Monday, October 14, 2013

The Rise of PayPal as a Major Payments Player

No place in financial services is transformation and innovation more apparent than in the world of payments, where the convergence of mobile and new data-driven business models have the potential to completely disrupt both the consumer and merchant experience.

The recently concluded Money2020 illustrated that there is no shortage of payments players vying for attention,  but no firm seems to be as aggressive as the new PayPal, which continues to roll out new innovations impacting the payments ecosystem.

While some of the 'innovation' at PayPal may not seem new or disruptive (such as the use of QR codes), the ability to quickly build scale by using the existing payments infrastructure may be the key to PayPal's success. The company hopes to transform its reputation as a means of exchanging cash over the Internet into the default payment system for many everyday transactions.

At stake for PayPal is control of a mobile-payment market that is expected to grow more than three-fold from this year’s $235 billion over the next four years, according to researcher Gartner. PayPal faces a host of competitors, including Google Wallet, Square, Lemon and Stripe (and potentially Amazon and Apple).

Brian Roemmele, researcher and business advisor says of a recent PayPal announcement, "The true innovation that PayPal has achieved is really quite invisible and perhaps even boring to technologists. No iOS devices or android devices deployed at the merchant locations. No new add-ons needed, just the a boring laser bar code scanner that every single major retail store already has."

It is clear that PayPal is moving fast to become a ubiquitous option at retail merchants, introducing products for both the consumer and the retailer. In fact, there have been so many changes recently, it may be difficult to keep up.

To that end, I am providing a brief overview of what has occurred over only the past couple months and what the future may hold.

New PayPal Mobile App

In early September, Paypal introduced an updated version of the PayPal mobile app for both iOS and Android, turning it into much more of a mobile wallet. Maintaining all of the old features, the new app added tools to facilitate shopping and paying for goods online at the physical POS.

The app features five clearly labeled sections on the home page, with the major sources of innovation residing within the new Shop tab and Bill Me Later integration. Within the Shop screen, you can find nearby merchants that accept PayPal. Once you check in at a merchant (using your PIN), you can download any special offers from the store and can complete the transaction simply by saying "I'm paying with PayPal". Since the merchant will have your PayPal photo on their POS device or phone, funds can be transferred without needing to pull out your phone a second time.

Leveraging the app's location-based capabilities, there is the ability to push coupons based on a consumers specific location and even allow for ordering and paying for a meal within the app.

As for payments, PayPal is providing the option to pay directly from a bank account, from a PayPal balance or to use a credit card on file within the app. It's also expanded the 'Bill Me Later' function, providing credit for large purchases within the app. 

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PayPal Beacon: No Tap, Swipe or Signature

One of the biggest challenges for PayPal over the years is expanding their online merchant capabilities to the physical point of sale, making it easier to use PayPal than swiping a credit card. As any payments player knows, simplifying the payments process is made even more difficult with today's merchant technology and the entrenched consumer payment behaviors.

PayPal hopes the introduction of Beacon may be the answer to this challenge. Beacon uses Bluetooth Low Energy, otherwise known as BLE to enable phones and merchant POS systems to communicate with each other seamlessly, without opening an app, without GPS turned on and even without a clear phone signal. In other words, hands-free payments.

All a merchant needs to do is plug a PayPal Beacon device into a power outlet in their store. Once the Beacon is plugged in, they will be ready to offer a highly personalized shopping experience (including personalized coupons or even offers based on the consumer's location within the store).

Consumers control the stores they will want to check in to, those they want to get prompted to confirm payment for, and stores they will want to enable a complete hands-free experience for. In the latter case, simply walking in a store will trigger a vibration or sound to confirm a successful check in. After checking in, a photo will appear on the screen of the Point-of-Sale system so the shopper can be greeted by name. Paying only requires a verbal confirmation.

In addition, PayPal is giving developers access to the PayPal mobile in-store API to create experiences such as being able to self-checkout on a mobile phone or automatically placing a customer’s usual order as soon as they walk through the door.
David Marcus, president of PayPal says that PayPal has been showing the device to retailers, large and small, and they “love it.” Part of the reason, he says, is that not only does it help them connect and potentially bring in customers, but it also integrates seamlessly with their existing point of sale systems. “I want to create an operating system for the retail environment,” he said.
It’s interesting to note that in iOS 7, Apple is debuting iBeacon, which could provide similar services for apps. But VP of PayPal global product, Hill Ferguson, maintains that the Apple version does not extend to Android, and that Beacon will work for any smartphone.
Piloting of Beacon is slated for Q4 2013, with rollout planned next year.

PayPal Working Capital

To help drive sales volume from the merchant perspective, PayPal introduced PayPal Working Capital in late September as a way to offer a simplified financing alternative to their customers. Initially offered to about 90,000 of it's business partners, potential loans from $1,000 to $20,000 will be underwritten based on PayPal sales history, with no credit check needed.

One unique aspect of the program is that PayPal said merchants could receive funds in a matter of minutes and that repayment would be based on a fixed percentage of sales generated with no minimum payments (if no sales are made on a particular day, no payment is required). In addition, rather than charging interest for the loan, PayPal will charge a fixed fee. The faster the payback period, the smaller the upfront fee. It is felt that this transparent fee structure will be welcome to retailers. 

"In talking to merchants, a lot of them are very capital constrained," says Brian Grech, who is in charge of risk management for small-business products at PayPal. "In a lot of cases, their next best option would be a personal credit card or a very high-priced merchant cash advance and we expect to displace those overwhelmingly with our new loan product."

