Bling Nation Suspends Operations – For the Moment

by Mercator Advisory Group 0

Payments upstart Bling Nation has suspended operations, presumably to conserve cash, as it struggles to find its way in the increasingly crowded-by-giants world of mobile commerce and payments. Among those giants is Google who, like Bling Nation, plans to leverage contactless payments and check-in via its Google Wallet, Places, and Offers initiatives. That’s one very large competitor, and there are other NFC wallet schemes out there, too, like Visa and Isis. It’s hard to avoid getting stomped amidst so many big footprints.

Bling Nation also made a misstep with its FanConnect product that tied merchants and banks into a social media venture that connected to Facebook. This move required merchants and banks to use the FanConnect marketing scheme. Many who saw Bling Nation as a worthwhile and potentially competitive payment mechanism weren’t willing to make the FanConnect jump.

Bling Nation leadership has the unenviable task of reinventing, perhaps even rebranding, itself in a time when large, well-funded entities, stirred into action by technology maturation and upstart competitors like Bling Nation, are finally getting into the NFC act.

“Bling says its service interruption is part of a bid to stay competitive by rolling out a revamped product later this year,” according to American Banker. “We found it was easier to kind of pause and fix [our business model] than to try to tweak and market,” Matthew Murphy, a Bling Nation general manager, told the publication.

What may also be behind the scenes is the hit the Durbin Amendment has given to Bling Nation’s merchant value proposition. In its banking incarnation, it is a debit platform, each tag tied back to the customer’s DDA account. Now that the cost of processing debit transactions has had the interchange component removed and replaced by a 12 cent fee, Bling’s basic revenue model is also under assault. That would make it another casualty of the change in debit economics Durbin represents.

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