a benefit of $1,133 from consumers that pay with cash.

Card Rewards US Federal Reserve

Reward levels and retail prices affect the welfare of each individual  consumer differently. Although typical U.S. consumers use payment cards as well as cash and checks, some consumers use payment cards  more exclusively, while others use cash or checks more exclusively. If  more generous rewards imply higher prices for all consumers regardless  of their payment methods, then they may make consumers who tend  to use cash and checks worse off.

Who Loses in from Credit Card Payments? Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

Merchant fees and reward programs generate an implicit monetary transfer to credit card  users from non-card (or “cash”) users because merchants generally do not set differential  prices for card users to recoup the costs of fees and rewards. On average, each cash-using  household pays $149 to card-using households and each card-using household receives $1,133 from cash users every year.

The very nature of card are changing, a disruption based on mobile ($0 issuance cost, improved identification/fraud) and data/advertising (see GoogleWallet).

How would you design the OPTIMAL Merchant friendly payment network?

Features

  • Merchant Brand – Merchant’s brand
  • Cost of Payment – $0.05 for Debit
  • Risk Management – Allow for use of merchant data, mobile data and bank data.
  • Enable Merchant CRM – See blog
  • Consumer Credit – Available. Banks compete for lowest rate.
  • Payment Processing/Acceptance. Accepted in merchant, can be used off network as well. Minimal changes to existing systems
  • Consumer Support Services – Dispute resolution
  • Mobile Services
    1. Product Selection – Buying guide/research
    2. Community – Reviews
    3. Social – Facebook/Twitter integration
    4. Loyalty Services – Support merchant loyalty programs, points, incentives
    5. Advertising Services – Touch customer prior to purchase, during shopping, at checkout
    6. Coupon/redemption services – Enable all incentives to be stored/presented/managed
    7. eReciept – Supports customer requirements

This is certainly much beyond what Visa is currently delivering. As I’ve stated previously, Google and American Express are by far the leaders here, as top 5 banks struggle to deliver these services within a 4 party network.

The private label card industry is hot (See December American Banker, Mercator on Target RedCard). JPM is now uniquely positioned to deliver a platform which can support multiple private label payment products… from MCX to Google.  It would seem that their unique Visa relationship allows them to benefit from Visa’s larger  acceptance network when their private label card operates beyond a “closed loop” merchant community. An open question is whether a given private label merchant will choose to have a Visa bug on their card or not, and if the bug is not on the card.. will it still operate as a visa card?  This seems to be the only reason for a “switch” of transaction from VisaNet to JPM VisaNet.. so it seems to be a planned feature.  Regardless of approach on Bug and Switching transactions, JPM is in a class by itself in competing for business of merchants, payment platforms, and delivering value around Visa.JPM PL Example

In the mobile world the cost of issuance is now $0.. why wouldn’t every merchant want their own private label card? With a punch list of available features above? Giving every merchant “Cluster” the ability to strike agreements with other clusters (example Wal-mart accepting Exxon cards, see blog). Merchants that currently give their consumers loyalty cards, could exchange them for multi function virtual cards in a mobile wallet at no cost. Target is the clear leader here.

My view is that banks tend to look at private label as a division of their Card’s group. Banks have no other way to monetize the card platform beyond fees and rates.  The winner here will look at these new private label initiatives, not as a payments initiative, but rather as CRM and advertising. A very challenging task that goes against both organization, and consumer behavior. During my time running 2 of the world’s largest online banks, consumers don’t spend time shopping for deals. In retail banking they log on, check their balance, pay their bills 2-3 times a week. In Card it is much worse, coming on 2-3 times per MONTH.

