Visa and MA take a bath on proposed debit fees

The banks knew it was coming, and don’t let anyone fool you that the idea of a flat fee of $0.05-$0.15 was a “suprise” . While Banks are morning tonight, the merchants are having a party..

The banks knew it was coming, so don’t let anyone fool you that it was a “suprise”. The idea of a flat fee of $0.05-$0.15 has been floated for some time. As you can see from graph on right, Visa lost 10% of its value after the announcement. While Banks and Issuers are returning their Christmas presents tonight, the merchants are having a party.. particularly large ones like Wal-Mart who in 2009 had interchange costs of $1B.

As a banker, we invited Wal-Mart to come in and talk to us in 2005. They certainly did not mince words then, I remember a few quotes explicitly “what service do you provide that justifies taking 2% of my sales”?. Another memorable quote “we want to find a model where you pay us to take your card”.  Something we laughed off back then, after all who on earth in the bank wanted to design that model? Banks “had it coming”… The interchange rate creep bore too many signs of a

“network” run amok and NO ONE stopped the train.  Banks launching campaigns like “skip the PIN and win” to incent consumers to pursue signature debit transactions (200bps+) vs PIN debit.  We only need to look at the federal reserve chart on the right to see the lack of market forces here.

I believe this is a “tipping point” event in US cards. We will see merchants aggressively incent use of debit, and the Visa and MA logos will start to come off of our debit/ATM cards, as they do in Canada and Australia (Interac, and EFTPOS). What will the banks do about this revenue loss?

All are looking for new ways to drive other revenue streams into the payment services, particularly around marketing/advertising (see my Blog on Apple iAd). The Visa and MA relationships with the large banks was already showing signs of strain. The large banks will not wait for Visa and MA to develop an alternatives, most are assessing new networks and value channels which they can control (see Googlization of FS). I’m short on V/MA because of this dynamic.

The Federal Reserve’s proposal is open for comments, and there may be a change. But the starting point for the negotiations is quite a bit lower than what the banks were hoping for.  My message to Bank CEOs: drop the fight here and find a new model for payments. Don’t let Apple and Google eat your future as well. What will it take? Well for one thing it will take a little collaboration, re-energize a few of your existing consortiums like NACHA, The Clearing House, Early-Warning to develop new models for payments and seed these team with top executives. You can’t take your eye off of this ball, retail payments is less than sexy.. but it is core to your daily interaction with customers.

Investor Short Take – Payments

VCs can expect $5-$10B of industry investment in payments over next 5 years as new networks develop. Its important to ensure existing investments have plans to align to one of the emerging ecosystems. Go it alone will not work…

7 Dec 2010

Summary for investors:

  • Ensure existing investments have plans to align to one of the emerging ecosystems. Go it alone will not work.
  • Expect $5-$10B of industry investment in payments over next 5 years as new networks develop.
  • Seed teams with people that have experience in payments and working across large players. Success will not come from “technology” ..
  • Focus on delivering value to one leg of the network. Merchant friendly value propositions are recieving new focus.. but retailers are not participating where there is “traditional” bank leadership.. new non-bank networks are forming.
  • Digital goods payments is red hot, and also likely to be focus of Google, Apple, Amazon, Visa, MA, PayPal, … Solutions will be driven from multiple players, the “channel masters” of: content, social network, consumer payment, consumer advertising, …
  • The relationships between the large banks and Visa/MA are deteriorating, particularly in the area of innovation. NFC is still an area for collaboration, but small and mid-size banks are more likely to align w/ Visa/MA plans than the large players.
  • Consumer payment behavior changes in 20 year cycles, largely because there is little differential value (beyond rewards). There are exceptions, as Target is attempting to prove through its REDCard. Other large retailers are assessing plans to buy a bank, replicating  Target, and WalMart (in Mexico and Canada)
  • As a rule, Banks are not collaborating with each other or internally and seem to be engaged in multiple initiatives in a hedge your bets strategy (to see what sticks). If your companies are working with a bank, don’t assume there is coordination internally.. your teams must learn to work across complex political lines.

