Role of Identity and Trust in eCom

Please excuse typos.. Editing not complete. I had a great compliment this week: “Tom you write so dense.. why are you so different”? I’m not an analyst or a blogger, but a guy that has run operational businesses and led venture investments. The only great thing I’ve ever done in life is to meet great people with passion and ability to execute on a vision. This blog is how I chat with all my colleagues. Glad others find it useful..

This is a rather long blog.. if you don’t have time read the wrap up at the end which is a summary of key points.


Continuing on from yesterday’s blog on Authentify – Bank ID Service, I thought I would outline the role of identity in eCommerce and the problems to be solved. Although most of you know me as a payments guy, I also have deep roots in data working directly with retailers, AdTech, Google/FB and media (in addition to issuers/acquirers/networks). In looking through eCommerce articles I couldn’t find one relating to identity (from a big picture perspective).. So I thought I would write one.

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2012: Remaking of Commerce and Retail

8 January 2012

I’m recovering from a nice Holiday.. successfully marrying of my only daughter.. keeping a smile on my wife’s face (most important) as well on those of my children. I never thought all of that family time could make me look forward to work..  Many of my bank friends seem to be making new year’s resolutions to do something different and I’m fortunate to have them share their opportunities. What are the really big opportunities?

For those that read my blog.. I’ve been very locked-in to the concept of value proposition, and the challenges of creating a new “network” for exchange of value… with my often repeated “every successful network begins with exchange of value between at least 2 parties”. In addition to sharing ideas on new opportunities with former colleagues, I’m also about to take a trip to the Far East to meet with institutional investors.  In Asia, I’m preparing for discussions which will be focused on: What are the REALLY BIG opportunities out there?  Where are the sustainable bets? Where are the risks? My bias in this new year is Commerce.. and the influence that mobile will have in reshaping it.

My Investment Hypothesis:

Unlocking the “commerce” capabilities of mobile will reshape the $2 Trillion advertising market and $14 Trillion retail landscape, as new customer shopping experiences are created which leverage consumer data.  2012 will be a key year where retailers, mobile operators, handset ecosystems, banks and consumers make choices which will affect outcomes in future years.

In the US alone, we spend over $750M in marketing. Any guess how much of that is “targeted” to a specific consumer? Less than 10%.. !!

It’s not that top advertisers don’t WANT to target, but that they have no Platform to do so in the Physical World. In the virtual eCommerce world, there are many facilities for engaging influencing, incenting and paying (for performance). Data is shared from the first click… to the point of purchase across many intermediaries. In the physical world, life is much different. For those interested in this space, let me strongly recommend reading the Booz Shopper Marketing paper (just fantastic).

$14T of retail represents over 22% of the $61T global GDP.. How often do we get to talk about rewiring 25% of the global economy? This is why I’m so high on Google right now. Google currently gets only $14B of the US $750B in marketing spend, and is making strong inroads to the physical POS.  (please see my legal disclosure above).

As I’ve stated before, Retailers are frequently assumed to be a bunch of back water idiots.. as a former banker I admit my mistakes…  this simplified view of retail could not be further from the truth..  Retailers are on the cutting edge of competition. Competition drives data based decisions, customer centricity, daily focus on margins (as they are razor thin) and a toughness matched only in professional sports.

Retailers had to be tough and innovative… after all how do you sell a commodity on more than just price? This week’s WSJ story on Best Buy perfectly illustrates the challenges ahead for many retailers.

“I will buy it in your store…use it while I order another one for 75% less on Amazon and then return the new in the box one at your store,”

The mobile handset is uniquely capable of serving as a bridge between the virtual and physical world.. giving individual consumers access to unlimited information while they shop, not JUST price transparency, but information on quality, fashion, community reviews, availability, AND the opportunity for merchants and manufactures to reach the customer in the buying process BEFORE AND DURING their shopping experience.

What companies have the platform today? Amazon, Apple, Google, eBay, Visa.. all have elements, but the value propositions of each are widely disparate. If Commerce is to be remade, there must be a new value proposition to manufacturer, retailer and consumer. Notice I left out banks..  The problem with virtually every platform on the list below is that they have started life as bank friendly.. which destroys their merchant value proposition. Groups like ISIS are focusing on payments.. and not on a larger mobile value proposition (focusing on advertising for example, also see ISIS: ecosystem or desert).

How will commerce (and retail) be remade? I have no idea… but this will be the year which we see platforms start to gain momentum. You can guess what I’m telling my bank friends…..

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