Visa’s new iPhone App: Is this success?

Visa’s iPhone app is available on Apple’s App Store (but not advertised)

The application has been a 2 year effort driven by Monitise, and the UI looks very good. However, I’m afraid that Visa’s latest mobile effort is doomed to failure because of :  “last mile” issues at the POS, and issuer data ownership.

From Visa’s website (

 **Offers: Receive merchant discounts and special offers directly on your iPhone. The offers are stored on your iPhone and can be redeemed at physical merchant retail locations, online, or by telephone …

**In-store redemption:
Visit the merchant’s physical retail location and show the cashier the offer displayed on your iPhone. The merchant discounts the price in accordance with the offer and you pay for your purchase using your enrolled Visa card.

Great customer experience… click on an offer and “SHOW THE CASHIER” your coupon. My guess is that the cashier will gladly give you the discount with a cash purchase as well.  There is certainly the opportunity for a social network aspect to sharing discounts (think groupon) and location aware mobile advertising.. but the banks are not on board. Why?

  1. Visa makes it clear they can register up to 5 Visa cards. Hence they have 1 Participating Issuer – USBank.
  2. Visa is beginning to use customer data for advertising. Current Visa rules do not provide for them to advertise directly to the customer.. it is the issuer that owns the relationship. Perhaps this is the driver of the marketing annoucement

Mobile Advertising Battle: Beyond the Internet

10 June 2010

Apple is brilliant!

Having just read today today’s WSJ Article- Google Blasts Apple on iAd Rules, a few random thoughts started to coalesce (which doesn’t happen as often as it used to) into a new ‘‘investment perspective’ on mobile advertising.

Yesterday Magna estimated that online advertising will climb 12.4% in 2010 to $61.0B and surpass $100B by 2013. For perspective, AFP reports that advertisers will spend $59.6B on TV ads and around $600M on mobile advertising (eMarkerter, $1.3B by 2013). The growth here is just astounding, there is little wonder for the transactions over the last 3 years:

  • MSFT aQuantive $6B (May 2007)
  • Google DoubleClick $3.2B (April 2007)
  • Google AdMob $650M (May 2010)
  • Apple Quattro Wireless (Jan 2010)

In my experiences as global buyer, online was by far the most cost effective way to acquire a customer (with SEM the most cost effective). From my perspective, Online Advertising brought a solution to the challenge faced by marketers for decades: data. Finally I could relate marketing spend to customer acquisition. Marketing went from throwing a blanket.. to a shotgun.. In 2005-2007 this shotgun was very hard to use.. particularly outside of the US. Although most agencies were well versed in spending through Ad Networks for display ads, few had any experience in SEM across search providers. Those Agencies that did still did not provide tools for my teams (buyers) to calculate CPA (determining which ads resulted in customer acquisition). Hence, large companies had to develop their own internal expertise or manage their spend directly with a chosen few suppliers (eg. GOOGLE). Internal marketing thus took on the form shown below.

The Ad industry recognizes that the ability to track a customer is key to measuring effectiveness, target ads and thereby key to greater marketing spend. There are a number of technical solutions which have developed over the last 3-4 years, tagging customers with cookies is all something we are familiar with.  Apple’s strategy in defining standard for “tracking” is challenging Google’s unique position as the “starting point” of a customer’s online activity. It moves the starting point to the iPhone device. This is a brilliant move by Apple given its 50M iPhones (and 30M iTouches), particularly when you look at the demographic of the owners and the media capabilities of this killer mobile appliance.

Apple’s plans to take ownership of the iPhone’s “Ad Ecosystem” will not end with these standards. In the online advertising model, the objective was an online acquisition. In the mobile ad model the objective is for either an acquisition online or at a physical point of sale (POS). The mobile device is in a unique position as a point of convergence between the virtual and physical world. In this model the iAD/mobile market expands from mobile advertising (as a sub category of online advertising) to generating store traffic at the POS. The challenge for a iAD at POS is similar to the “customer tracking” challenge described above.. how do I know the customer went to the store? Answers: coupons, payment, geolocation, …

Expect Apple and the MNOs to become very active in linking mobile advertising to these activities (ex Apple’s NFC patent, MNO prepaid consortium). The linking of card data to mobile advertising (consumer behavior and preferences) also provides a tremendous opportunity Banks/Issuers to monetize consumer information (see Googlization of Financial Services).

