Chapter Three: The Mobile Commerce Ecosystem
Unpacking the mobile commerce ecosystem is about as straightforward (and sometimes even as infuriating) as getting to the end of the famous Abbott and Costello baseball comedy skit. It’s really hard to know who’s on first, second, third and who’s throwing the pitches. In some cases, the answer depends entirely on who you ask.
This chapter is about a couple of things. First, it is about providing you with the definite guide (or as close as we can make it) to’ who’s on first’ in the mobile commerce ecosystem. But, rather than exhaustively list all of the players (we’ll highlight a few representative examples) which is incredibly difficult in a space that is so fluid, we’d like to offer you a new framework for looking at mobile commerce – which, when you think about it, is actually an ecosystem of ecosystems. That insight alone is why it is so complex to describe, let alone work with if you are one of the many companies operating at the intersection of these very complex ecosystems. If you need further convincing, here’s a little graphic that we created at Market Platform Dynamics that attempts to simplify the complexity.
With this as an organizing framework, the second objective of this chapter is to provide you with some sense of the pressure points as these various ecosystems come together which we believe is impossible to appreciate fully until you view it holistically. We hope that our framework provides a little clarity and will use it to organize our discussion in this chapter as well as the remaining chapters in this book.
Simplifying the Complexity
So, let’s take a high level walk around our Mobile Commerce Framework.
At a very high level – here are the various ecosystem layers that we think puts the commerce in mobile:
- The traditional mobile ecosystem is comprised of mobile device manufacturers, mobile operating system providers, and mobile network operators. This layer is important for the obvious reason – it is the device, operating system and the network that provide the form factor and connectivity that literally make it possible conduct commerce via the mobile device.
- The applications layer is connected to the mobile operating system and, through it, to the device, and is the gateway to the 6 different ecosystems of ecosystems that individually and collectively enable commerce and the activities that support it. Before there was an apps layer, commerce or commerce related activities of any kind, was clunky and painful. Here are the various commerce-related ecosystems that the applications layer enables:
- The connect ecosystem consists of social networks and affinity groups. This ecosystem is a relatively new but increasingly important aspect of mobile commerce. It enables the easy viral sharing of the activities that trigger or stimulate commerce, e.g. recommendations, referrals and the word of mouth marketing activities that social networks and affinity groups enable, formalize and offer the opportunity to monetize.
- The discover ecosystem consists of active (search-engine) and location-based (GPS) enabled discovery. These ecosystems connect to the traditional online search platforms such as Google and those that are emerging via the connect ecosystem (e.g. social search) and the variety of location based services that are enabled by mobile devices.
- The incent ecosystem consists of the deals and a giveaways ecosystem. This has become quite a disruptive commerce ecosystem in many ways since it has actually reframed the expectations of consumers and their interactions with merchants. This ecosystem is connected to a massively fragmented set of deals and promotions players that range from the “daily deals” players to coupon providers whose goal is to stimulate trial and repeat usage of a product or service.
- The pay ecosystem consists of the tender type used to conduct payment and the technology that enables it, including processing and merchant acquiring. Its ecosystem is probably the most mature of all (now moving into its 7th decade), the largest with hundreds of players orchestrating more than $4.3 trillion of commerce annually in the US alone, and the most complex. It is also, hands down, the most critical ecosystem to connect to and from if, mobile commerce is your ambition. Aside from being incredibly complicated on its own, the pay ecosystem is also undergoing its own disruption thanks to the many emerging players and alternative payments networks that are leveraging new technologies to enable payment via the mobile at breakneck speed. The pay ecosystem is also at the core of the “mobile wallet” wars that are being fought for both merchant acceptance and consumer adoption.
- The reward ecosystem consists of both the offer and redemption dimensions of rewarding consumers for their commerce behavior. This ecosystem is also undergoing disruption as the “incent” and even the “pay” ecosystems look to displace the traditional points-based cornerstone of card-based rewards programs, new players create their own rewards and loyalty programs and merchants increasingly look for schemes that drive behavior directly back to their store fronts. At the root of this disruption is the consumer’s desire for instant gratification rather than the “earn and burn” programs tied to points that no longer deliver the same consumer appeal.
- The manage ecosystem consists of the banking and budgeting ecosystems that bring the management of financial services to the small screen. This ecosystem connects to the traditional banking ecosystem and can be thought of as an extension of online banking capabilities. This ecosystem may not be commonly thought of as part of the mobile commerce ecosystem but its functionality is valued by many consumers who increasingly rely on mobile devices to manage financial activities across all transaction types, including payment transactions. It is also a familiar utility that gets consumers into the habit of relying on their mobile devices to manage financial activities.
If you agree that mobile commerce is comprised of these 7 interconnecting ecosystems, then you also accept that it is also a large part of what mobile wallets are trying to assemble in one neat digital container that consumers can populate, access via their mobile device, and then use to conduct commerce at the physical or virtual point of sale. We devote a whole chapter to the mobile wallet, but our view is that what differentiates a mobile wallet from a mobile payments app is what the wallet enables, namely this bundle of activities that these seven different ecosystems support today individually. It’s also what’s at the heart of the complexity. But let’s hold that discussion for later.
So, without further ado, let’s dig a bit deeper into the seven ecosystems that, together, we believe comprise mobile commerce.
Ecosystem #1: Devices, Networks, and Operating Systems, Oh My: The M in Mobile Commerce
The mobile commerce ecosystem would be nothing but for the mobile carrier ecosystem that makes it possible for the devices that were once bolted into the floors of cars (yes, that is what a car phone really was for those of you under the age of 35) or those huge plastic bricks used only by the richest of Wall Street bankers (as famously used by Gordon Gekko) to have as much computing power as it took to power Apollo 11’s first mission to the moon.
This ecosystem is comprised of three main players: device manufacturers, network operators and operating system providers.
Beautiful and Smart
The star of this show is the smartphone which combines the operating system and the device into one powerful handheld device.
Something remarkable happened in 2011 which foretells much about the future of mobile commerce and the power of these devices. For the first time, more smartphones were shipped around the world than PCs and that’s likely to continue. That year, vendors shipped 487.7 million smartphones and 416.6 million PCs, which includes tablets, netbooks, desktops, and laptops. Think about that for a minute.
PCs have been around for just about 3 decades, smartphones for less than one. But, smartphones are computing devices and for many users, their only access to the internet. If you can’t afford (or don’t want to carry) a PC/laptop/tablet and a smartphone and want access to the internet, your “go to” is the smartphone. All of a sudden, mobile devices are a very well-traveled onramp to mobile commerce.