Quite a few interesting “rumblings” this week.

1) Bank of America Merchant Services and First Data are assessing development of a new card network.

2) Google and a major bank (?Citi) are working heads down on a mobile payment platform network driven by mobile advertising revenue. Citi would make sense given its 110M cards and it’s key weakness in merchant acquiring (vs. Chase Paymenttech and BAMS). This team still would leave a large gap at POS…. So perhaps Discover is there as well? Yeah that is a very wierd prediction.. Citi rebranding all of its portfolio Discover so it could regain control.

3) Apple working on a 2Q11/3Q11 iAD platform, with couponing and purchasing. This is a rather big project as they also work to consolidate 4 internal payment systems (legacy apple store, iTunes, app store, and Treasury) with new mobile walled (Apple Patent) and a major bank as partner (?Chase?)

4) Wells Fargo and Bank of America retail teams assessing collaboration on a mobile P2P platform.. which was taken away from their Pariter JV.  See related Blog. I’m sure the cards groups must be shaking their heads a little given the anticipated volume, but banks cannot cede this space.. and it is critical to bank leadership. I just wish the banks would focus on the business and not on the technology.. just buy Cashedge and put it in The Clearning House or something.

5) Merchant acquirers and processors putting together more focused offerings for large retailers. See Target Red Card.

6) Visa and MA have M&A plans around pre-paid which are in flight, a focus more on the G2P and Cross border segments rather than mobile… re: mobile, Visa and MA have retrenched here after “learning lessons” in failures of Mastercard MoneySend (Obopay) and Visa Money Transfers. Funny that MA learned its lessons on a remittance focused Obopay, while VMT attempted to focus on domestic card-card and now is “refocusing” on remittance.

Visa Money Transfer

A clear theme has emerged: card based money transfer will not be successful except in very limited circumstances. This is true for both (pre-paid) cards tied to mobile phone plans and network initiatives (Visa Money Transfer, Mastercard Moneysend/Obopay). Visa and Mastercard both have grand designs for taking part in the tremendous growth within emerging markets, but it looks like the growth will be at the top end …

22 November 2010 (updated 15 Dec, sorry for previous typos)

SUMMARY: VMT may by “Mandatory” but no one cares and is not acting on it.. As one bank told Visa “do you want my attorneys or yours to draw up the waiver”.

Correction (11 March) Chase and Bank of America are committing to it in next 6 months.

Visa Money Transfer Overview – Issuer presentation

I’ve been on the phone this month with several folks focusing on the unbanked and emerging markets. A clear theme has emerged: card based money transfer will not be successful except in very limited circumstances. This is true for both (pre-paid) cards tied to mobile phone plans and network initiatives (Visa Money Transfer, Mastercard Moneysend/Obopay).  Visa and Mastercard both have grand designs for taking part in the tremendous growth within emerging markets, but it looks like the growth will be at the top end (which is still substantial) rather than with the unbanked in areas like G2P payments.

In my previous blogs, I’ve certainly shared my views on Obopay/Mastercard. This blog focused a little attention on the Visa Money Transfer (VMT) service. In both the Mastercard MoneySend (MMS) and VMT models the networks own the switch of card/bin/mobile#/service provider/issuing bank. MasterCard’s MoneySend service attempted to focus Obopay in “mobile acquiring” of both senders AND beneficiaries (come pick up your money).  VMT’s AFT/OCT transaction set (see Patent)  attempted to bypass this “registration” intermediary and go directly to issuers.  Technically, the solution is excellent and the comments below are not meant to detract on Visa’s substantial lead on MA in developing this service. The problem with VMT is the business model. Unfortunately for Visa, global card issuers (particularly in OECD 20 countries) are taking a pass. The adoption challenges are particularly acute on Debit and within Western Europe (business case, conflicting services, pricing, fraud, customer support, agreements, Visa Europe and bank control… ).