We may be seeing the beginning of a seismic change in advertising spend, and the way consumers are tracked and targeted. The “addressable market” for mobile advertising should not be viewed as a subset of online spend, both because of POS opportunities and the media richness (and now multi-tasking) of the iPhone. Apple’s strategy is brilliant, I would imagine them taking a regulatory position that all ad networks are welcome to work through their standard…. Apple is protecting customers’ privacy.

Related Content

April 2010 online ad spending report

Thoughts appreciated

US Carriers Form New US Pre-Paid Venture

May 31

Previous Post

Mobile Ad start ups… watch out… the big fish are coming …

It seems as if AT&T has pulled together Verizon and T-Mobile to form a new venture to focus on pre-paid. The large US Card Issuers are now aware (and quite suprised) of the move . It is doubtful that this new US entity (NewCo) will reach as far as Canada’s Enstream in mobile platform collaboration, but the focus of this initiative is mobile payment (NFC and P2P) and mobile advertising.

MNOs see a “Google like” future in mobile advertising, as they attempt to monetize their tremendous customer knowledge. For those that have ever purchased online advertising, we know that the biggest challenge in justifying spend is to move beyond “cost per click” to cost per customer acquisition or purchase. This Ad-Purchase disconnect is particularly true when purchase is made in the physical world. Mobile has the potential to bring together these two worlds, but a “key” is needed. MNOs and Banks see this “key” as a a common payment instrument available  to all customers. NewCo is therefore planning to control (issue or manage) a common pre-paid card which will serve as this transaction key and give MNOs the remaining tool necessary to coordinate focused mobile advertising.

Given that NewCo doesn’t yet have the CEO in place there is probably much left open (with respect to business plan and services). At a minimum I believe they will act as issuer, and create common services to address mobile advertising and payment.

Message for VCs and Start-Ups:

  • Assess risk of current path vs. supporting this new “collaborative” MNO ecosystem.
  • Investments “tied” to this new ecosystem will have different risk profile, particularly in navigating more complex environment.
  • Mobile advertising “pure plays” which do not touch financial transaction will be at a significant disadvantage. Ecosystems are forming based upon: Platform, Service (ie search), Network, Payment Instrument and bank.
  • Adapt.. A “dynamic” strategy which will keep your IP “in play” is necessary.
  • Winners will have the right talent that can navigate with the “big fish” and the right BOD that can help you evolve your strategy.
  • Think Global. Ecosystems will likely evolve differently globally, particularly in Asia.
  • Using financial information for advertising will touch privacy and regulatory issues. Regulated entities (Banks, MNOs, Payment Networks) are best positioned to deal with these. However, large MNOs and Banks have poor track records in “innovation” and moving collectively.

In short, it remains to be seen whether MNOs will be able to take on role as “orchestrator” of mobile advertising, or just a provider of location, reputation, authentication and transaction services.  How MNOs monetize these services will be driven as much by their ability to execute as investor expectations and competing models.

Googlization of Financial Services

A managing partner at KPCB reminded me that when Google first started, it had no plan on how to generate revenue. It was great technology, and investors figured that the bright young founders would “figure it out”. My how they have, with 2Q09 revenues topping $5.5B.  Harvard Business Review put out a very thought provoking article in April 2009.

What’s Your Google Strategy? by Andrei Hagiu, David B. Yoffie

This brought about a little déjà vu relating to channel strategy for banks. The focus of the HBR article seems to be intermediaries and the value that platforms/MSPs provide. Another aspect to consider in Google’s success is how to use information to add value, and how to develop leaders capable of realizing it. For FSIs today the top issues in delivering new value propositions are: where is the short term revenue, what can be created that leverages current assets, what provides “true” customer value, how do I stop non-banks from creating value in my ecosystem and who internally can execute?

Since I’m not writing a comprehensive book on the subject.. lets follow the Google vein. Banks have tremendous customer information that goes un-used, including:  location, buying habits, credit worthiness,  brand preferences and even family/life “events”. Of course most FSIs don’t use this information because of challenges faced in regulatory compliance such as Reg E, FCRA, 2009 CCA. …etc.Anyone within a bank today knows the challenges of working across the organization to develop something truly new and innovative. Each new team that is brought in brings about an n2 problem in coordination. Developing a new customer value proposition that uses customer data is a mine field that is difficult to navigate.. but it could also be a gold mine.

Here is a thought provoking example which I discussed with the innovation team in my previous life. I’ve also discussed this same example w/ JPMC, BAC, Visa and a number of other FSIs.