By 2012, smart phones using the Google Android or Apple iOS operating systems had pretty much turned everyone else into marginal players, including Blackberry maker Research-in-Motion (which had its very own operating system) and Microsoft Windows. Phones based on the Android or iOS operating systems are in a two-horse race for now. Android is ahead 52%-38%, as of January 2013 2012, when it comes to who had what then.
That is partly the result of Android phones being offered at a much lower price point than iPhones. Device manufacturers are able to deploy Android on cheaper phones that mobile operators can and are then able to make them available more broadly. Apple, by and large, has a one- size-fits-all iPhone. But in spite of (and as we will see in a minute, maybe because of it) Apple appears to be catching up. If we look at people who just got phones, Android noses (ok—it is a big nose) Apple out but by only 5 points (48 to 43). In Presidential election terms, that would be called a statistical dead heat. The gap is closing because of one important reason: Apple’s growing advantage in the number of applications available on its iOS platform: 650,000 as of June 11, 2012 vs. 425,000 for Android. Indeed, apps are the bait that drives people’s smart phone choice.
One study found that the selection of apps is the third most important consideration factor for smartphone purchasers—after network, quality of mobile service provider and phone operating system (which is interesting since that is what determines app choice – people just don’t care what it is called) and well ahead of price is, surprisingly, back of the pack at eighth.
That means that Apple has the edge when it comes to motivating developers to write apps. More apps means more developers with more experience writing apps. It also happens to be true that part of that head start and experience is because iOS because it got to market a year ahead of Android.
Android has some real obstacles ahead of it if it wants to close that gap.
The first is related to its decision to “go open.” Google made Android open source which enables hardware makers to create variants of its software code. Google also allows any device manufacturer to develop phones based on Android—which is one of the reasons why there is such a great supply of Android phones at lower prices. But that comes with a double edge. Android phones come with different screen sizes, capabilities, and other features that matter for writing an app. That also means that not everyone with an Android phone has the most current version of the operating system installed on their device. In fact, only 16% of Android users have the most current version of Android as compared to 83% of iPhone users
To reach all Android users, developers are forced to write variants of the app to work with the different variants of the operating system and hardware. That’s enough of a hassle that developers often write first for the iOS and may not bother to invest in doing all the work for Android unless there’s enough demand for them to want to try. That means that Android users get apps later—Flipboard, the hot content aggregator app, was available on iPhones in 2010 but not until June 2012 for Android phones. Sometimes, some versions of Android might not get some apps at all like the very popular photo sharing app Instagram (now owned by Facebook) and popular game Tiny Wings. In contrast, a developer can write one app that pretty much works on all iPhones (they have to worry about some differences between versions of the phone and iOS but as stated above, its not much of a worry). It’s a pretty simple “one and done” proposition for them.
It is hard to forecast how this dynamic will play itself out. Google has obvious incentives to fix it by reining in the fragmentation. Or by making their own phones—which they can do now that they own Motorola Mobility, the maker of the once super popular Razr phone. Meanwhile, Microsoft recently has made a renewed effort to be more than a fringe player, too. And just like Android almost came from nowhere to be the leading mobile operating system a few years ago, there is also the possibility that another player, we’ve not even heard about, will emerge too.
This ecosystems supporting star—yes, you heard that right, “supporting star”– is the mobile operator, the service provider who enables the voice and data services on these smart devices. The operators used to be the king of the ecosystem and managed to keep a tight lock on the phones they sold—limiting what could go on those phones – and the basis of the on deck/off deck discussions not all that long ago. When operators held that sort of power, they could also impose a fee for access to its subscribers. On deck apps had an operator tollbooth attached to it. AT&T’s deal with Apple changed that game for good.
Now, the mobile operators are essential pipes for providing wireless capabilities crucial for making phone calls and using the phone where there isn’t WiFi. And they are the main distributors of smart phones in the US. But, they aren’t much more than that. The proof of that is in the answer to this question: what would happen to AT&T’s mobile wireless market share if all of a sudden Apple said bye-bye? It would clearly plummet because most consumers care more about the phone and its apps than they care about the carrier. Most would keep the phone and simply find another mobile carrier.
Finally, on the device side, not surprisingly, the leading smartphone device manufacturer is Apple. Apple’s iPhone and RIM’s BlackBerry smartphones are controlled by the operating system producer, and only available from single manufacturers, whereas Google’s Android OS, Microsoft’s mobile OS’, and (to a decreasing extent) Nokia’s Symbian are platforms that are licensed and used by a variety of manufacturers. The Android OS device manufacturers include HTC, Samsung, Motorola, Acer, Sony, Sony Ericsson, and others. While the Android market may be growing overall, Apple was the only company in the top five original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to gain market share during the second half of 2011, as LG and Motorola lost market share and Samsung held on tightly.
As this chapter was being finalized, three new developments emerged that impact (or could) the mobile commerce ecosystem.
First, there is a lot of buzz over Facebook and its possible entre into the mobile device/operating systems space. It’s not the first (or even second) time that Facebook has shown an interest in building a smartphone. This time seemed more serious though since these reports include its reported recruitment of former Apple iPhone/iPad software and hardware engineers. And it comes on the heels of a ton of bad press about Facebook’s mobile strategy, which is severely lacking. As everyone knows well, among other things, apps that were built to run on the native Facebook platform just don’t work, at all, on the mobile phone. That giant sucking sound you hear coming from Mountain View is developers beating a path to mobile apps and away from the Facebook platform. What was once an incentive – the ability to reach hundreds of millions of consumers all assembled neatly on one social platform – has become a liability. So, a mobile fix, and a big one, is surely in order.
But who’s to know if this latest “news” is anything more than speculation and the continued piling on of Facebook post-IPO. But at least from our perch, building its own mobile operating system seems like areally bad idea that could end up compounding rather than solving its mobile problems.
Here’s why we say that.
Eighty percent of iPhone users have access to the Facebook app on their phone. Over 6% of Facebook users now access their Facebook accounts via mobile, and we’ll give you three guesses at to what device most of them use to do that: Apple’s. By like a lot. Nearly 12.5M more monthly users and almost 9 million weekly users access Facebook via iPhones and iPod touches than Android. At the end of 2011, the Facebook Mobile app was ranked (by total unique users) as the third most popular iPhone app (the fourth most popular on Android).
