Mobile payment field testing on Android HTC Thunderbolt

Tis the season for shopping and tis the year for mobile payments.  Here are a few vignettes, comments and my scoring from a recent lunch time shopping trip.

Shopping locations were The Body Shop, REI, Chef Chen’s & Starbucks.  Scoring was based on physical mechanics of payment, speed of payment, cross-sell upsell by store, clerk’s knowledge of the payment system and a general rating on how I felt at the end.

Scoring was is simple zero to two for each question.

  • Zero total customer fail
  • Two points for a “moment of delight”
  • One point for everything in between

The Body Shop

Experience: Had a Groupon to use before 12/24 so popped in and bought two packages of a lotion for my wife.  Store was nearly empty and clerk came over and mentioned there was a 2 for 4 on the item that I just bought so he dropped two more into my bag. Wife will be shocked that she is getting 4 early gifts tonight as a part of this experiment.  Walked to the POS and rang it up, I was $2 short of the “required total” so he needed another item.  I asked him for any suggestion and he went and grabbed a small of the same lotion.  Note I did not prompt him to pick a cheap item or even the same item but he assumed both and finished checkout.  There was bad wi-fi so it took two tries to load the offer via Groupon mobile and he said that I might have to go into the main part of the mall.  I paid the extra couple bucks with cash for speed as another customer had showed up.

Moments for improvement: Not having to go all the way to POS, clerk was already with me and could have done mobile checkout with the right device.  Also having to pay extra cash was annoying as I would have preferred to somehow just “top up” my Groupon to the total.  Note ths is even more annoying with Groupon Now.  Or why not let me checkout with less than the total and earn breakage on that?

Score: 8 (Mechanism 1, Speed 1, Cross Sell 2, Knowledge 2, Overall 2).  Bottom line I got a ton of stuff with pretty good service for very little money.


Experience: This time I had a Google Offer and am an REI member with one of their US Bank cards.  Wandered the store a while to find the item, nobody ever approached. Found the item and went to check out. There was a rush of customers but clerks appeared magically to take the load which sped things up significantly.  Clerk asked if I was paying with card and I said “phone and card” which gave him pause but then he looked at the phone and said, “oh that is a gift code”.  Scanner did not work so he 10 keyed it in and then I paid the remainder with some saved dividend via membership number and then the rest on my credit card which he had already taken to get my member number.

Moments for improvement: Obviously better scanner and training but the big missed opportunity was by Google to incentive me giving them an REI member id when they sold the national deal.  This could have showed up with the offer for the clerk and helped us both out.  A bigger opportunity is the fact that this same REI card is in my Google Checkout profile which could have been used to finish payment.  3 different payment mechanisms was less than idea and required 2 signatures.  Google Wallet is getting closer to pulling it all together but with NFC actually be usable and on my phone?

Score: 6 (Mechanism 1, Speed 2, Cross Sell 0, Knowledge 1, Overall 2).  Got what I wanted quickly but was underwhelmed by POS execution and nobody took advantage of the opportunity of me being in the store in any way.

Chef Chen’s

Experience: Needed some food and was by a lunch spot that I love who also runs a Bankons eligible deal.  Walked in and got seated quickly.  While waiting to order I checked in on Foursquare and saw an additional deal for Amex small business. (I don’t own an Amex card)  It was a good promotion where if you spent $10, they would give you an additional $10 statement credit.  I finished lunch and put a card for the bill, was taken back for processing and then thanks for my business.  Nobody mentioned an Amex card and the processing was done out of my sight, albeit quickly.

Moments for improvement: Monitor presence based social media to see a checkin.  I was on my phone the whole time so obviously a geek. Also doing checkout via Square at the table and/or double checking if I wanted to use the card that they have a promotion with.  Minor gripe with Foursquare is that you should have a way for me to remove Amex offers when I explicitly say that I do not have a card.

Score:4  (Mechanism 1, Speed 1, Cross Sell 0, Knowledge 1, Overall 1).  Overall this shows how far small businesses have to go before technology adoption at scale. Existing tech is available and promotions running but street level execution is lacking. Good lunch though!


