V.me: Issuers please give me your customers

Banks.. get serious about this. Why would you want to let Visa step all over your brand and start delivering services to consumers directly? This is the start of a major tipping point for Visa… the Top issuers are fuming… but Visa may be able to build consumer adoption ahead of banks pulling the plug on it.

16 Nov

Visa is an independent for profit company… they are on a tear with adjusted earnings up over 19% and the stock up over 40% for the year. Who are Visa’s customers? They are a network, created by banks.. but they only set rules.. historically they don’t have direct relationships with merchants or consumers; the issuing bank owns the consumer, and the acquiring bank owns the merchant. Their primary customer is therefore banks (issuing and acquiring).

With the CYBS purchase, Visa gained direct merchant relationships. CYBS at one time handled over 25% of eCommerce transactions. The “big 3” in online merchant services are now eBay (Paypal+GSI), Visa (CYBS) and Amazon. Visa is looking for ways to expand its network, services and revenue base. The expansion is very hard to do if you are dependent on your member banks, hence Visa is looking to establish a direct consumer touchpoint in line with Cybersource’s merchant capability.

In my very first blog (2009 Googlization of Financial Services),  I outlined both the alert service that Clairmail built for Visa, and the advertising/offer engine they had put in place. Neither the alert service nor the ad service had taken off as issuers were not exactly thrilled with expanding Visa’s services or opening the door to Visa’s efforts to communicate directly to consumers. Clairmail has since been acquired by Monitise ($173M in March 2012).  Monitise is the entity that build “Visa Offers” and initially was “the mobile horse” which Visa intended to ride … until they upgraded to Fundamo. Now Monitise seems to be focused on the offers product… (See Visa Mobile Strategy). Visa wants to get into the card linked offers business (Visa Offers, FreeMonee, Monitise,…), and has had the technology working for sometime, they also want to get into the wallet business. (see Battle of the Cloud)

Neither of these services are to the best interest of issuers, which is why we see a hodgepodge of small banks without the resources to properly digest the strategic impact, or build the technology themselves in this recent V.me “50 bank pilot”. Let me be crystal clear on what I believe Visa’s strategy is:

  1. establish direct consumer service
  2. start with eCommerce (autofill) functionality to speed checkout and improve conversion
  3. add alerts to give consumers knowledge of card transactions
  4. add incentives/offers in 18 months (they already have built the service)

This is why Visa hates the Google service.. it steps all over their plans online.. as well as at POS (not in scope for this blog).

Take a look at V.me terms and conditions. They have done a great job in obfuscating their strategy in this document, as it clearly states that issuers have control

These Terms do not amend or otherwise modify the cardholder agreement or any other terms and conditions of your Issuer. In the event of any inconsistency between these Terms and your cardholder agreement with your Issuer, these Terms govern as to the relationship between you and Visa solely with respect to V.me and your cardholder agreement with your Issuer governs as to the relationship between you and your Issuer. You are responsible for ensuring that your use of the Services complies with your cardholder agreement with your Issuer.

Visa Alerts is the service where banks should start to become concerned. For the first time, visa is creating a list of consumer names, emails (above) and mobile phone numbers. Alerts will start with card usage, and then they will morph into incentives and offers based on spending patterns. These incentives will be offered completely separate from the issuers. In the V.me privacy policy “We share some information, but not your full card number, with merchants you pay with V.me” and “We may contact you about your V.me account, service updates, and new V.me features”.

I’ve got news for the V.me participating banks.. why don’t you just give Visa your customer list and give them permission to use it as they want? You have just given Visa much more.. They can now act on transactions they see on the switch.

I see Visa quickly expanding the service beyond eCommerce to physical commerce primarily around offers and alerts. You will be able to redeem offers across any card stored in your V.me wallet.  This means that V.me will work without eCommerce merchant adoption… and could be a stand alone offers platform. Of course they don’t want to lead with this… but it is indeed where Visa sees the best margin.

Banks.. get serious about this. Why would you want to let Visa step all over your brand and start delivering services to consumers directly? This is the start of a major tipping point for Visa… the Top issuers are fuming… but Visa may be able to build consumer adoption ahead of banks pulling the plug on it.

There is certainly no reason to worry.. take a look at the participating merchants https://www.v.me/shopping/  not exactly a whose who of online merchants. Why is this? well my merchant friends are also aware of Visa’s efforts to do the incentive business and the last thing they want is another entity switching consumers to the lowest cost provider. V.me on an eCommerce perspective is fine.. but what Visa doesn’t realize is that Google, Paypal an Amazon all have this today. (ex Google has autofill in Chome browser and Android…). If Visa has trouble signing up its own CYBS merchants.. what issues do you think they will have in signing up with those on GSI?