So, becoming Apple’s competitor seems like a pretty bad idea, if anything, the two should strive to become even better BFFs – enabling Apple to benefit from the traffic (and revenue) driven to it by Facebook. A close partnership between the two would make it much easier for over the now 680M mobile Facebook users to discover iOS apps and Facebook the benefits of being accessible on the millions of iPhones in circulation now and in circulation down the road. Going rogue would mean that all of the apps in the newly launched FB apps store would have to be rewritten to run on the FB operating platform, and then downloaded by people who may or may not be interested in buying a new phone (that to be of interest to them would have to knock the socks off of Apple’s and be cheaper). Seems like a big stretch.
The last word though, at least as of June 11, 2012, is that Apple and Facebook would live happily ever after, even more tightly integrated than ever as Facebook becomes deeply integrated into iOS 6. This iOS upgrade is seen by many as Apple and Facebook joining forces to compete against Google/Android and to launch more products together (and hopefully correct the issues that prevent thousands of apps from running on the iPhone and app developers from abandoning Facebook to build mobile apps).
Second, is Microsoft’s decision to throw its hat into the smartphone ring. It’s a bit befuddling especially since it decided to tie its mobile commerce fortunes to NFC, a technology that has had enormous difficulty outside of a few discrete use cases (e.g. public transit) in getting traction. Microsoft is starting way in the back, like really way back, with a 3.1 percent share of the smartphone market as of January 2013 — down 0.1 percentage points from October according to comScore. MPD Founder and payments industry thought leader, David Evans remarked in a piece on PYMNTS.com that “Even if Windows 8 is a runaway success that share isn’t likely to increase rapidly enough to a figure that could possibly move decisions on the part of merchants to install NFC-capable POS equipment or invest in training their clerks to take NFC-enabled payments.”
If he’s right, that sort of creates a big obstacle for Microsoft: how to motivate developers to create innovative applications for Microsoft’s commerce platform, limiting Windows Phone 8’s use as a mobile wallet at the point of sale or certainly blunting consumer interest in buying a Microsoft smartphone that has a small selection of apps. Getting that critical mass of consumers on board is likely to be hard, slow and expensive and just begs the question – why do it at all?
Third, is Apple Passbook. One of the newest apps baked into Apple’s iOS mobile operating system is designed to store each of a user’s QR code or barcode-based “passes” — be that the Starbucks payment barcode, or a ticket to a movie from Fandango, or a boarding pass for an upcoming flight. With access to 500 million App Store customers – all with registered accounts – and now bar code enabled apps in its wallet, it will be interesting to see how this feature evolves to include payment – a subject on which Apple remains mum. Attaching a bar code enabled payments scheme to iTunes accounts that are are linked to existing card accounts that run over the traditional payments network isn’t all that complex for Apple to enable or merchants to support (can anyone spell the Starbucks payments app on steroids?)
How Low Can You Go?
One final point on this aspect of the mobile commerce ecosystem is the extent to which it is vertically integrated and the extent to which the operating system providers have control.
Apple controls it all—it owns the operating system, makes the device, makes sure that the operating system and device work great together, controls its app store tightly, and uses its highly complementary iTunes assets (people can download content easily) and related payments assets (iTunes accounts linked to payment cards which enable consumers to buy easily) to create a great user experience.
Microsoft owns and controls the operating system but then provides device makers with great freedom about how they use it. Google owns the operating system, and some other assets like Google Checkout and Maps (which we’ll discuss later may not be the asset it once was), but doesn’t entirely control the use of the operating system as noted above. How vertical integration will evolve within Google is an open question. Google is likely to exert more control (and may need to) over Android to limit the fragmentation issue discussed earlier. It has also bought a major device maker, Motorola, and could move towards tight integration like Apple. Microsoft might find that finally marrying its down-and-very out partner, Nokia, could enable it to vertically integrate as well.
What seems clear to us is that Apple and Google have toppled two kingdoms that seemed secure only five years ago. They have made mobile operators their supplicants — particularly Apple. Just look at the deal Sprint entered into. The deal they inked in 2011 gave them the right to sell iPhones – but it also came with an enormous ball and chain – a 4 year and $20 billion commitment to move iPhones on the Sprint network. It’s had a big impact on their performance. The company’s losses were less than forecast in 2011 Q4 and revenue climbed a meager 5%. And, not insignificantly, they have marginalized Microsoft — which has had a more than 20 year reign as the dominant operating system provider for computing devices — in the fastest growing and largest segment of computers, smart phones.
The Mobile Commerce Ecosystem “Glue”: A is for Apps
The world has become a little app crazy. Roughly 2.5 billion apps were downloaded in March 2013, Yep, that’s just March. The total year to date (as of April 2013) is about 8.75 billion apps. As the saying goes, there truly is an “app for that.”
But, there is a method to this madness for it is the apps layer that actually makes it possible for the commerce ecosystems to function on a smart mobile device. And to do in a way that is consumer- friendly.
As a result, apps have become the preferred medium where consumers may be reached (and brands can engage with them), and get their information pretty much 24/7. In the US, it is reported that nearly 70% of the smartphone users (roughly 46% of the population) access the Internet daily on their devices, and 80% of time is spent in apps. Both Android and iPhone users spend about 90 minutes per day on their phones with roughly 80% of the time interacting with apps.
The most popular of apps run the gamut of fun/entertainment (iTunes/music, games, YouTube), utilities (weather, maps), and personal (news, financial, banking). And they appeal to all age groups and demographics – moms, kids, teens, business executives and older boomers. Since, for some people, smartphones are their only access to the internet, it is expected that accessing the web via a mobile device (phone or tablet) will only increase and soon become as commonplace as just talking on the mobile phone used to be. Major marketing firms are now telling their customers to build for mobile and backfill desktop interfaces.
Where does commerce fit? Well, not so well, at least for now. Mobile devices are handy for searching for information about products while in a store (sometimes even buying on line via the mobile phone while in a store). But, at least for now, consumers still prefer to use merchant’s mobile websites over web apps when researching products, finding retail locations and redeeming coupons.
Before leaving this section, there is one more interesting sidebar to cover and that is probably the most popular app of all: maps. Maps are a highly valuable utility regardless of smartphone platform – whether you are popping open the maps app or seeing a map imbedded in a site you have queried. Apple made news just recently when it made a decision to dump Google maps for its own map app. This is more than just a thumbing of its nose at Google – it may actually become an interesting way into commerce for Apple via a utility that people are addicted to and value greatly. When Google lost maps on the iPhone, it also lost a ton of data about the iPhone user and her shopping habits as well as the opportunity to monetize that data by advertising to that user. And since Google makes money from merchants who appear on the left side navigation bar display when people search not only for directions to a location (e.g. friend’s house or business) but what merchants might be nearby, that’s a big deal. This information and, therefore, that commerce possibility, may now advantage Apple, who could easily – and even pretty quickly – develop a location based services engine to serve up and monetize offers based on location via their new map software. We’ll have to wait and see.