Clearly there are opportunities for new retailer friendly networks. The new incremental value TO BE delivered is centered around influencing and rewarding the (consumer in partnership with merchants). Given that retailers compete with each other, loyalty is thus useless for retailers which don’t offer competitive products at competitive rates. Thus a “community” of retailers is not as valuable as a “community” of consumers (ie Facebook, Twitter, Android, Apple). Thus platforms which serve the community of consumers will be much more effective. Banks seem ill suited to “drive” this new network as they have demonstrated a very poor history of “partnership” with retailers.  For example current CLO initiatives are focused on using retailer data against them (Blog). We thus see banks working on a defensive token strategy to ensure that no one can operate on payment rails but them.ven goog reach

Future Scenarios for POS Payments

  1. Private Label Bank Platform. Amex in lead, JPM #2. Keys for success: delivering value beyond affluent, reaching consumer before they buy, delivering merchant CRM, helping merchants “own” the consumer.
  2. Retailer led payments. Target is role model, blog here. As Mercator reports, RedCard now accounts for 8% of sales.
  3. Retailer led financial services. Either through Pre-Paid as in the Amex/WMT relationship, or as in Tesco’s bank. Retailers (or MNOs) leveraging their physical distribution and foot traffic to deliver bank services. Keys for success: expanding beyond the Mass to the Affluent, consumer value proposition, consumer acquisition, bank licenses/regulatory, CRM, Advertising
  4. Neutral Party Platform. Square, Google, Level Up, ?Apple, ?Amazon… Consumer friendly… the means getting both merchants and banks on board.  Overview in blog on TXVIA, and Digital Wallet Strategies.

None of these will be successful in isolation.. my bet is that we will continue to see complete chaos until we find parties that can partner… or gain traction in a segment of the market that is not in view of 800lb Gorilla’s. Retailers, banks all view the customer as uniquely theirs. Once these entities realize that consumers migrate toward value and entertainment, they will begin to align their services to channels where consumers reside.. NOT to where they WANT their consumers to reside. (I’m not looking for diaper coupons on bankofamerica.com). Similarly, Private label cards are a key element of a broader CRM and price promotion strategy… they do not exist in isolation and cannot be outsourced in part. price promotion

My top example this month is Restaurants. There are over 800,000 restaurant locations in the US. 474,000 of them are part of companies with less than 500 employees (independents).  This is a perfect ground for Square, Fisbowl (CRM) and LevelUp (Payments).. Square gives them a cash register that integrates existing card payments at a significantly lower cost on day one, and there is new functionality for advertising and buying experience (pay with Square).

Thoughts appreciated.

Battle of the Cloud – Part 2

Where are the cloud battle lines? Well most significantly the battle lines are forming away from NFC. The Cloud battle is complex, as the strategies are about MUCH MORE THAN PAYMENT. Payment is the ubiquitous service that is the last phase of a successful marketing, engagement, shopping, selection, deliver, retention, loyalty process.

29 August 2012

Previous Blog – Part 1 – May 11, 2012

Let’s update the Cloud Battle story and discuss events since my last post on the subject

Square, Visa, Google, PayPal, Apple, Banks, … have recognized the absurdity of storing your payment instruments in multiple locations. All of us understand the online implications, Amazon’s One Click makes everything so easy for us when you don’t have to enter your payment and ship to information. (V.me is centered around this online experience). Paypal does the same thing on eBay, Apple on iTunes, Rakutan , …etc.   But what few understand is the implication for the physical payment world. This is what I was attempting to highlight with PayPal’s new plastic rolled out last week (see PayPal blog, and Target RedCard). If all of your payment information is stored in the cloud, then all that is needed at the POS is authentication of identity (see blog).

The implications for cloud based payment at the POS are significant because the entity which leads THE DIRECTORY will have a significant consumer advantage, and will therefore also lead the breakdown of existing networks and subsequent growth of new “specialized” entities. For example, I firmly believe new entities will develop that shift “payment” revenue from merchant borne interchange to incentives

Since May, the following “significant” events “in the battle” have occurred:

  • Retailers have launched MCX with Wal-Mart’s Mike Cook as the lead. I want to emphasize, this is not “mobile payments” but rather a low cost payment network (Cook talks about $0.05/payment). Some retailers will seek to integrate their loyalty card, others will create plastic (see Target RedCard), others will certainly couple with mobile. WMT will likely integrate with a virtual wallet that manages digital coupons (Coupons.com likely leading)
  • Apple has rolled out Passbook in June.. See my Blog, and hardware analysis from Anandtech of why there is no NFC.
  • PayPal had a marketing announcement with Discover. Why would you announce something like this with no customers? Paypal is expanding its network… but merchants are just laughing.. MCX wants a $0.05 payment, Durbin gave them a $0.21 payment and Paypal wants to get 180-250bps. As you can tell, I don’t think much of this, as the Merchants are still in control of their payment terminal. This is also not an exclusive deal with Discover. I expect 2 other major players to partner with Discover in next few months. Paypal just wanted to run with this announcement before the other products come out. I also want to emphasize that DFS is a BUY. They will be a partner of choice as they run a subscale 3 party network that can adapt much more quickly than V/MA. As a side note,  Paypal will likely expand distribution of their own plastic.  See related blog.
  • Google rolled out Wallet 1.5 on August 1 (see blog). This is one of the biggest moves in payments and provides an enormous retailer value proposition (aligned to MCX). Google didn’t follow PayPal, Passbook, or Microsoft.. they rolled out product that was 1.5 yrs in progress.  Google’s new cloud wallet allows the consumer to select any payment method, and provides the merchant with a debit rate (Bancorp non-Durbin 1.05% + $0.15 (note Google/Issuer can lower this for merchants, as any issuer could, this is a MAX rate). Google is CURRENTLY loosing money on the payment side of the business in hopes of making it up on the advertising side. This is no marketing announcement like Apple, Microsoft and Paypal.. this is a product announcement.. it is working today in my new Galaxy phone. This is also the first PRODUCTION cloud wallet for the POS. Apple, Amazon and Paypal dominate cloud wallets in eCommmerce and mCommerce. Google and Amex’s Revolution money are the only one’s doing it at the POS.
  • Square acquired all 30M Starbucks mobile payment customers (see Blog). Square has done a great job acquiring merchants.. but was hurting on the consumer side. Square wants to build network and needed a pop on the consumer side. Square’s business is pivoting toward marketing and consumer experience. Within the next year, the little Square doggle will be a thing of the past. Starbucks is committing to the Square register experience, and Square is relabeling “card case” to “Pay with Square”.
  • LevelUp is making payments “free” for merchants as part of a loyalty value proposition. This is an example deal.. expect more to follow. Issue is that different merchants have different priorities. LevelUp is focused in QSR/Casual Dining and is operating as part of a loyalty play. I’ve outline their revenue in this blog, don’t think it is sustainable unless they can move into acquisition.
  • ISIS has lost key executives in its product area, AT&T is rumored to have a NFC/Wallet RFP of its own out and even Verizon is planning to let Google go ahead and put its wallet on the Samsung Galaxy III phones.. after all what choice does it have?
  • Card linked offers and incentives in the cloud. No one is making money in this space, large retailers are not participating, hyper local merchants (who are interested) are very hard to sell to, and consumers don’t see relevant content (thus redemption rates under 2%).

Where are the cloud battle lines? Well most significantly the battle lines are forming away from NFC (as I stated in January). Even my old friends at Gartner have caught up and placed NFC in the trough of disillusionment. To restate, NFC is not bad technology.. but it delivers no “value” in itself beyond control. Mobile operators have consistently failed to build a business around a “control” strategy (see my Walled Garden Blog). In the  ISIS example they mandated use of credit cards only, as this higher credit interchange was the only way to make revenue. Well guess who pays the freight here? Yep the merchants…  Wal-Mart and its peers were not thrilled at giving issuers and MNOs 3.5% of sales for the privilege of accepting a mobile payment.

The Cloud battle is complex, as the strategies are about MUCH MORE THAN PAYMENT. Payment is the ubiquitous service that is the last phase of a successful marketing, engagement, shopping, selection, deliver, retention, loyalty process. Leaders from my vantage point:

Payment Networks:

  • Mastercard focused on acting in supporting role globally.
  • Discover similar to MA, but with much greater flexibility as it operates in a 3 party network and is both issuer and acquirer.
  • MCX – Not a leader yet, but has CEO mindshare of every top US retailer. They seem overly focused on the cost side. There is a very big whole in their customer acquisition strategy. MCX is bidding out its infrastructure now, my guess is that Discover or Target will win it.. and the the RFPs are just a way of keeping Banks “in the tent” to keep them from changing ACH rules to kill it like they did to Scott Grimes at Cap One (decoupled Debit).

