By George Peabody,Director, Mercator’s Emerging Technologies Advisory Service
Alternative payment methods are onthe march. Once restricted to online activity, and frequently tiedto digital content acquisition, new alternatives are takingadvantage of internet connectivity, using existing technology increative ways, and seeing new possibilities for partnership amongpayments industry participants.
Consider Bling Nation. BlingNation’s abilities to execute on its business model and capitalizeon its nimble size are impressive. Originally focused on the 500smaller markets where big retail banks aren’t dominant, it’s a goodidea that takes great effort to turn into business. Merchantacquiring for new payment ideas is not easy. But that experiencehas helped Bling get really crisp about the packaging, pricing, andmessaging to merchants for its contactless, wireless reader, and aset of 100 BlingTags for consumers to attach to their phones (orforeheads). “Get the BlingBox starter kit for $100 (with rebate),pay us $59 a month for our transaction processing andconsumer-friendly loyalty program. And pay only 1.5 percent on eachtransaction.”
Knowing that brand familiarity iscritical, Bling is now piloting its proposition with a very largebrand, PayPal, in a very large market town, Palo Alto, CA. Thispartnership gets PayPal into brick-and-mortar payments and givesBling another way to fund its transactions. The overlap ofconsumers who understand the “tap and go” contactless payment andwho hold PayPal accounts has to be substantial. Today, the PaloAlto project is limited to some 2,000 PayPal employees. But if itworks out, if nothing else, by bringing PayPal along, Bling offersits merchants a wider funnel to customer payments.
Now a payments industry veteranwants to get involved. POS terminal manufacturer and paymentservices company VeriFone is updating its VX810 Duet countertopterminal and its wireless VX 680 model to participate in the BlingNation/PayPal trial.
Bling Nation is distributing the contactless/NFC-enabledVeriFone VX 810 Duet for countertops and wireless VX 680 toparticipating merchants as fully-functional “Blingers” that acceptpayments from consumers using BlingTags to tap-and-pay. A BlingTagis Bling Nation’s quarter-sized microchip sticker that enablesmobile payment transactions.
“This introductory program brings together the best from eachmarket to create a compelling alternative way to pay,” said PaulRasori, VeriFone senior vice president, marketing. “Bling Nation iscombining the payment power of PayPal and point-of-sale footprintof VeriFone to deliver consumer benefits at the convergence ofmobile payments.”
After the conclusion of the introductory program, VeriFone will beenhancing its PAYware Connect transaction gateway service to allowPAYware merchants to seamlessly consolidate traditional andalternative payment methods on a single card acceptance device. TheVeriFone, Bling and PayPal X platform solution will be available toover 350 existing PAYware Connect resellers.”
VeriFone brings Blinga huge reseller footprint. And Bling adds another source oftransactions to VeriFone’s PAYware gateway. With Bling integratingto the PayPal Adaptive Payments interfaces (www.x.com), the solution is created without alot of heavy technical lifting.
That’s not to say that BlingNation’s heavy lifting days are over. The PayPal and VeriFonepilots are just that. But they can scale rapidly. And thecomponents here could be mixed and matched with some unexpectedoutcomes. What if longtime industry player VeriFone becomes a majorenabler for PayPal to play at the point of sale?