The connect ecosystem consists of social networks and affinity groups.
Social Networks as we think of them today, are digital platforms that make it more efficient to nurture existing relationships and build new ones between people who share interests, activities, or real- life connections. Social networks, as well all know by now, provide an easy way for users to share information and to form interest groups around a shared passion.
They aren’t quite ubiquitous but they’re well on their way: 50% of American adults now use a social network, with Facebook being the world’s premier example of one. 955M monthly active users created worldwide.
150 billion connections and accounted for 1 of every 5 webpage views in 2012 on Facebook. In April of 2012, according to comScore, 71% of the country’s internet users visited Facebook, spending roughly six hours that month on the site – a number that is up 16% from that same time period a year prior. To put this in perspective, six hours is more than all of the time people spend on all of Google’s sites, including You Tube in a month. Research on online shopping also concludes that visitors, who spend the most time on Facebook, also happen to spend the most dollars shopping online. Shopping is a very social activity and Facebook’s ability to mash up its social graph, data about those connections and payment technology seems well positioned to unleash a wave of commerce on that platform.
The relevance of this layer to the mobile commerce ecosystem is the ease with which users can use their mobile devices to share what they are seeing, doing and buying throughout the commerce “lifecycle” with their business or personal networks. At the end of 2012, nearly 40% of cell phone users accessed social networks from their mobile phones and social networks are ranked as the third most-used type of mobile application among U.S. smartphone users (with Facebook ranking the third most popular iPhone app and the fourth most popular Android app). It’s for this reason that mobile devices could provide the catalyst for commerce via social networks in ways that even eCommerce can’t. On one extreme, smartphones with built-in cameras make it possible for shoppers to quickly and easily snap a picture of an item in a store, email that picture to a friend or post it to her news feed to ask for advice or confirm color or size – which then ultimately ends up as a purchase in that store (or not!). In fact, nearly 4 out of every 10 consumers snap a picture while in a store and one third of those share it with their social networks while in the store. On the other, social shopping apps like The Teen Vogue Insider app, popular with teen girls, make it possible for them to scan editorial and advertising pages in the magazine to unlock bonus content, access shopping guides, find deals and promotions, share that item on their Facebook page for their friends to check out, share and buy too. Somewhere in between these two extremes are lots of apps on Facebook, including its own Offers platform, that make it possible for coupons to be presented, actioned and hopefully shared via the news feed with fans of those brands.
Twitter could become just as powerful and some say, even more appropriate for time sensitive promotions and appeals. Chirpify enables purchase online or via mobile via a hash tag tied to an offer that is tweeted. Payment is enabled via PayPal. Recently launched as a political fundraising platform, Chirpify enables the quick and easy donation to one’s favorite political figure. Making that possible for physical goods and services can’t be all that far away.
But regardless of which social platform you’re talking about, it’s not just the fan base that is of interest to the merchants that want to use them, it is the friends of the fans and the viral nature of the social graph that make the opportunity compelling and therefore, worth chasing. A merchant with a fan base of 5,000, for example can reach a base of 650,000 since each of those 5,000 fans touches, on average, 130 friends. That’s a pretty powerful sales channel.
But, that represents both the promise and the potential which so far is little more than a wish upon a star. At least for now, there’s scant evidence of commerce via mobile driven directly via social networks. But, to be fair, it’s really early days. Things will change as merchants on social networks devise a compelling commerce proposition and users become more used to being presented with relevant commerce experiences there. On the former, merchants of all sizes have invested too heavily in building a fan base not to want to monetize it.
The key to success, though, is making the commerce experience both simple and social. On the simple side, wallets will help a lot. Ever try typing 16 digits and all of the related shipping and billing information using the teeny weeny mobile keyboard? On the social side, merchants have to internalize that selling to fans on Facebook is like having a stranger pull up a chair at a family dinner – uncomfortable, uninvited and considered a real intrusion. That’s not to say that fans don’t want to engage with brands on social networks and to even buy from them there. In fact, once of the reasons that fans “like” a brand is to get information about special products or offers from that brand. In fact, most people “like” a brand on Facebook because they are a customer (58%) or they want to receive discounts and promotions (57%) according to comScore. But, merchants who view social networks as just another online channel are doomed to hearing crickets when offers and promotions are posted on their news feeds – especially when they are viewed by their fans on a mobile device.
The marriage of social and mobile will evolve as the big dog of all social networks, Facebook, improves its own mobile strategy (which it will surely do and soon), merchants adopt toolkits that make it possible for them to enable commerce in quick and easy ways on their fan pages via the mobile device and begin to embrace it as a 4th retail channel complete with its own social-centric strategy.
Put a Pin in It: The Discover Aspect of Mobile
The location-based ecosystem we’re calling “discover” is the cornerstone of many of the commerce innovations in use today. This ecosystem has two parts: search which connects to the traditional search ecosystems such as Google, Yahoo and Bing, and GPS-enabled discovery which is enabled thru a variety of location based services on the mobile devices and increasingly used to present offers and other promotions based on the location of the mobile user.
Search helps users find exactly what they are looking for. The holy grail of mobile search is local information – what restaurant in the area serves the best Chinese food, or where the closest Pilates exercise studio is to my hotel in Palo Alto. It is the Holy Grail because no one has been able to really nail the consumer or advertiser experience yet but is clearly a huge use consumer case with lots of monetization potential. In 2012, more than 50% of local and map searches were done from a mobile device.
Most of these searches, like 15% of Google and 20% of Yahoo searches come from mobile devices. About a third of all people search more on their mobile than they do on their computers. Google is obviously well liked by consumers given it’s familiarity in the online world and by advertisers because of its reach. Its September 2011 acquisition of Zagat, the restaurant ratings service, was touted as its full on entry into local search activities as a way to drive both consumer and advertiser revenue. In an effort to capture and monetize more of the local search market, Google recently announced that it would forgo its subscription fee and make all restaurant reviews free to online or mobile subscribers. This was obviously a shot across the bow at Yelp, whom many regard as the local search powerhouse.