Physical POS:

  • Google – has more consumer “accounts” than any company on the planet. Can it convert them to accounts with a linked payment instrument? Google also “touches” more customers, more times per day than any other company, its heavy influence in the shopping process positions it well with retailers. Also has the best retailer sales force of anyone on this list, as they bring in customers to retailers every day. Android/Google Wallet….
  • Square – Best customer experience hands down (register). It also has the most traction among small retailers

eCommerce/mCommerce:

  • Apple – expect Passbook to dominate mCommerce. It will be the killer app.
  • PayPal – Challenged in market adoption beyond eBay/GSI customer base. Top ecommerce sites like Amazon and Rakuten have their own integrated payment, also 50% of eCommerce/mCommerce goes through Cybersource which Visa acquired. Paypal’s future growth driven by international
  • Amazon – leading eCommerce/mCommerce player. When will it take one-click beyond Amazon? Amazon’s experience is best from end-end…. PayPal/Apple will operate around the periphery of non-Amazon purchases.
  • Rakuten – “Amazon of Japan” who now also owns buy.com. Fantastic experience and leading eCommerce loyalty program.

How many places do you want to store your payment credentials? Who do you trust to keep them? What data do you want providers to know about you?

From a macro economic perspective, total payment revenue for all major participants is just under $200B in the US. Total marketing spend in the US is over $750B. Total retail sales in the US is $2.37T (not including oil/gas, Fin services, T&E). Marketing is fundamentally broken… payments is not. Retail sales gross margin has been compressed from 4.2% in 2006 to 2.4% in 2010. Who is best able to execute on the combined retail and marketing pain points? Who can be retailer friendly? Consumer friendly? Marketing friendly?

I start my analysis with #1 the consumer value proposition, and #2 the merchant value proposition. Entities like Google, Paypal, Apple already have tremendous consumer relationships and traction. They thus have very few “acquisition” costs. However, these entities do bear the costs of changing customer behavior. There are many approaches for changing customer behavior:

  • Incent behavior – direct/indirect/merchant
  • Customer Experience (ex Square)
  • Service integration (reduce effort or # of parties)
  • Reduce risk – financial (security/anonymity…)
  • Reduce risk – purchasing (social, community reviews, …)
  • Value proposition in commerce process (indirect incentives)
  • Marketing
  • ..etc

Other groups like MCX and ISIS bear the cost of both customer “acquisition” AND behavior change for: Consumer, Merchant or Both. As I state previously. one of my favorite arcane books I’ve ever read was “Weak Links” I’m almost reluctant to recommend it because it is so good you may jump ahead of me on some of my investment hypothesis. One my favorite quotes from the book

Scale-free distribution (completely open networks) is not always the optimal solution to the requirement of cost efficiency. .. in small world networks, building and maintaining links between network elements requires energy…. [in a world with limited resources] a transition will occur toward a star network [pg 75] where one of a very few mega hubs will dominate the whole system. The star network resembles dictatorships in social networks.

Networks like V, MA, PayPal, Amex and DFS are working to participate in this new Macro economic opportunity. But established networks are hard to change

“The network forms around a function and other entities are attracted to this network (affinity) because of the function of both the central orchestrator and the other participants. Of course we all know this as the definition of Network Effects. Obviously every network must deliver value to at least 2 participants. Networks resist change because of this value exchange within the current network structure, in proportion to their size and activity.”

The implications for cloud based payment at the POS are significant because the entity which leads THE DIRECTORY will have a significant consumer advantage, and will therefore also lead the breakdown of existing networks and subsequent growth of new “specialized” entities. For example, I firmly believe new entities will develop that shift “payment” revenue from merchant borne interchange to incentives (new digital coupons).

The current chaos will abate when an entity delivers a substantial value proposition that attracts a critical mass of participants. Today most mobile solutions are just replacing a card form factor… this is NOT VALUE. I am currently placing my bets on solutions that merchants support (Square, Google, MCX, LevelUp, …) as this is a key “fault” of almost every other initiative.