VMT also suffers from 2 widely held misperceptions: it is “instant” and mandatory. With regard to the first item, just as with any debit transaction funds can “post” to the account but actual clearing and settlement is at best next day. It therefore remains up the each bank when to show the “post” and when to make funds available (within the Reg E guidelines it can be up to 2-3 days). With respect to VMT’s “mandatory” status, I’m surprised that this issue has not been picked up in the mainstream press. Visa has lost its ability to force issuers to do anything, particularly when a contract addendum is required. I can tell you with certainty that 4 out of 6 large US banks DO NOT plan to implement VMT on the debit side. These banks like being in control of their liabilities run off and payment channels. Visa has much better adoption prospects on credit side, but the “mandatory” date has slipped from Oct 2010 to something more “flexible”.

Retail Banks are very reluctant to provide Visa/MA an avenue for service and product growth that they neither own or control. Visa’s attempted to “force” issuer’s hand by making the AFT/OCT transaction set mandatory is rather amusing and makes for good theater (see Visa Money Transfer Overview – Issuer presentation). The “incentive” for issuing bank to accept new agreement is a $0.50/tran revenue share (beneficiary). Market data clearly shows lack of participation and hence Visa is attempting to adapt and shift focus of VMT to narrow market opportunities. I’ve listed three example efforts and probability of success (reaching $10B+ TPV).

1 – Large Bank (<10% probability of success)

Work with a large bank (like Bank of America) to lead adoption and create a critical mass with a focused value proposition (example: USBANK mobile phone/NFC).  We all understand the convenience strategy for the NFC/POS/Phone focus, but for P2P? If you are scratching your head, join the crowd. Why would banks outsource P2P payments to Visa? If Visa only gets 1-2 “a major banks” to join them, what will be the P2P proposition? I can just see the Visa commercial “with Visa Money Transfers, you can instantly transfer money to some other cards some times and funds will show up in 2 days”….

Beyond the issuer adoption issues, yhy would you pay $0.50 to send money to a domestic bank account when you could do it for free online? The problem here may be that the bank’s card team doesn’t talk to the retail team… Banks need to think strategically about this and stop Visa’s P2P efforts in their tracks. Card-Card transfers present consumers with a very confusing option and forsake the enormous bank investments in shared infrastructure (ACH, RTGS, Clearing House, Early Warning …).

Message for smaller banks.. Visa is NOT getting commitment from the majors to adopt this “mandatory” transaction set. The “Mandatory” Oct 2010 date has been pushed back to April (and will probably be pushed back again). To be clear, the credit side of the house loves the idea of VMT, the debit/deposit side does not. The “value” of VMT is on the Debit side. Can you imagine the customer experience of any solution using VMT.. it only works for 50% of the cards. Message to vendors: don’t build your solutions around VMT.

2 – Domestic Payments – Emerging Market (<10% )

Solve specific problem in emerging market (India domestic money movement). Few people realize that (within India) Western Union and MGI are licensed to receive only. They cannot transfer money within India. Hence banks like ICICI and HSBC are offering VMT. As noted in a previous blog, each bank may choose to act as either remitter and/or beneficiary. Citi for example allows VMT receive, but not send. The VMT service fills a small gap in India today, but this gap should recede as banks accommodate recent updates to NEFT/RTGS process . In fact only today, India’s RBI launched Instant Interbank Mobile Pmt Service. VMT’s consumer value proposition is built around gaps in bank services and requires bank (issuer) sponsorship.

With respect to VMT as a cross border money transfer service, Visa will have no trouble signing up beneficiary banks in emerging markets. What they lack is origination network (above). They will see some progress with mid tier banks in specific markets (MEA), as they extend thier role as cross border processor (from P2B to P2P). Enabling beneficiary banks to nudge out the MSBs. This is why RBI approved the VMT service in India.. it was good for banks and bad for MSBs.