Experience: Lunch was a bit of a gut bomb so needed afternoon pick me up.  Walked in, medium length line, ordered latte off the menu and was asked if I wanted a treat with that.  Pulled out phone and paid.

Moments for improvement: I am a gold member, is there a way that the staff can know that before checkout so that they can ask me about special perks that I am eligible for.  This was not a Starbucks I have ever gone to so no personal history.  I currently don’t see a way to do that. Something simple like scanning my buy code when I step in the would alert them that I was in line and then they could have real time CRM.  Not sure if this is worth another scanner in the store but it would be an interesting test to see if they could drive value and it would get me to take out my phone and load the code before checkout.

Score: (Mechanism 2, Speed 2, Cross Sell 1, Knowledge 2, Overall 2). Cross sell could be more compelling if they get a membership level and item history. Maybe I should tweet @adambrotman this idea.

Sorry for the long post but I figured that it was an interesting day of digital field testing and I wanted to share.

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Last mile miss for Starbucks but Overstock gets it right

Sorry for no postings but we have been cranking at #startuplife.

It is no secret that I like the Starbucks mobile app, both as a user and as a technologist, but I wanted to comment on a hilarious “last mile” failure from a company who is usually so buttoned up when it comes to user experience details.

Given the early success of their mobile application it is no surprise that Starbucks is going mainstream with their advertizing.  The lower transaction credit card fees, universal store loyalty opportunity and improved analytics data are all obvious and powerful wins.  You can see their mainstream roll-out in many places, like billboard style ads (forgive blurry picture).  I have seen them on the back of newspaper boxes, in BART stations and in print media.

I love what they are doing by trying to get people to download the app but a few misses in this ad.

The first issue I have is that there isn’t a call to action for new customers or 1st time downloads.  “Download now and get a small coffee in the next 6 hours” would be an interesting way to drive downloads and incremental foot traffic.  Missed opportunity because you can stop fraud if people are downloading and deleting.

My bigger disappointment is no QR code for Android.  I guess all of the brand agency people must have iPhones because at a BART station I have nothing to do but look at the poster and then download the app.  I do this mainly because I am bored and looking at posters.  I would call this low hanging fruit and iPhone users are not going to be confused since they know they have to search in the app store.

Overstock gets it right with an ad as well as “Buy It Now” option.  Sometimes it is a simple missed opportunity that can have a big impact on your funnel.  Always good to get brand awareness and show people new functionality but why not get them to actually do the action you want right now?Final thought is how much better could this be if it was “download now, and share with 3 friends to get a free latte”.  This could be a huge opportunity to accelerate distribution in a viral way and easy to track the sharing links.  Living Social crushed this strategy with their Amazon voucher and the idea of social sharing should be an easy part of all marketing campaigns.

Again much respect for Starbucks being ahead of the curve and don’t get me started on Peet’s Google Wallet / Mastercard piggyback.  Just a missed opportunity or two given that they spent all of that money and killed off so many trees to do something in the digital world.  On a personal note one more star and I advance a level, who said game mechanics don’t work!

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Holy Starbucks Card batman!!! Jonathan rocks the ultimate loyalty card

Every now and again I see something that makes me laugh and go, “why didn’t I think of that” as a way to make money or get something for free but rarely do I see one that is so much fun as the Starbucks Card with a digital identity, Twitter & FB.

Jonathan Stark pulled together personal Starbucks payment card / barcode, a twitter account and an API.  Read more about it here but the results are fun.  I am not sure how long it will sustain itself but it is working on the “Pay it Forward” model or take a penny / leave a penny but with budget crushing lattes.

As of this writing there were 1,945 Tweets representing god knows how many purchases and reloaded because things are aggregated and Twitter throttles tweets.  My guess is that some analyst has to account for this particular card in the loyalty reports and averages for the next few months.  An asterisk coming to a to a Starbucks memo near you.