Comments Appreciated (as always sorry for the typos…)

Interpreting Square-Starbucks Deal

Its about DATA.. payments will be free (for Starbucks), and they hope to enable Square incentives that are BOTH loyalty and line item based. Square’s driver is to find a way to monetize Starbuck’s payment and location data before it gets to Chase PaymentTech. This means increasing consumer network so that it can make better case to prospective merchants.

18 August

From Press Release, key deal points are:

  • Customers will be able to use Pay with Square, Square’s payer application, from participating company operated U.S. Starbucks stores later this fall, and find nearby Starbucks locations within Square Directory;
  • Square will process Starbucks U.S. credit and debit card transactions, which will significantly expand Square’s scale and accelerate the benefits to businesses on the Square platform, especially small businesses, while reducing Starbucks payment processing costs;
  • Using Square Directory, Starbucks customers will be able to discover local Square businesses — from specialty retailers to crafts businesses — from within a variety of Starbucks digital platforms, including the Starbucks Digital Network and eventually the Starbucks mobile payment application;
  • Starbucks will invest $25 million in Square as part of the company’s Series D financing round;
  • Starbucks chairman, president and CEO Howard Schultz will join Square’s Board of Directors

My interpretation: Starbucks is selling their customer base to Square for a revenue share and an equity upside.

  • Square is buying the Starbucks payment user base, with all stored “reload” cards. This customer directory will move from Starbucks to Square and support both legacy Starbucks payment and enable all Starbucks customers to be “PaybySquare” capable with acceptance of new terms. Square is “processor” in the sense that it is now responsible for pre-paid balance and reload.
  • Its about DATA.. payments will be free (for Starbucks), and SBUX hopes to enable Square incentives that are BOTH loyalty and line item based. Square’s driver is to find a way to monetize Starbuck’s payment and location data before it gets to Chase PaymentTech. This means increasing consumer network so that it can make better case to prospective merchants. My guess is that Square is processing payments at no cost Starbucks is paying a lower overall cost for payment acceptance through Square/ChasePaymentTech for all existing Starbucks customers, and will actually PAY Starbucks (revenue share) for any ad revenue they can generate from Starbucks customers. There are 3 consumer transaction tranches: Starbucks mobile payment, Starbucks card, and Pay with Square (Square Register). All will go through Square so they can use the data.
  • Starbucks will start to roll out a new service: SquareRegister (pay by voice, see my previous blog). This will eventually replace the bar code if all things go well. Again, my belief is that Square will bear all of the cost here.

Revenue implications?

Short term there is no revenue upside for Square in this deal, it is about growing network (primarily on consumer side). Starbucks will see costs decline slightly and open up a new revenue channel by monetizing its consumer network outside of its stores. I have some thoughts on precise numbers, but making my own bets right now so I can’t share them.

Groupon Cash Register?

Every network begins with a closed loop system delivering value between at least 2 parties. The solutions in this POS space are not “pure play” electronic cash registers.. but BRIDGE devices hoping to switch transactions within existing networks, while adding new features. This seems complex for all but the smallest merchants.

31 May 2012

As reported in today’s WSJ, and 6 days ago by Bloomberg, Groupon is working on a Square competitor… So the list of companies that now enable any mobile phone/tablet to be converted into a POS to 7?

  1. Square, $4B GDV Run Rate
  2. Intuit/VZ, goPayment
  3. FirstData mobile pay
  4. PayPal + Roam?
  5. Groupon?
  6. Google?
  7. +10 other small start ups leveraging hardware from Verifone, RoamPay, MagTek

I joked in a tweet that perhaps this is why IBM sold its RSS division to Toshiba for $850M (a $1.15B revenue business).

What is value here? It is card acquiring? POS systems? Advertising? or something else?

Most of us would agree that it makes little intuitive sense for a small business to have multiple pieces of specialized hardware. A specialized, locked down, PC acting as a cash register connected to a specialized locked down payment terminal.

Did you know that retailers like WMT and Safeway have teams of over 500 customizing IBM’s 4690 ECRs? What on earth could these people be doing? A: Multiple tax jurisdictions, discounting rules, loyalty programs, regulations, hardware upgrades, software upgrades, new products, coupons, …  a rather messy business. Similarly few people realize that the payment terminal which we swipe our card is actually owned and delivered by the retailers acquirer.. the retailer just plugs it in. This helps them solve PCI compliance issues by keeping the store completely removed from unencrypted card info.