3 – NON BANK partners (40%, if emphasis is on prepaid)

MoneyGram Example. Following in the theme above, Visa is a network business and the strategy of any network business is to increase volume. Given that issuing banks are not signing up for originating AFTs, Visa is moving aggressively to create partnerships with MSBs, post offices and other non-banks for “cash in” services. These non-banks can also sell pre-paid cards through additional partnerships. This is not a “bank friendly” strategy, but market focus seems to be non-banked.

If card based money transfer is not the future what is?

The answer really depends on what problem we are trying to solve. Remittances? POS? P2P?  In the unbanked world, interchange and sender pays does not work. Regulators will not let US based companies derive revenue from G2P payments to the rural poor. Visa has many assets to create a successful solution, specifically in its Monitise unit, but ACH payments do not provide a great business model for Visa (or its bank partners). Again reinforcing the axiom that retail payments is a very low margin business (in steady state). This is why MFI and MNO models present a better opportunity, payments supports the profitability of their existing business models to a segment of customers that they already serve.

Will Visa find growth in VMT? Absolutely, growth from 0 is always and easy achievement.

Will it be a $50M revenue business for them? Not that I see, neither in emerging markets nor in OECD 20. Visa’s 10+ innovation initiatives are a mystery and a nuisance to issuers, banks no longer want Visa to control and view P2P as an encroachment on their core deposit relationship. In emerging markets, the regulators will not let Visa succeed beyond the top end of the market (not the base of the pyramid). Since writing this, Visa announced that Indian regulators approved the VMT scheme for inbound remittances. There will be some success here, primarily with regional banks looking for a focused partner (UAE Bank looking toward India remittance service).

What should Visa do? Instead of attempting to develop customer facing services and brand (ie payclick, VMT, …) that compete with bank offerings, it should focus on expanding the capability of the network to handle additional data types (fraud info, POS items, coupon, location, …).  Make the rails more robust and new ecosystems will form to take advantage. Of course the downside of this approach is that it takes agreement of 4 parties to make this type of change, hence the change cycle is over 20 years. This is one of the reasons that new networks are forming which support new business flows and switch data to Visa only when necessary (business remittance/invoicing is excellent example, eCommerce another). This cycle further isolates the card networks, and drives innovation outside of the “card process”.

See August 2010 White Paper from US Federal Reserve

http://www.frbatlanta.org/documents/rprf/rprf_resources/wp_0810.pdf

Thoughts appreciated.

Visa’s new iPhone App: Is this success?

Visa’s release a new iPhone app last month. One Bank has signed up (US Bank) the rest are holding back (more on this below). 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 the "last mile" issue at the POS.

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

www.visa.com/mobile

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 (http://usa.visa.com/personal/using_visa/visa-mobile/faq.html)

 **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

Debit Card in Peril?

The biggest story of the week has largely gone unreported. Bank of America (BAC) has taken a $10.3B goodwill impairment charge in 3Q. What does this mean for Visa? Not Good News.

27 October 2010

The biggest story of the week has largely gone unreported. Bank of America (BAC) has taken a $10.3B goodwill impairment charge in 3Q.

The Merchant Payments Coalition responded to the impairment charge (reference above)

“With a Federal Reserve decision on debit interchange rates not expected until mid-2011, today’s claims by Bank of America dramatically overstate reality and represent a feeble attempt to divert attention from its mortgage foreclosure problems,” said Doug Kantor, counsel to the Merchants Payments Coalition.

In the 8-K, Bank of America said it plans to take (ref The Street)

 “a number of actions that would mitigate some of the impact when the laws and regulations become effective,” but it didn’t provide details about what those actions might be.

Will write more later, but I can assure you BAC is looking for debit alternatives. Given their size, most anticipate a new product driven from both their retail and global card team (including merchant services). So in addition to AT&T/Discover, we will now have another major bank led team developing a new payment product with a multi billion dollar incentive.

What does this mean for MA and Visa? Not good news for US growth.

Related Article

Visa/BAC in Mobile Pilot

Looks like I was a little premature in the original version of this post. Looks like the pilot may be a field trial for NFC as in the Micro SD form factor.