Instead, Yelp, along with several other consumer content sites related to movies and restaurants, have teamed up with Apple, which is increasingly interested in displacing Google on the iOS platform. These sites will be among the first to power Apple’s Siri personal assistant in iOS6. Their MO is to wean users away from Google by making what they call “casual searches” via mobile simple to do. Casual searches are defined as anything that is local and for which a “bite size nugget” of information is all that is needed: restaurant address, movie theater showings and times, business hours, and telephone numbers. The consumer use case is obvious – it’s simple and hands free, particularly important and useful on a mobile device. For advertisers, the opportunity to insert themselves into the mix at the time that a consumer is both interested in buying and in the area is huge.
Yahoo is using the mobile device to try to breathe life back into its search market share thru its new browser enhancement called Axis. The app is both browser and search engine. A search query done via Axis returns a set of visual page previews, rather than links with text summaries which, it hopes, will drive preference via mobile devices since it presents information in a more visual and engaging way.
GPS is what enables consumers and merchants to find each other on mobile devices. A recent comScore survey reported that fully 33% of smartphone users share their location or “check in” with retailers, spurred by the promise of receiving targeted offers and promotions at establishments nearby. This list of locations is populated via those that are deemed by the mobile device and network to be near the users location at that time. PayPal’s RedLaser app enables a user to scan a bar code of an item, see the closest store with it in stock and enables payment via PayPal for pick up in store.
Many others have thrown their hats into that broad mobile/LBS-based ring – Shopkick, ScoutMob, WHERE (now a part of PayPal), Milo Local Shopping, and ShopSavvy. But the “granddaddy” of all of these check in/mobile centric apps is FourSquare who has recently released an entirely new and social version of its LBS-based application. Rather than just serving its users offers based on location, it now delivers offers based on a user’s past history or recommendations tied to a user’s expressed interest in a topic or even whether the user liked the experience the last time she was in a particular establishment or one like it – in real time. As of January 2013, Foursquare had 30 million registered users and gets about 3 million check-ins each day.
Sweetening the Pot: Incenting Commerce via Mobile
Incent is connected to a massively fragmented deals and giveaways ecosystem iconized by the “daily deals” players serving up the next deeply discounted deal as well as the coupon providers who are in the business of incenting trial and hopefully repeat usage. Together, deals and giveaways have managed to completely reframe the expectations that consumers have of merchants. In 2011, one in six U.S. consumers were using daily deal sites and 85% of those consumers were regular customers of those daily deal providers (reinforcing the notion that these consumers may be more loyal to the discount than the brand serving it up.) And, nearly 50% of internet users used online coupons in 2011. The mobile device is just another way for consumers to access both and for merchants to target those consumers on the basis of where they are at any given point in time.
Deals delivered via the mobile offers consumers and merchants are a convenient alternative to the email notification of the deal itself. Taking a page from Foursquare’s book, both Groupon (Groupon Now) and Living Social (Instant Deals) launched mobile versions of its daily deal offer using real time location
based information about a year ago – to a lot of fanfare. In the case of Living Social, that announcement also included a partnership with Foursquare to distribute its deals to Foursquare users. In both cases, these programs were lauded by their company CEOS as “game changers” yet a year later, Groupon Now seems only to be limping along and Instant Deals has been shuttered and replaced with a food takeout and delivery service.
Why has mobile been such a flop, so far, in the daily deals space?
The verdict seems to be that consumers are less interested in having their phones present the broad array of deals that both daily deal sites offered via the mobile. It makes sense when you think about it. Most of the deals that people buy on deal sites, according to research done last year on the topic, are related to “personal pampering” – massages, facials, teeth whitening, manicures – as well as those related to food and travel. With the exception of food, which lends itself more to spontaneous decision-making, most of the popular daily deal propositions require an appointment and planning and a more relevant context than location for making the decision. The bottom line here I suppose is that the context around the deals served seems to be as important – maybe even more important – than the ability to distribute those deals via the mobile channel solely based on proximity to that establishment.
That isn’t necessarily the case with flash sales sites that function more like ecommerce sites and that seem to have a lot more success via the mobile channel in driving sales. It was recently reported that mobile devices, and more specifically the iPhone, drove more than 50% of sales one day on Rue La La, the 6 million membership flash sales site. Named best mobile shopping app of 2011 on the iTunes store, its mobile app gives members access to Rue La La’s private sales at any time. The company predicts that mobile sales could be as high as 50 to 70 percent on weekends, when shoppers are away from their desktop PCs and laptops. Gilt reports much of the same story. Twenty percent of its sales are thru its mobile app – which is twice what it was a year ago. Since quantities are limited and sales are posted at a time certain each day, mobile devices certainly make it easier for consumers to keep tabs on those deals wherever they happen to be anytime those deals are presented. And, unlike the daily deal genre, the merchandise tends to be tangible physical goods requiring no in store redemption. The decision process then becomes just like any other ecommerce purchase and the mobile just another way to get to the internet to buy it.
Coupons and consumers have had a love affair, at least in the US, since the late 1800’s. The first coupon ever recorded was in 1888 when Asa Candler invented the concept as a way to get consumers to try his new soda product – Coca Cola. As they say, we’ve come a long way baby. Last year, 305 billion coupons (valued at $470 billion) were distributed to consumers in the US via all mediums, with digital channels driving a lot of that growth. Mobile is expected to play an even more important role going forward – some 44% of smart phone users in the US say that they want coupons delivered via the mobile, with more than a third of those expressing a desire to receive those coupons automatically from merchants.
There are three things that make mobile such an important coupon channel: (a) the rapid decrease in newspaper readers in the US – where consumers used to get most of their coupons; (b) the rise in the use of smartphones by consumers; and (c) the ability for these devices to bring an offer to life with pictures and other features that drive conversion, which often yield conversions anywhere between 35% and 200% higher than text-based coupons.
Successful early experiments with mobile coupons support this result. IHOP, the casual restaurant chain known best for its pancakes and breakfast foods, said that its 10% redemption on a mobile coupon far exceeded its results in other channels. Sprite had a similar experience, posting a 28% redemption rate over a 6 week campaign which offered a free bottle to anyone who redeemed the offer. Quick serve restaurants are also voracious users of this tactic to build a fan base Research into roughly 9,000 mobile marketing campaigns in this sector showed that even if consumers didn’t take advantage of the coupon, the offer of a coupon drove preference and an uptick in in store sales by consumers who become more familiar and therefore more likely to try the brand that offered the coupon.