The Directory Battle PART 1 – Battle of the Cloud

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

11 May 2012

This week we had both Finnovate and CTIA going on, and behind the scenes the battle lines are being formed in a forthcoming “BATTLE OF THE CLOUD” wallet. I didn’t include wallet in the quote because Battle of the Cloud sounds so much more ominous. Perhaps I should take a page from George Lucas’ playbook and start with Chapter 4.

I’ve been talking about the directory battle for some time now (see Clearxchange post).  Who keeps the directory of consumer information? As I outlined in Digital Wallet Strategies: “ securing information AND giving Consumers the exclusive ability to control what is shared with whom is a challenge (beyond technology and trust). We thus have many limited “Wallets” that are constructed around specific purposes”.

This week we had Visa’s President tell the CTIA audience that Visa has moved beyond NFC to V.me (see my previous post on Visa Wallet). What is really going on? What is the battle of the cloud?

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). Remember US  online commerce is $170B/yr, physical commerce is $2.37T (not including FS, Travel/Entertainment).

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).  Another example is Paypal’s ability to selectively assume settlement risk on some transactions as they route through low cost ACH, or even allow customers to use BillMeLater to selectively convert certain purchase to loans AFTER THE FACT.  In these 2 examples, traditional payments revenue will be significantly disrupted by: lower cost transactions, competitive credit terms (each purchase), and incentives tied to payment type.

But do consumers really want to store all of their information in one place? With one entity given the ability to see all of your spend? For an mCommerce transaction, there is nothing I hate more than having to type in my name, address and card number in that tiny little screen.  Most of these mCommerce solutions (like V.me) are little more than an “autofill” where the merchant checkout page leverages API integration to the cloud service to retrieve user information (see diagram here). If I’m on my phone, my carrier already knows who I am, so seems fairly logical for them to help me with the autofill. This is a reason I’m now a big fan of Payfone. I could also see why it makes sense for Apple and Google. But why Visa? Does it make any sense at all for Visa to hold my Amex card?  Oh.. let me cast a few more stones on ISIS/NFC.. that payment instrument that locked in your phone.. yeah it can’t be used for the online purchase. Perhaps someday someone will write a secure NFC mobile browser plug in to extract data from the SE.. but that opens up a whole new can of worms.

Today’s online merchants are getting a very small taste of the war as they are asked to integrate auto-fill plug ins (Paypal, V.me/CYBS, Payfone, Google, soon to be Apple). Merchants should get on board with all of them, as they do represent a tremendous improvement in customer experience, and you may be able to squeeze some free marketing/implementation money from each of them. However, the cloud battle at the physical POS is still a few years off, as existing card products have a substantial advantage in risk modeling/fraud. This is where Square is taking a lead, as it has the best consumer experience hands down. Low volume merchants really should assess whether they need a specialized POS system, as the parameters for selecting one have shifted from ISO/Processor/Cost/Acct Recon/Book Keeping to Sales, incentives and customer experience.

Battle starts in mCommerce/eCommerce

My guess on timing of V.me is driven by knowledge of Apple’s impending plans to “extend” its iTunes account to payment outside of the Apple ecosystem. Visa sees this network risk and is in an all out war to protect its network, by leveraging its CYBS asset online. The banks have worked on a directory concept for quite some time. The Clearing House (TCH) built a working system called UPICK to solve the problem of consumers giving their RTN/ACCT# out in the open.. assigning a virtual number to the account. A sort of “virtual account number” that could only be translated by TCH.  It never took off, because ACH fraud was low and banks were much more excited about having merchants accept cards as payment.

Retailers are not silent participants to this war.. their champions are Target, Tesco, Amazon, and Rakutan. I hope Amazon will finally dust the plans off of One Click expansion. Other retailers are also aligning to assess creation of shared cloud infrastructure.  Sorry I can’t comment more. Similarly MNOs are also in the cloud game, for example Payfone may be one of the best services in the market..

Who are the players in the Cloud [Payments] War?

The initial battle will be in mobile/online purchases.

  • Banks: V.me, Mastercard,
  • Platforms: Apple, Google, PayPal
  • Retailers: Amazon, Rakutan,
  • MNOs: Payfone, Boku, payforit, billtomobile, …

Most confusing is that there are few alliances.. it is many against many.

http://tomnoyes.wordpress.com/2011/10/26/apples-commerce-future-square/