As my 8+ square blogs have indicated, the real “macro” opportunity many of these companies are chasing is in orchestrating commerce. Commerce is a process that includes marketing, incentives, shopping/selection, purchase, and after sales support. Square has evolved from a payment acceptance doggle to a retailer commerce solution.  Groupon has come about their POS from a different direction.. they need to improve the retailer and customer experience at time of use.  Both will be heavily into advertising (offers, incentives, …) by end of year.

What retailers want are tools to drive customers into their store (acquisition), fill empty seats (yield management),  get existing customers to buy more (basket size) and improve margin (price different customers differently).

Mainline POS manufacturers like Micros, NCR, Aloha, … have a list of companies requesting that they pre-integrate incentive solutions into their software..  By integrating incentive solutions into the POS, advertisers (and intermediaries) are hoping to close the loop in advertising. Closing the loop means allowing the advertiser to determine if a given advertisement resulted in a purchase. This would in turn allow for “performance based” advertising as opposed to cost per million, or cost per click. Today, there are very few performance based advertising solutions, as most advertising is completely untargeted.

But software availability does not equate to usage… as each retailer has their own marketing objectives. Believe it or not, retailers want to spread their campaigns across multiple advertisers, with many different programs to reach different audiences. The incentive for a new acquisition to my coffee shop will look much different than the program to retain customers (Starbucks being #1 here). Also customers are spread across multiple channels, and retailers sometimes operate as franchises that each market separately.

Case Study: Fishbowl

Fishbowl is a 10 yr old Washington DC based company 100% focused in Restaurants. Fishbowl gets its name from the fact that we drop our business cards in a fishbowl.. and the store wants to do something with them. CEO Scott Shaw is both a restaurateur, and serial entrepreneur. He and his team have done an unbelievable job constructing a campaign management tool that allows local franchisee’s to launch specific campaigns to specific customer segments (with a response rate ABOVE 10%) together with an integrated redemption package. Beyond the campaign management function at the hands of the local stores, there is an integrated “offer manager” that resides within the store’s POS systems (example Micros).  If you guys saw this in action your jaws would drop.. but it was no 12 month project.. Retailers want to test it… see what it does.

Most readers can see the obvious problem here with card linked offers (previous blog ). Retailers do not want to give 15% off to every customer weekly. They want specific incentives.. to specific customers that are not necessarily in a single issuers card portfolio. Add to the complexity the fact that 80% of advertising $$ flow from manufactures and the dynamics further cloud as retailers use trade spend $$ to incent specific product purchases. GM pulled it’s Facebook spend because of this dynamic.

Every network begins with a closed loop system delivering value between at least 2 parties. The solutions in this POS space are not “pure play” electronic cash registers.. but BRIDGE devices hoping to switch transactions within existing networks, while adding new features.  This seems complex for all but the smallest merchants.  I like Fishbowl’s approach better.. starting with a campaign tool that would allow the retailer to touch any customer in any “ad network”.  In the Groupon model, they can only reach their registered customers.. in offer models that they support.  If Groupon had a killer value proposition (for both retailer and consumer) this could work well, if not they suffer from the problem of distribution and targeting (relevant offers).

Apple’s Commerce Future = Square?

My top question for October has been “What is Apple up to” in payments/commerce? It matters to me because investments and strategies have to line up. Is there new risk? Should I be running from NFC? Where do I place my bets?

25 October 2011

My top question for October has been “What is Apple up to” in payments/commerce? It matters to me because investments and strategies have to line up. Is there new risk? Should I be running from NFC? Where do I place my bets?