Since PayPal cannot legally make loans directly to merchants, it is collaborating with the Salt Lake City, Utah-based lender WebBank.

PayPal Acquires Baintree

On the heels of announcing PayPal Working Capital, PayPal finalized the acquisition of Baintree, moving even more aggressively into mobile payments. In a very short time, Braintree leveraged a mobile-first mentality to build impressive mobile payment solutions that handle transactions in 130 currencies in more than 40 countries.

In addition to gaining an impressive list of clients such as Airbnb, OpenTable, Uber, and TaskRabbit, PayPal also acquires the very popular Venmo app, which lets users pay for free using their mobile device.

While Baintree will operate as an independent unit within PayPal, it is believed the superior application programming interfaces of Baintree will help PayPal work better with developers going forward. 

PayPal Payment Code

As part of the global Money2020 event in Las Vegas last week, PayPal continued their string of major announcements by introducing Payment Code, which will use QR codes and a PINs to verify in-store smartphone transactions over merchants' existing POS equipment. While initially seeming 'old school', this introduction leverages existing equipment and employee training while improving the experience for both the consumer and merchant.

Initially, PayPal is partnering with Discover and their 7 million retail locations to introduce this technology. To make an in-store payment, customers would first check in using the PayPal app. Once the app knows the customer’s location, it determines what kind of equipment the store has. 

If the merchant has a barcode scanner, a QR code will pop up on the phone screen. The customer then simply runs that code under the scanner finalizing the transaction. If the merchant only has a PIN pad, the app will supply a randomly generated four digit PIN, which the customer types into the terminal to verify the payment. (Note: This process is virtually the same as being used by Starbucks)

While the Payment Code does make the checkout process smoother, with easy access to all funding sources in one simple place (the customer's phone), the real benefit is that it will allow consumers to automatically redeem any special offers, gift cards, merchant rewards programs or other forms of payment that might be saved in their PayPal wallet in one quick transaction.

As with many of the innovations PayPal has introduced over the past several weeks, Payment Code is expected to roll out in Q1 of next year.

Amazon Challenges PayPal

Not to be left behind, Amazon responded to the recent wave of PayPal introductions and innovations by announcing a new service that will let customers of other online merchants pay for purchases using their Amazon credentials.

Login and Pay with Amazon takes advantage of Amazon's 215 million active customers and helps participating merchants make sales easier by allowing customers to access their account information safely and securely with a single login.

The new offering expands on the existing Amazon Payments program that lets customers pay with Amazon at check-out. The new log-in system ties merchants even further into Amazon's platform, including fraud protection from Amazon at no extra fee. Merchants get more information on customers, while the customers can buy without entering their address and card information on multiple sites over and over again.

Some merchants may be reluctant to work with Amazon because the company is a major retail industry rival, however.

Amazon will collect $2.9 percent plus $0.30 per transaction for transactions of $10 or more, and all fees are assessed on a per-transaction basis - always based on a percentage of the total amount. Login and Pay with Amazon will work on tablet, mobile, and desktop devices, the company said. Gogo, which provides in-flight wifi, already uses Amazon's basic payments service, but is planning to add the new service.

PayPal Penetration Challenges

Despite all of the innovation described above, PayPal is still an emerging mobile payment service provider, without the market size of penetration of the more popular credit card companies.

To alleviate this challenge, PayPal has worked hard to sign partnership agreements with consumer credit (Discover), money transfer (MoneyGram) and POS hardware and software providers (NCR, MICROS, etc.). By leveraging these partnerships, PayPal has expanded merchant coverage from just 18,000 in 2012 to close to 10 million locations expected by 2015.

"In 2013, Discover helped PayPal grow from the 250,000 retailers who accepted PayPal in store earlier this year to more than 2 million by the end of 2013," said Don Kingsborough, vice president of retail services at PayPal.

PayPal + Apple?

On October 11th, 2013, former Apple CEO John Scully mentions in passing during a BBC interview some ideas he suggests for Apple.  John referred to the logic of Apple acquiring larger companies with the huge amounts of cash they hold in reserves. In particular, John mentioned the idea that Apple acquire eBay for the single purpose if integrating PayPal into the iPhone.
"Apple's never been an acquirer of big companies before, and when you look at Passbook, the iPhone5S and fingerprint recognition - What would it mean if Apple went out and bought eBay? And they had PayPal, and integrated that?"
If you buy into the logic that Apple wants to be a facilitator for payments and not a merchant account supplier nor a payment card issuer, this idea may make sense. Combined, Apple and eBay would have over 760 million active payment cards on file, with some overlap.

So, maybe we will see a day when PayPal is part of Apple . . . or Discover.

I've definitely seen crazier ideas become reality over the years.

Additional Resources

 The Future of POS: Point of Sale Evolution and Its Impacts - PayPal White Paper (September 2013)

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1 comment:

  1. Great summary Jim. All of this innovation you mention from PayPal and Amazon means nothing if online and offline merchants do not adopt it. The changes Google made nearly a year ago were killer for online merchants to have a frictionless checkout for most Android smartphone and tablet users. I rarely see it in the wild. Now that Google has brought it's wallet to iOS one would hope adoption would increase. I think the road blocks to this new payments technology adoption on the business side is merchant payments education and training, possible existing restrictive payments contracts, and the merchants not hearing complaints/feedback from consumers looking for new tech. For many, the old technology works just fine. PayPal, Amazon, Google and others have a lot of work to do if they want to see their solutions succeed.