20 Aug 2010 (update Aug 23)

(update – Was just told that the BAC pilot is NOT using the Monitise application. Wow.. what on earth is going on with the Visa team? They have at least 5 different pilot models.. in a positive light this is market experimentation. I’ll take the blame for being premature, but given that I saw the new application and was told it was July I connected the dots… albeit incorrectly.  Bloomberg’s story above is on target and trial is a field test of the newly certified DeviceFidelity MicroSD.  Purpose is to ensure all works as planned from enrollment, activation, OTA provisioning, application usage and NFC payment ).

Visa has a number of initiatives surrounding mobile and NFC. Certainly a challenge to get multiple parties aligned to make this happen:

  • Monitise, provider of a new iPhone application
  • Device Fidelity, NFC tech provider which
  • Bank of America (pilot agreement, marketing plans, focus demographic)
  • Advertisers.. currently part of existing visa discount program
  • Apple.. certification of the Moni iPhone application (submitted in June)
  • First Data. Trusted Service Manager (TSM) in the NFC role…
  • … I could go on

This activity represents a major investment by the entire industry team.. ( given equity stakes perhaps Keiretsu is more appropriate).

More to come … this is just a quick update

Previous Posts

Paypal at the POS?

PayPal is best positioned of any major player to link the virtual and physical payment worlds (see here for detail): they have a consumer base, merchant base and a phenomenal fraud/risk team of 300+ with commensurate tech and ops. However their ability to execute is not without challenges. For example, what % of their current merchant base does POS transactions? Will there be a need for merchant terminals? If so who will pay?

18 August 2010

Great WSJ Article TodayPaypal looks to real world commerce

First Draft…. final tomorrow.

As stated in my previous blogs about Apple, Bling, and the Mercury NewCo we are in the midst of a revolution in consumer payments, driven by large non banks, with new value propositions. For example, we see established organizations like AT&T, Verizon, and Discover collaborating (Mercury NewCo) with a payment value proposition driven by mobile advertising, Card networks attempting to develop PayPal killers (see Visa PayClick) and mobile handset manufactures attempting to create models for payments separate from banks (see Nokia and Apple NFC).

The worst kept secret in mobile payments today is: there aren’t any (except for MNO unbanked solutions). Efforts like Mastercard/Obopay have failed globally because they have focused on P2P (no existing volume). Alternatively, PayPal’s efforts are focused on the POS. Enabling any “merchant” to accept any card either at POS or virtually (see previous blog on PayPal’s virtual terminal). This approach is a win for banks (card acceptance), a win for consumers (convenience/loyalty), and a win for merchants (reduced merchant fees and interchange).

PayPal is best positioned of any major player to link the virtual and physical payment worlds (see here for detail): they have a consumer base, merchant base and a phenomenal fraud/risk team of 300+ with commensurate tech and ops. However their ability to execute is not without challenges. For example, what % of their current merchant base does POS transactions? Will there be a need for merchant terminals? If so who will pay? As discussed in the article above, Bling has been mentioned as a potential approach. Issuing Bling tags to PayPal’s employees is certainly a useful way of testing the consumer issues associated with issuing (and using) a payment tag.

My guess on PayPal’s “focus”?

Given PayPal’s strengths I would see a “phone as POS” approach as the most logical.  As consumers we focus on our individual accounts, but PayPal is one of the few “2 Party” payment networks (others are Discover, Amex) that also include merchant acquisition. 2 Party systems are uniquely positioned to control the costs and value proposition between the merchant and the consumer. One of the major NFC challenges is POS infrastructure: who will pay for it? The phone as POS would certainly address this Gordian Knot for small merchants. Small merchants are a group that also feels the most pain in interchange and card acceptance fees due to their lack of negotiating leverage. Oddly enough large banks seem to be supportive of PayPal’s efforts here with the view that their actions will help drive cash replacement. In other words, if PayPal’s innovation is indeed focused on NFC acquisition then they will be able to process all cards..