Data Points (From previous blogs)

  • Apple/iPhone is staying away from NFC…Apple has something brewing that revolves around its iTunes account base.
  • Chase is working with both Apple and Square
  • Square just secured a billion dollar valuation on $3-6M in Rev from one of the best VCs (IMHO) KPCB.. SO they must have some big idea…
  • WSJ Article reports Jamie Dimon is talking to Dorsey on Payment.. what possibly could Jamie be so enthused about?
  • Keith Rabois said he would never have gotten involved in Square if it was just about a doggle and payments..
  • Visa is on board.. so they must have a plan to drive card volume. Visa invested at a time when new mobile  PCI standards were “in flight”
  • The Square doggle is mag stripe only.. (doesn’t work outside US)
  • They are pushing the doggle like mad, expanding distribution to WMT stores this week.
  • My previous blog outlines how Square has shifted into V3 of a business strategy that is about commerce (not payment). V1 was “Payments for Craigslist community”, V2 Small Merchants alienated by terms of today’s Acquirers, V3 Commerce
  • Square card case shows TODAY’s product for working in physical retail. To make this work efficiently (and at scale..) many people have to be “registered” with Square as Payers (to open a Tab). Visa Wallet, and Apple iTunes would seem to be logical extensions to expand this registration rapidly. See Card Case demo Square’s site http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=la0zz-pPEl4
  • As I stated previously, there is no need for NFC… anything that NFC can accomplish can also be accomplished with a single key exchange.. whether that key is biometrics, a loyalty card or your GPS location
  • In this blog 2 years ago (wow I’ve been writing about Square for that long!?), outlines how a commerce process of the future may look like the local country store of the past. I know who you are when you walk in.. ask “would pay like you did last time or put it on your account?”.

Apple/Square – the Anti NFC?

All indications are that Apple has a new “location registration” type of service.. Allowing users to determine “Who” they want to make aware of their presence. I’m sure most of you familiar with Square’s card case can see the immediate link: if you walk into a “registered” store you have given “permission” to be aware of your presence the store will be able to market to you during your shopping experience AND when you go to register it will know who you are based on Voice (Square example), picture, GPS, or some other proximity indicator. Assuming your payment is on file (iTunes/Square) and the retailer is “connected” (to same cloud as consumer): the entire marketing, shopping and checkout process is done without ANY select, scan, tap, swipe or anything … throughout your entire shopping experience. For example, you could be watching targeted iPhone ad videos while shopping with discounts automatically applied at checkout.

Hey I could be wrong … and should have just kept my mouth shut while I go patent this.. but I think this is already in flight.. so my goal is to inform investment decisions. My confidence level?

Square is building this? 60-70%

Apple is participating? 30-40%

This would make Square’s Wal-Mart distribution efforts look brilliant. Give away millions of free doggles to get consumers to sign up.. then leverage this network as the basis for future in store payment network.

Is this really a Killer App?

My response centers around this question: How would retailers (and existing value chain) react?

  • Where is the value to the retailer? In store marketing is not valuable without knowing intent to shop or buy.. or brand preferences..
  • What do Square, Visa, Apple know about physical advertising and retail?
  • What incremental sales with this drive? New customers? Basket Size?
  • Will I lose business if I don’t do this?
  • This use case solves a “payment” problem and an “instore awareness” problem.. What is the benefit to the merchant? Speed? Reduced Interchange?
  • If Chase and Visa are driving this.. retailers will not be jumping over themselves to be first on board
  • IBM has an 80% share registers in top 20 retailers.. Are they going to give up the POS to Square?

On the positive side.. this is certainly MUCH cheaper than NFC.. Merchants: Why should you buy NFC terminals at all? This highlights again why the MNOs insistence in following a “control” model for delivering value through NFC will be such a failure (see related blog). Data should not live on the phone.. but the cloud.

Investment Implications?