The immediate idea I had was to pull it into our own app Bankons but we couldn’t figure out a way to easily facilitate the card reload and it felt like bad karma to just do purchases.  Also the velocity of purchases was so high that it was hard to get reliable results as many many people were using it at the same time.

The next thing I thought of was that anybody could run a loyalty or reward program using one of these because you can just randomly load money on a re loadable card and then let people know that it has a positive balance.  This would be the viral equivalent of a radio call in show.  “Howard Schultz you have 5 hours to retweet this post and get access to the reloadable card.”  You could also donate a percentage of the purchase to a charity or the free coffee every 15 could be gifted or put on eBay.  Ideas are out there but as technology evolves to real time and digital payments unique things like this are going to pop up.

Finally in other real time news and deals that are killing it. Check out Yipit’s trending offers program and Virgin Atlantic’s Gilt Group deal with 3,300 flight packages purchased.  Both are awesome for different reasons and fun to watch thing go viral and get more real time.


Total viral campaign run by Starbucks, thanks Hacker News once again.  Source and solution to all my blog posts.  Makes me feel good about analysis…

Update II: Response from Jonathan about card as viral,  If it is written on the web it must be true…  Whether it came from a brand manager or a hacker I still think it is awesome.

Update III: Blatant fraud and a script to transfer dollar values, viral campaign or no this is an obvious flaw in how this one can be warped.

My Analysis of this latest effort

  • Dollar value of transfer script (-$300)
  • Cash transferred to personal card ($625)
  • Time spent listing stuff on eBay(-$100)
  • Karma for donation to charity ($525)
  • Knowledge that you crushed somebody’s social dream for 5 minutes of hacker fame (priceless)

Update Final: Script writer issues public comment and apology.  Also I should have mentioned but Sam Odio is already Internet famous so my dig above was probably a miss.

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Can Deal of the Day stay above the new Google fold?

Now I am not sure if this is something that is happening to other people but I figured that it was worth a quick note.  I have gmail like a few other people out there (Nov 2010, 193.3 M) and I use Priority Inbox.

Google Offers launched in San Francisco this week and I started getting email.  Very interesting to me that my inbox is labeling most Daily Deals sites as “Bulk” but Google Offers is filed under “Notifications”.  The not so subtle difference is that Bulk doesn’t go to my main Inbox but Notifications does.  See screen shots below.

Also you may notice the time stamps of the emails.  Anybody think that Google isn’t leveraging the knowledge of when people get, read and click through on email?  No proof but they have the information and can do interesting things based on that info.

Not saying, but just saying….

Other notes:

  • I downloaded the Google Shopper App and bought a deal.  I have to admit that I was impressed because it took me straight through Google checkout and was fairly frictionless.
  • Some marketing tips if you are sending stuff out for Priority Inbox and the “new fold”.
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Shopkick puts a drop in the SMB bucket with Citibank

Last week I attended a great event called Beyond Bricks & Clicks at Stanford which was put on by Vlab.  You can look at this event to know what the secret sauce of Silicon Valley is.  A huge event hosted by volunteers at Stanford with students, investors, hackers and big time players from the mobile / retail eco-systems and a panel of heavy hitters like Ben Hedrington, the Best Buy Director of Mobile Strategy.  There was a line standing out the door for people trying to get into a 300+ person event.  The critical mass and raw energy at something like this is had to beat and this was frankly just another Tuesday at Stanford. (FB photos here)

Enough how much fun it is to be in the Valley sometimes, let’s get to original thoughts.  The main speaker was Aaron Emigh founder/CTO from Shopkick.  He explained why they started the business and what they were measuring with plenty of stats and new behaviors.  A nice story about how a husband and wife competed for KicksBucks from their app and were surprised to see how personal the offers got over time.  As I said the panel was full of food for thought and I was pleased to see everybody make fun of the walking by Starbucks SMS ad example that I hear so often.  Shopkick has a solid solution that allows retailers to measure and interact with customers via an app that is initiated by a high pitched sound rather than GPS.  Shopkick claims to have solved the GPS/SMS issue as they have no fake checkins or annoying traditional push advertising.  The challenge is that it takes a $100 physical box over the store door to allow the tech to work and my prediction had been that they would stay confined to large chain stores and malls as their clients.  Big market and plenty of money.