On the merchant side, PayPal has already completed much of the heavy lifting with its existing virtual terminal service. This service equips PayPal merchants with ability to accept any card at the POS (see Virtual Terminal blog). NFC or RFID form factors are just another abstraction for this card.  On the consumer side, I would expect to see PayPal working to link PayPal accounts to multiple form factors. Expect PayPal to make an acquisition in this space.

As of today, here is my view of the teams competing in mobile payments at POS

  • Mastercard/Citi/Obopay/Nokia
  • Visa/Monitise
  • Apple
  • AT&T/Verizon/Discover/?Google/First Data
  • PayPal/?

More to come tomorrow.

Visa Payclick

Summary on Visa Payclick: “Partnering with banks” is very challenging…. do banks want Visa to deliver a “bank friendly” paypal competitor.. or would banks prefer to create something they can control? View Payclick today as an Australia “test market” of something Visa intends to grow, with an initial consumer focus on digital goods.

30 June 2010

Summary on Visa Payclick: “Partnering with banks” is very challenging…. do banks want Visa to deliver a “bank friendly” PayPal competitor.. or would banks prefer to create something they can control? View Payclick today as an Australia “test market” of something Visa intends to grow, with an initial consumer focus on digital goods.

Visa just launched Payclick (www.payclick.com.au) with plans to expand globally. I see this service competing more with Bango (see http://www.bango.com/) and payforit (www.payforit.com) than PayPal. There is no way for a consumer to withdraw funds placed in the wallet, or to be paid..  (it is not a wallet), it allows for the addition of current account funds through BPAY integration (note BPAY is a bank owned consortium in Australia providing common services like telephone and online bill payment). Allowing multiple funding instruments provides for a lower cost of funds, and BPAY penetration is over 80% in online customers. However the inability to credit the wallet, while  simplifying risk and fraud operational challenges, limits the consumer value proposition and the addressable market. Given these wallet restrictions, Visa has chosen an initial market focus on teens buying digital content… this narrow market focus may provide Visa the opportunity to “kick the tires” on the system before expanding it (geographically and demographically).

Re: Expansion.  I understand that Visa is “in flight” with expanding the AFT/OCT transaction set (See Patent) which is the heart of the Visa Money Transfer service. My global card contacts tell me that Visa is attempting to get issuers on board with credit push in an updated issuer agreement (see Visa Money Transfer Overview – Issuer presentation). The “incentive” for issuing bank to accept new agreement is a $0.50 revenue share. Banks are not biting on this (subject of another blog on Visa and card remittances).. hence my guess is that the Payclick service has “visions” for being bi-directional.. but not until issuers sign off on accepting OCT transactions.

We should not assess Payclick based solely upon current functionality, given Visa’s substantial investment here there must be plans for additional transaction types. The CYBS acquisition gives Visa assets to develop something much more comprehensive. For example, with the CYBS could serve as an acquirer for Payclick as a “light” tool for small merchants selling digital goods in mobile market places and app stores.  On the consumer side, Visa has a steep hill to climb in creating a value proposition which would drive consumers to store card information with Payclick (particularly given the competing payment methods above).

Risks I see for Visa in Payclick:

  • Initial target demographic is well served by both Bango, Paypal, iTunes Wallet, prepaid card (for my teen), payforit (UK), MNO billing, …
  • “Send only” functionality will not create critical mass in either consumers or merchants
  • Banks will not bite on OCT transaction set and service functionality will not be able to expand
  • Visa will loose focus after core innovation team departs
  • CYBS can acquire and service… but it will take serious marketing dollars to create a new consumer brand… as well as a solid value proposition.

Add these risks to Visa’s existing “dynamic” with  retailers (a group that is not favorably inclined toward assisting Visa nor any card network) in creating another payment type  (issues w/ interchange, compliance, fraud, payment system integrity, ..). Since Visa’s IPO,  Banks are no longer in control and also view Visa’s efforts through a new competitive lens. Banks also like the idea of having their own brand on payments. Thus, Visa is stuck managing a complex 4 party system with limited ability to create an innovative value proposition which all parties can agree on.