  • Be cautious in over estimating the uptake of NFC. It is not a panacea for payment. It is a great tool for machine/tag to machine communication (ticketing, door opening security, RFID reader, music sharing, …).
  • Verifone’s vision of new terminals everywhere should be balanced with a view of no more payment terminals at all.
  • There are some very big bets going on here.. Apple, Kleiner, Visa, Chase.  If you are not aligned to one of the big players you could get stepped on quickly
  • Many opportunities to add value within this “future” scenario.. SAP, Oracle, and other retail experts are well positioned to help retailers
  • Visa and Chase’s involvement make retailers participation less certain… therefore increasing retailer interest in other “retailer friendly” value propositions.
  • My favorite one.. in store bandwidth. Stores are sink holes for radio signals..  Verizon and AT&T could gain control over this entire value chain by selling connectivity solutions (ie microcells) into stores. They can control the content in the phones to a much higher degree.. for example blocking any non-retail friendly site while a customer shops.
  • Government Regs.. We need to start managing who has access to location information in a much more “regulated” fashion.  I’m more concerned about my location information than I am about my payment info. Why? I know I won’t be held liable for my fraudulent card data.. while a bunch of physical thieves could rob me blind if they know where I shop and when I’m gone from my house.  There is an assumption that customers will let this happen. My recommendation is for Square and Apple to spend a little time in Germany..
  • Visa Offers could have a new outlet in store.. unfortunately.. they don’t know how to “sell” offers to retailers..

Make no mistake.. I like this model and think it is brilliant. But others are much better positioned to execute on it.  Starting a network business is hard.. cracking the nut on a retailer value proposition.. harder.

If this is true.. I could be flipping to a fan of Square.. errr… Apple?? I finally see Kleiner’s investment approach at work. As one of their partners said to me “Tom, if we get a great team in place.. they will figure it out… Google had no idea of how it would make money when it started.. they turned out OK “

Square’s $1B Valuation.. its not a payments business any more

Square’s future model depends on both the consumer and the merchant giving up consumer data at the line item level in the POS. I see apparel and large department stores as possible candidates.. perhaps even electronics.. but the challenges are tremendous.

Square $1B Valuation…  ?

29 June 2011

Today’s WSJ Story

What shocked me most about Square today? Kleiner’s lead in the round. I know the KPCB team well, and they are the best VC I’ve ever worked with. Given my negativity… a re-evaluation is in order. Both to protect my reputation with my KPCB friends.. and for my own sanity.

There is no way that Square can justify a $1B valuation as a payment company. At $1 billion in annual processing volume, Square would be roughly the 70th largest merchant acquirer/ISO in the country. Global, the largest pure play, processes $135 billion annually, has other businesses, and has a $4 billion market cap. See data below from my friends at FT Partners (a great Advisory team in payments).

3 years ago, Jack pitched KPCB on the idea of Square as the PayPal of Craig’s list… KPCB passed. The business model has changed substantially, and is now on V3+.

Why did KP invest in this last round? I haven’t spoken to them, but my guess is that it is no longer about payments.. but about changing the checkout process at the POS.

Here is my guess on Square’s V3 Business Model

1) Create a path to exit the transaction business.. they don’t want to manage sub prime acquiring risk.

2) Create a software/platform business for mainstream retail. Work with major retailers to use Square register as the way retail (and retail sales agents) interact with consumers. In other words re-engineer the buying experience at the POS. KP always looks for “big bets”.. this would certainly be one of them.  In this Version 3 business model, Square will interact/integrate to legacy POS systems. They will also attempt to own the mid market and replace current POS vendors in the mid tier. At the low end they may still be working deploying the Square we see today, but it will be challenged by PCI Rules. For a more detailed look at current plans (they evolve rapidly) see this excellent post:http://mashable.com/2011/05/23/square-card-case/

3) Create an advertising/incentive business. We hear them working on this today, but their current customers are dry cleaners and hot dog stands.. obviously they need to move upstream. Advertising and incentive will be the primary basis for their new revenue model.

Perhaps this is why Square is working their employees 20 hours a day.. they know that the big guys are also all over this.  IBM, Cisco, Nokia, NCR, Micros, Oracle, SAP, MSFT … I doubt if they will just sit back and let Square throw out a new POS system. What competency does Square have in Campaign management and advertising? Who owns their current data? This last point is very relevant.

Consumer transaction data collected by Square today is property of merchant. Although hot dog vendors may not care… Large retailers know how sensitive it is..  Square’s future model depends on both the consumer and the merchant giving up consumer data at the line item level in the POS. I see apparel and large department stores as possible candidates.. perhaps even electronics.. but the challenges are tremendous.

Can all of this work? It depends on the retailers.. having Visa on board may actually be a drag on their merchant adoption. One thing is for certain.. their valuation is certainly not based on their success as a payments business.