Summary: Bank mines customer transactional information (card) and sends targeted advertisements to customers

Customer Value

  • Get free phone or payment chip
  • Preferred rates on card/or accounts
  • Targeted discounts/coupons at selected merchants
  • Accelerated rewards

Customer Requirement

  • Agree to Disclosure allowing use of your transactional information
  • Agree to Disclosure for bank to send marketing advertisements to your mobile phone number
  • Minimum card used
  • Maximum of x ADs per month

Bank Value

  • Generate new revenue Stream from targeted advertising
  • Increase revenue (transactions/interchange)

Bank Requirement

  • Technology. Mine data, manage advertisements, coupons and rebates
  • Develop merchant relationships (advertisements), or develop relationships w/ 3rd parties
  • New business line
  • Develop product incentives

Merchant Value

  • Finally a bank brings in customers.. as opposed to taking interchange

Example “Network” Pilot Overview – A high level directional overview

  1. Customer registers credit card for mobile ADs. Allows SMS AD x times per month
  2. Clairmail acts as agency, coordinating merchants, promos and marketing spend
  • Merchants pre-pay for campaign
  • Develop target promo and bid criteria: customer location, demographic, event transaction, …
  • Claimail server Sits at “Network”, listens to transaction traffic
  • Card transaction events are triggered based upon card registration status
  • Event gets sent to campaign engine. SMS AD triggered based upon criteria
  1. Customer gets SMS notification
  2. Example. Shop at EXAMPLESTORE in next 5 hours and get 10% back
  3. Clairmail server monitors transactions at “Network”.
  • If Card transaction is for registered card it is sorted
  • Campaign engine finds that it Ad was sent to it, determines if transaction at EXAMPLESTORE meets threshold
  • If it is met, Campaign engine kicks transaction to MerchantAdvert service which bills merchant for AD and debits account for 10% credit plus fee.
  • Engine issues 10% credit to customer’s card account
  • Engine debits merchant account
  • Notification message sent to customer that their card account has been credited for purchase and 10% discount.

Good news for merchants is that they pay only for purchases. Great CPA here. Bad news for banks is that someone is already creating a model to benefit from your transactions with your customer.

Banks must identify and incent leaders capable of working across their internal organizations to develop new models which deliver value to the customer. The challenge of delivering value in new ways cannot be delegated to the technology or internet teams.. it requires business leadership from seasoned executives well established in the organization. When GE looked to establish a new business line.. it didn’t hire an outsider with no tie to the existing business.  The same approach should be taken by leading FSIs.

The innovation team may be able to create the idea.. but you need to pull a star out of your stable to go run with it. The other option would be for Banks to start acting like VCs and give a few years for smart people to “figure it out”. However this is loose approach would be challenging for a bank, particularly for innovation surrounding existing customers and an existing business. Only leaders that are respected across business units can pull off coordination between them, particulalry when complex regulatory issues must be addressed.

Other reading

Fidelity to Launch new Direct Bank

Rob Foregger is now Chairman and CEO of Fidelity Investment’s new internet bank. Reporting initially to Sanjiv Mirchandani under Steve Akin’s personal investment group Rob will be building on the cash management platform. Ned and Abigail are keeping the lid on this one.

Fidelity’s plan is to create a Direct Bank based upon an investment led model… Similar to e*Trade and their stock plan services. Abigail is leading the corporate side plan services… and is looking for something new to sell. In addition to 401k, stock plan services, … why not offer banking?

Note that Rob’s background is in mortgage. The lending side is quite attractive for Fidelity… it obviously needs to get the liabilities side of the balance sheet going before jumping in with the asset products. It looks like the bank is FDS National out of Mason Ohio.

Order No.: 2000-27

Date: March 10,2000

FDS National Bank, Mason, Ohio (the Bank), has applied to the Office of Thrift

Supervision (the OTS), pursuant to 12 U.S.C. $ 1464 and 12 C.F.R. 0 552.2-6 for permission to convert from a national bank to a federal stock savings bank, FDS Bank (the New FSB). Federated Department Stores, Inc., New York, New York (the Acquirer) and FDS Thrift HoldingCompany, Inc., Cincinnati, Ohio (collectively, the Applicants) seek approval under 12 U.S.C. !j1467a(e) and 12 C.F.R. $ 574.3 to acquire the New FSB. In addition, FMR Corp. and Fidelity Management & Research Company, Boston, Massachusetts, and Abigail P. Johnson and Edward C. Johnson, III, have filed, pursuant to 12 C.F.R. 5 574.4(e), a rebuttal of control submission that includes a rebuttal of control agreement for approval to acquire up to 25% of the stock of the Acquirer.