Given their popularity and ease of use by consumers and merchants, analysts expect that mobile coupons will dominate mobile retail marketing spend thru at least 2013. But it’s still early days. Few mobile users have ever received a mobile coupon in fact fewer than 10% of mobile users say they have. But, don’t worry. Lots of players are trying to change that. Coupons.com, Cellfire, Catalina (thru its recent acquisition of Modiv Media), ShopText, along with dozens of niche providers, are leveraging the mobile environment in order to reach the consumers attached to those devices, serve them with a tempting offer and then hoping they’ll not only act on it but share it with their friends.
Pay by Phone: The Mobile Payments Juggernaut
Whole books have been written on payments and the complexity of the payments ecosystem – so (thankfully) we’ll not have to cover that well-trodden ground here. Instead, we’ll focus on the aspects of payments that are being reinvented and disrupted, thanks to the mobile device. There are actually two pieces to this discussion: the consumer use of the mobile phone as a payment form factor and the underlying tender type that supports those transactions and merchant use of the mobile device as an acceptance device. We’ll cover both at a high level here (mostly because there could be books written on those topics too).
There are two things to consider when discussing how people pay when they are engaged in mobile commerce. The first is whether the mobile payments scheme relies on existing payments rails – e.g. using or registering an existing American Express, Discover, MasterCard or Visa card to the mobile payments scheme; or whether it relies on a new network that merchants have to integrate into their point of sale in order to accept and consumers have to establish an account with. From the consumers and merchant side, the ability to solve one part of the chicken and egg problem by being able to glob onto existing cardholder accounts is golden: consumers already have them and merchants already accept them. It doesn’t eliminate the ignition issues that mobile payments players have but it does make eliminate the big obstacle of consumer acceptance and that’s enough some of the time for a good running head start. As a result, most of the mobile schemes link payment to a method of payment that is accepted at merchants today. The exception is PayPal, which has 100+M of it’s own consumers using it’s digital wallet as an inducement for a merchant to consider adding it as an acceptance mark.
its digital wallet as an inducement for a merchant to consider adding it as an acceptance mark.
The second is the technology that enables payment. The big hair ball here is what is actually required to enable payment via a mobile device. When the mobile phone is used to shop on line, it’s pretty straightforward – and is more of less the same process that consumers and merchants use today to transact online. As mentioned earlier, registered accounts or wallets can make that process a whole lot more convenient for consumers who will gladly tradeoff typing their 16 digits and related card information on a teeny weeny keyboard for a one-step payment experience.
When POS acceptance is in the physical merchant environment, the story becomes a bit more complicated and challenging. The battle being waged today in that environment is NFC versus alternatives based on just about anything but: bar/QR codes (e.g. Starbucks, Apple Passbook, Level Up), geo-fencing with the phone as authentication device (e.g. Pay with Square, PayPal) and even non- phone dependent solutions (e.g. PayPal’s empty hands). A lot has been written about this too – and, the headline here is that NFC continues to struggle to get ignition just about everywhere in spite of years of effort. The lack of business case for installing new terminals, coupled with the rise of much easier to manage solutions for merchants and consumers, seems to suggest that it will continue to struggle outside of a few isolated, niche use cases, e.g. public transit. The card networks’ EMV mandate is touted by many as the catalyst for NFC adoption in the US but doubts remain. Consumers still have to have mobile devices with chips (as of this writing, it’s not clear where Apple is on NFC, especially after the recent Passbook announcement). And, Europe will have to upgrade it’s EMV terminals to accept NFC payments. It’s a long way from ubiquity.
Here are a few examples of the more interesting and successful mobile payments schemes:
- Starbucks is probably the most talked about star in the mobile payments space. It has processed 2.1 million transactions per week and it’s U.S. launch was just over 2 years ago. It solved the chicken and egg problem by having customers load money onto a digital Starbucks stored value card that created a 2D barcode for payment. That bar code was then scanned at checkout using scanners that were already existing at the register. Since it launched it’s mobile payment app, sales of it’s stored value product are up16%.
- LevelUp is a loyalty play disguised as a payments app. We’ll cover it more in the next section. But, it’s worth noting here because it enables payments at the physical point of sale via a QR code and downloadable consumer app linked to a registered card. It’s use case is primarily coffee shops and delis that, in addition to making payment easy, presents an incentive for consumers to return in the form of a cash coupon redeemable on subsequent purchases. LevelUp has more than 5,000 merchants signed on in 17 geographies and says it now processes million dollars in sales a month since it’s introduction in July 2011.
- Paydiant is a technology platform that enables mobile payment (and coupon redemption for that matter) by QR code as well. It is primarily being used to power merchant centric wallets at large retailers. Paydiant is the only mobile wallet and mobile payment platform that works with existing payment options including PIN debit, credit, signature debit, and prepaid cards all while maintaining a fast, contactless experience.
- Serve is American Express’ payment app which is tied to it’s mobile prepaid product. It was launched in 2011 and built on the chassis of Revolution Money, the last great attempt by anyone to establish a competing payments network. It seems to struggle with ignition – recently the program announced a partnership with Zynga, to bring a rewards program to virtual currency that is used in popular Facebook games, like Farmville. Serve also launched a Facebook app to enable friend to friend payments.
- The major card players – Master Card, Visa and Discover – all seemed tied (tethered?) to NFC. Master Card PayPass is available at ~360k merchants but rarely used since there aren’t a whole lot of consumers running around with NFC enabled phones or contactless cards. Visa payWave, was launched in 2007 but hasn’t generated a large following either for the same reason. In early 2012, Visa announced a new mobile solution to encourage mobile payWave adoption, allowing customers to purchase a “Visa Certified” mobile handset here. And, Discover, has also tried to make a push for NFC by issuing more than 500,000 cards with chips and stickers featuring contactless cards. It will be interesting to monitor attempts made by these networks to diversify away from NFC to alternatives.
- ISIS is the offspring of a $100 million investment on the part of ATT, Verizon, and T-Mobile. It tried to solve the most complicated payments equation of all: mobile + NFC + carrier centric mobile wallet + new acceptance mark + no consumer base + no merchant base. Not surprisingly, it has had a rocky and rough go of it. It started life as a mobile payments network, leveraging the Discover rails and NFC technology purely for the purpose of creating a payments money trail for the mobile operators. It has since evolved to include all major card networks, yet continues to rely on NFC technology. It is scheduled to launch in Salt Lake City in late 2012, some 6 months later than planned and years after its formation. Its challenge is to devise a differentiated solution for merchants and consumers, which seems pretty tough now. At least in the current form, it is hard to distinguish it from the wallets being offered by Master Card, Visa and Google.