Visa is facing head on competition from “unshackled” teams like PayPal. In fact PayPal just launched mobile instant checkout today .

Feedback appreciated

Mobile Advertising Battle: Beyond the Internet

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.

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

Random Thoughts

Banks that help educate customers stand a very good chance of building better relationships, and increasing wallet share. Today I’m left with an “apply” button on my brokerage tab for Wachovia, Citi, Chase, Wells.. the average customer doesn’t want to apply for an account until they understand how this “product” will serve them and gain insight into how BankX’s services compete.

7 June 2010

Rumor Mill

Paypal’s new virtual terminal may be just in time. Rumor is Visa is planning a slew of new product announcements in next month.. from NFC, to mobile coupons to bringing down the barriers of card acceptance. Perhaps this is the primary driver for the CYBS acquisition, there must have been a dependency given the multiple paid.

Thought for the day: What  is “banking innovation”?

How many times per day do you really want to check your bank balance? From how many different devices? Is comparing yourself to others innovation?

From my perspective a “killer” customer value proposition (in any market) is making “up market” premium services available to the masses. How would you like to be treated like a client of a private bank? Your bills are paid, your lawn is mowed and your dog is walked… You have a relationship with the banker, he is invited to your children’s wedding. He actually knows your name when you walk into the office or call him on the phone…. and he also consistently delivers superior market returns to your portfolio.

As a bank customer.. does your bank know who you are? your history with them? What your goals are? Is it any wonder that bank customers are rate driven? There is no relationship (or trust) in the average mass market portfolio of a large national bank. Why do customers select a bank today? (sorry for stale data)

Banks know that Customer Satisfaction strongly equates to profitability, and retention. Customer focused innovation starts with focusing on what your customers need… I’m surprised at the lack of effort here…. What would my top area be?  That’s easy.. financial education. Banks that help educate customers stand a very good chance of building better relationships, and increasing wallet share. Today I’m left with an “apply” button on my brokerage tab for Wachovia, Citi, Chase, Wells.. the average customer doesn’t want to apply for an account until they understand how this “product” will serve them and gain insight into how BankX’s services compete.

Who will take on financial education 301? I don’t really want banking to be “fun” (aka Virgin).. I want it to be serious and thoughtful.. US retail banking is just plain backward when it comes to innovative products (Foreign currency accounts, structured products, international equities, …). Perhaps there is a “catch 22” with our collective financial literacy.. or lack thereof.

Examples

The banks above have obviously invested time thinking about this, however my guess is that few current customers know about (or use) any of these services.

What would a private banker do for a new relationship? He would probably try to find out my risk tolerance and develop a plan to better manage cash (ex sweep account) and investments with consideration for taxes and personal plans. Why are banks outsourcing this to a CFP?  Of course the answer is that banks are product focused (as opposed to customer focused), there is great margin in that 0.25% CD that grandma buys.. also a great source of liquidity which drives Tier 1 capital and my bond rating (cost of capital).  All of this seems to point to great opportunities for small banks, particularly those that cater to affluent (Aquestabank and their 1.2% CD).

It seems that the ABA and OCC are frowning on deposit competition right now, a heavy price for consumers.. take a look at rates in the UK this week (http://www.moneysupermarket.com/savings/) . The incentives for the large banks is to act as a “late follower”… after all until balance run off occurs there is little incentive to change.. US branches (and their sales teams) continue to excel in generating margin.. with consumers poorly equipped to evaluate options.

Make no mistake, the consumer market will change..  Will banks that depend on customer illiteracy for success will have adapting? US banks are very fortunate that the average consumer is not a British replica… where  consumer “rate hopping” is at an extreme … perhaps Mint, bank rate, and money supermarket will get more traction and bring greater transparency..

Thoughts appreciated.