BNPL Travel Example – Short Blog

Short blog today on an example BNPL opportunity and the differences between a consumer BNPL solution like Apple Pay Later and Merchant integrated solutions from providers such as Affirm (or SQ/Afterpay see Three Flavors of BNPL).  Today Air Travel and Vacation packages are the focus.

Short blog today on an example BNPL opportunity and the differences between a consumer BNPL solution like Apple Pay Later and Merchant integrated solutions from providers such as Affirm (or SQ/Afterpay see Three Flavors of BNPL).  Today Air Travel and Vacation packages are the focus.

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Square in Crypto/DeFi

#1 Today DeFi and Crypto in Commerce (POS and eCom) are in need of a “core” that can manage either compliance and connections to existing financial services, or operate in critical mass with minimal interaction to banks (ex – custody, exchange, platform, consortium-diem).

From Bloomberg yesterday 16 July

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-07-15/square-building-new-bitcoin-inspired-financial-services-business

Why is this a great thing for Square and DeFi?

#1 Today DeFi and Crypto in Commerce (POS and eCom) are in need of a “core” that can manage either compliance and connections to existing financial services, or operate in critical mass with minimal interaction to banks (ex – custody, exchange, platform, consortium-diem).

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.