- Google has also had a tough go of it too in payments generally and mobile payments specifically. Its Google Wallet is also based on an NFC standard and linked to either a Google Prepaid Product or the consumers checking account. In addition to the technology challenges associated with merchant acceptance of NFC and practicality overall as a payments solution, merchants fear that Google will co-opt its data and use it to steer consumers to other merchants. The speculation is that Google could bundle its Wallet product with Motorola handsets that it can distribute, perhaps even at a highly discounted price, to get devices in the hands of consumers. That still doesn’t solve the NFC merchant acceptance piece of the puzzle which is the only way that payment can happen in store using their wallet, at least today.
- PayPal is perhaps the most talked about mobile payments player. This 13-year old alternative payments network is aggressively moving into the offline space, using the mobile device to get it there and bringing with it the prospect of its 100+M customers to the merchants who accept it as a form of payment. It is trialing a number of schemes, some of which don’t rely on the phone at all, but instead use a mobile phone number and PIN at the point of sale to enable payment via the cloud. Currently, it has active trials in Home Depot and at a chain of gas station/convenience stores in the Northeast where a geo-fencing version of it’s mobile payment app is being piloted.
- Tapviva – is an example of one of the many niche payments apps targeted at food establishments. In this case, customers use the app to order and pay for food ahead of their arrival. Tapviva has partnered with food trucks and small cafes in the San Francisco Bay area, Brooklyn and Denver.
- Uber, which launched in 2011, allows limousine (“black-car”) drivers with capacity to be matched with consumers who want an alternative to a taxi in selected cities throughout the US, Canada and Europe After an app has been downloaded and a card registered with the app, a consumer is able to request a car based on her location and the driver is able to respond – mapping software allows the consumer to track the progress of the driver en route. After the consumer reaches her destination, she is able to leave the car and have the charges, with tip, automatically applied to her registered card.
- TabbedOut – an easy and secure way to pay for a restaurant or bar tab with users smartphones. Rather than passing their credit or debit card information out for each purchase, users store their credit card information directly to their phones and the tab is paid for using a code that is sent securely to from TabbedOut app to the restaurant POS system.
Where a lot of news is being made, however, on the POS and acceptance side is in the use of the mobile device as an acceptance device. There are no shortages of players looking to capture the lead in this really important market segment, represented primarily by small merchants who either don’t accept cards today or seek a more robust solution tied to a platform offering them access to lots of add-ons. In addition to the technical and payments innovation that mobile enables, all of these service providers have devised a business model innovation that makes it quick and easy – and cheaper- for a merchant account to be established.
- GoPayment by Intuit was arguably first on the scene here in 2009. Initially targeted to mobile field service workers (think plumbers and electricians) it was positioned as a way for those businesses to get paid immediately using any major credit card. Card information could be keyed in directly to the phone’s payment app or via a card swipe using the Intuit dongle. The funds accrued from using the program could be deposited into the service providers’ bank account or onto an Intuit GoPayment Prepaid Visa Card. In May of 2012, GoPayment became fully integrated with QuickBooks making payments integration to the accounting and invoicing applications seamless. Today, it has 200,000 retailers servicing 23 million customer accounts and processes $6 billion transaction volume annually.
- Square is perhaps the best known small business mobile acceptance solution founded by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey. Square was introduced in 2010 with a dongle that attaches to Android (just in the last month) and iPhones and accepts all major credit cards. It was widely criticized for having an unencrypted hardware device and therefore risking consumers and merchants to security and data breaches. It released a secure dongle solution in 2011. The Square app has evolved to include a POS software (Square Register) and Pay with Square which allows customers to view merchant menus, do mobile payments and receive virtual receipts. Both use geo-fencing to recognize and authenticate a user in the physical store and don’t require that the phone be used at all in the physical interaction with the merchant. An account is established and linked to a major credit card and is charged when the transaction is processed at the point of sale. Today, Square has 200,000 businesses and processes $12 billion in annual transaction volume. There are also reported to be two million Pay with Square users. The partnership with Starbucks to pay with Square increased the offering greatly.
- PayPal Here launched in 2012. PayPal Here differentiates its solution in a couple of ways. First, its dongle is a blue triangle and can accept any form of payment. But the dongle isn’t the only way that merchants can accept payment. With the Here application, merchants can use the phone’s camera to scan and process cards and checks. Second, it comes with the potential of activating PayPal account holders for the benefit of local merchants. Third, it comes with an invoicing solution which simplifies the workflow for merchants. There are a reported 200,000 merchants with PayPal Here. PayPal here now offers a complete table function with built in technology from RedLaser and integrating POS technology into the PayPal platform.
- ROAM was founded in 2005 to do two things: turn a merchant’s mobile devices into POS terminals and to turn the mobile device into a sales channel using it’s hardware solution (dongle) and it’s software platform (ROAMwallet). Today, ROAM is a major supplier to those who are merchant using the ISO and acquirer channel for distribution. ROAM’s calling card is the security of it’s hardware solution and has concentrated on building security into the DNA of it’s mobile acceptance solutions. All of its products and tools adhere to the highest security standards, from encrypting cardholder data at the time of swipe through authorization to encryption of key management processes, including the recently announced Visa guidelines for mobile payment acceptance solution vendors, PCI security standards, and industry best practices. Its commerce platform also makes it possible for commerce apps developers to port their applications across all mobile operating systems and devices – essentially making it easier for developers to expand their mobile commerce footprint. ROAM has also launched the industry’s first device agnostic mobile card reader with near-field communication (NFC) and magnetic stripe combined.
Points are Passe? The new Face of Rewards
Rewards are the subject of great debate today and the object of great disruption from all around the ecosystem. The forces at work in the Incent ecosystem have changed the nature of merchant and consumer engagement. What makes a customer loyal, how to stimulate that loyal behavior and how to measure the ROI of those efforts is all up for discussion – regardless of the channel used to reach the consumer. What’s clear is that the technology enablement of the online/offline integration via the mobile is transforming the space and the players operating within it.
