LAS VEGAS — A PayPal executive, an Amazon vice president, a Chase head and a Google director walk into a room…
It sounds like the beginning of a Silicon Valley wisecrack, but it was the scene Monday at a Shoptalk panel. The topic was innovations in payments, and the vibe was jovial and far-reaching as speakers shared their thoughts on the ever-present retail theme of sealing the deal, which is increasingly blurred by concepts like mobile wallets, contextual commerce and NFC devices.
On stage were Kim Fitzsimmons, head of global e-commerce and large omnichannel commerce solutions, Chase Commerce Solutions; Chris Gardner, cofounder of PayPal’s Paydiant; Patrick Gauthier, Amazon Payments vice president, and Spencer Spinnell, director of emerging platforms at Google.
To begin the talk, Money 20/20’s Andrew Morris asked how each felt about the success of near field communications payments. All seemed to agree that so far, the concept was lackluster at best.
The panelists also said that although many mobile retailers focus on the common friction in the checkout process, the question of “check out” is becoming obsolete. Rather, said Amazon’s Gauthier, “checking in is the new check out.” In other words, getting a customer to smoothly log in, and focusing on the way that customers interact when they are buying, would do more to help build a brand’s equity. “If your brand is built on checkout, your brand is going down,” he said. “Checkout is last century’s problem. The world is not offline or online, but connected or not connected.”
Spinnell said he agreed, but conceded that it was “easy for Amazon or Google to tell you that ‘check in is the new check out.’”
“Ninety percent of revenue is flowing through your point-of-sale today. They are not easy decisions to make. My view is we haven’t cracked the silver bullet,” he said.
From there, each panelist shared his company’s unique points of view on point of sale and beyond. Gauthier emphasized that Amazon was a platform company whose primary mantra focused on trust and helping the customer — even, he said, if that meant enabling potential competitors. When it comes to payments, that means allowing customers to complete transactions where they want, he said. In April, Amazon introduced the Amazon Payments Partner Program, designed to help e-commerce platform providers and developers extend the familiarity of Amazon payments to their merchant customers.
For his part, Spinnell focused on Google’s local search queries and its unique ability to use that to help drive customers into physical retail locations. Andriod Pay, he said, offers the added benefit to the retailer of providing a digital receipt that includes a link to a merchant’s app.
PayPal’s Gardner applauded Wal-Mart’s efforts to create a payment option within its own app, and shared that mobile app users are generally a brand’s best customers and allow the company to tack on value-added services like coupons and digital receipts. “Retailers have to let consumers interact the way they want to interact,” he said. “Wal-Mart is doing exactly what I would tell them to do, whether they use our platform or build it on their own.”
He repeated the missive that payments were just part of the equation. “Payment is the least interesting part,” said Gardner, who is a cofounder of Paydiant. “It’s the stuff you wrap around the payments that is interesting.”
Ultimately, each shared a unique perspective on the biggest focus in their worlds: For Chase’s Fitzsimmons, it was a cloud-based solution to fix that “dumb gray box” (the register). Gardner said that it was contextual commerce, meaning adding “buy” buttons anywhere that consumers were, and Spinnell said it was consumer ubiquity so that retailers could acquire customers.
And Gauthier echoed a sentiment probably shared by many who’ve grown exhausted of a certain popular buzzword: “How can I make ‘omnichannel’ dead? It is techno speak, not customer-centric,” he said. “I want to improve the experience without friction, because that is a very customer-friendly approach.”