On the rewards side, it is almost a tale of two extremes. On the one side, there are the traditional loyalty players, Affinion, Maritz, Alliance Data, and Points International, who essentially built and support the points-based programs that are the bread and butter of the payments space today. They maintain the points balances, create redemption catalogues and fulfill merchandise when points are redeemed. When viewed in that purely functional context, mobile is pretty irrelevant since points are accrued by consumers when cards are used to make a purchase regardless of the channel used to make a purchase. The complication for these players is the degree to which consumers are motivated by other schemes, like deals and coupons, and no longer care about what card is used to make a purchase – the value of the offer is more attractive than the value of the points. In that scenario, consumers will still accrue points, the traditional players will still be needed to track and redeem them, but consumers won’t really care much about points as a residual benefit. And over time, nor will the issuers who run the programs.
On the other end of the spectrum are programs that basically blend the incent and reward ecosystems to create programs designed to drive preference for consumers. Mobile, as was discussed, provides both a tool and a channel for delivering more targeted promotions (even though the channel may not be used entirely that way today). Since the device is always with the consumer, it also has the advantage of delivering that reward proposition in a timely and contextual fashion. There may also be a more direct connection between a rewards programs tied to a mobile device and the merchant’s efforts to incent preference – after all, a consumer has to present an offer to a merchant or a return to that merchant to claim their reward which overcomes one of the big merchant criticisms of card-based points programs.
Shopkick is an example of a mobile rewards platform that is linked to large merchants. A gamified version of “check in”, once the app is downloaded, consumers accrue “kicks” when they enter a participating store. Kicks can be redeemed for gift cards from those participating merchants. The hope (and the merchant expectation) is that consumers will want to earn lots of kicks in order to redeem prizes from their favorite merchants and will show preference to those merchants who are enrolled in the program.
Belly is a loyalty and rewards platform for local businesses. A take-off on the paper punchcard, Belly has “gamified” rewards via a mobile check-ins process. Merchants pay a monthly subscription fee that also gets them access to specific customer data that reveals sales, points and redemption data as well as insights into foot traffic and card usage patterns. Customers can accumulate points that can earn rewards.
Sometimes merchants develop their own merchant-centric mobile rewards programs. Jersey Mike’s Subs is a 56-year old company that launched it’s Sub Club Rewards Program and saw membership climb to more than 200,000 users nationwide in less than a month. This mobile loyalty program uses both traditional bar code based membership cards, SMS as well as a mobile NFC-enabled sticker that can be tapped against a reader to earn points towards a free sub and other offers using both an iPhone and Android device.
Intuit has also thrown it’s hat into the mobile rewards ring. It’s credit union-centric mobile app allows customers of it’s 1800 FIs and credit unions to receive and redeem store discounts and rewards while they shop. The app is free, and the rewards are linked to the consumers’ bank or credit-union provided ATM or debit card when it is swiped at the POS to make the purchase. Savings are posted monthly and discounts are based on past buying history.
Then, there’s Level Up Users which rewards patrons of the stores that accept it with rewards for that particular merchant. Users are given a deeply discounted reward when the first purchase is made and then periodic rewards for each $50 increment of spend at that merchant. Rewards, in the form of real savings, are credited back to the card registered with the app. Redemption is where things can get tricky given mobile’s ability to blend the on/offline environment for rewards accumulation and redemption. From the merchant’s perspective, nirvana is having redemption tied directly to it’s POS thus making redemption, the reconciliation of rewards and offers automatic and done in real time. Few, if any, rewards or incent schemes provide that level of integration today.
POS integration is complicated, is what everyone wants to do and merchants (even the small ones) don’t have the time or bandwidth or interest in accommodating all of the requests that come their way. What’s evident though is that merchants large and small are doing a lot of experimentation in order to assess the degree to which there is merchant benefit and consumer interest before taking the full on plunge into POS integration. The sticky wicket, at least so far, is really assessing the degree to which any of these programs are moving the needle for merchants. Small merchants, in particular, simply don’t have the tools to appropriately evaluate the impact of these programs and larger merchants use a multi- channel approach to drive promotion and foot traffic making it difficult to draw a bright line around the impact of mobile on in store (or online) sales.
Getting a Handle on it all: The Manage ecosystem
The manage ecosystem isn’t often thought of as part of the commerce ecosystem at all, but we beg to differ. We think that it is, in many ways, the baseline level of commerce, providing consumers with a way to access and organize their payments, banking and financial information from the indispensable mobile device. Indeed, these services are almost expected, now that more than 60% of the US population uses online banking services. Today, nearly 36.7 million consumers access banking and budgeting tools from their mobile devices. These services are also badly needed, by the un- and under- banked consumers who, both in the US and developing markets, lack access to a formal banking channel and who would value having their mobile phone provide that set of capabilities. Players ranging from Green Dot, Western Union, Net Spend among others are all rolling out prepaid accounts that provide this basic online and mobile banking functionality. Mobile is a key channel for the under banked since 91% of this population owns a mobile device and 57% own a smartphone.
On the banking side, there are few interesting players of note:
- mFoundry currently provides mobile banking solutions to more than 600 banks. It’s flagship mobile product, Mobile-24, consists of a native mobile app and SMS/text banking functions. Users are able to check their account balances, review transactions, transfer funds, pay bills and find the closest banks and ATMs.
- SmartyPig started life as an online social banking service that helps consumers (including kids) to save sensibly and has now migrated to mobile via an app available in the iTunes store. It is tapped into social networks which help SmartyPig users work towards a “shared” goal or reach out for friends and family members to contribute to their goals – like buying a car or saving for a trip. When the goal is reached and the money is ready to be used, users cash out to a SmartyPig prepaid MasterCard, existing bank account or selected merchant branded gift cards where certain merchants offer incentive to draw SmartyPig users to their gift card.
On the manage side, there are also several players worth noting:
- Mint, now owned by Intuit, enables users to see all of their financial accounts in one place. It also includes tools for budgeting and goal tracking and building. More than 4 million consumers have Mint accounts with 30% of them using the Mint mobile app. Mintlife also provides tips on saving money and buying smarter.
- Manilla is a newcomer to the space and is less about financial management and more about bill payment and account management. This app aggregates all of the information needed to these two items and puts it in a secure space, online, where it can be accessed 24/7. It generates auto reminders when bills are due, rewards points are about to expire, etc. It’s mobile app creates a wallet, if you will, offering a single view of bills, accounts, and loyalty programs.
Whew. So that about does it for the tour of the mobile ecosystem. While not exhaustive, I’m not sure that it ever could be since this space literally changes every day, it hopefully provides a good sense for how the players are organized, how they all fit together and in some cases overlap.
Speaking of fit – or not – next, we will turn to the mobile commerce conundrums that are keeping commerce from igniting and those who are interested in lighting that match, awake at night.