About 2/3rds of the way through the talk it comes out that there was an SMB project with Citibank to test the smaller retailers.  You can read about it here and here.  It is an interesting play but I am particularly curious because it is being done via an FI partnership.  I am surprised that Citibank would through their brand behind something so small as a 1,000 business test across 10 cities because it is a chicken and egg problem.

Reasons that I think this will fail:

  1. Not enough consumer adoption of the app in the 10 cities.  100 retailers per city.
  2. Likely not enough retail density for the 100 installations per city even when combined with a few national chains.
  3. High device maintenance installation and cost.
  4. Not enough skin in the game for Citibank

Citibank powered a lot of the original ShopKick Causes application which made sense because it could be used as a checkin answer where.  This made them a logical partner but now it is very specific and probably tough for consumers.  I like the idea of driving local merchants and retail behavior but I am not sure that a high cost / high touch device is the right answer.  I think that this is an incremental change but solutions that rely on less physical infrastructure will be able to pass this one before they have mass adoption.  Obviously we will be watching closely but if I were another FI I would not be worried about this one yet.

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The official Starbucks payments app finally hits Android

In the world of tech sometimes things happen in ways that one company would never have expected.  When Starbucks launched an iPhone app I doubt that the PM in charge or EVP of Marketing would have expected somebody to successfully write and launch a version for Android before they could.  Well it happened and was quite popular, here is the app and some press, press2.

The Coffee Card had between 50-250K downloads and even more shocking the paid version had between 5-10K at $1.99.

Today Starbucks finally launched an app on the Android Market which is the good news, bad news is that I couldn’t load a card.  I will try it again tomorrow but I will say that the single developer’s app just worked out of the box.

My guess is that they are either getting overloaded or something that is not core to functionality is breaking.  Bottom line do whatever you are going to do well and you get one chance to make a first impression.

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Durbin Act, Google Wallet and Groupon Now… Oh My!!!!!

Well it has been a bit since I added some new material to the blog sphere and it turns out that when you take a minute off the world goes crazy.  This will be a quick hit style post with the 3 biggest events that I have been watching so bear with me it might be long.

Maybe it was the relative failure of Groupon StoreFeed or the fact that Living Social blew up DC with their Instant feature but Groupon Now is working the mobile angle hard.  I have it on my phone and I have yet to actually use or redeem it.  My comments are that I am annoyed with their daily push notification and can’t figure out how to turn it off.  Outside of general distance the deals are not targeted at all and are hard to scan through in list view.   You have to swipe in each sub-category and I would even say that it is arduous to view each deal.  I am hungry, so give me the sort or a map for the love of god.

All that being said it is a compelling feature and certainly extends the available inventory for Groupon which is a big deal.  It is also time based and that is interesting as it helps merchants move inventory in the way they want rather than bursty.

Next up Google Wallet, and this was one of the few times that Google spent a ton of effort getting ready for this launch.  They paraded a series of partners in the ecosystem on stage and showed some whiz bang functionality.  I am not sure that have a figure like Steve Jobs but the team did a nice job with the flow and presentations.  They have good names and will start to pull in some interesting stuff with interaction, loyalty replacement, offers and NFC.

The big but is that it is a very small install base for the Nexus S and the sticker thing ain’t gonna fly.  You can ask Bling Nation to see how that experiment went.  They have them beat by partnering with Mastercard PayPass.  You can see a video about some consumer challenges they will face here.

Last up Durbin Act is going through and people have to face the music.  What happens in the eco-system?  Will the payment networks support multi-tier pricing?  How will the merchants react to payment steering and do the consumers actually win in the end.

My prediction is that it will help small banks and credit unions if they move fast and take advantage.  I also think that it will add a boost to merchant funded offers as was outlined in NetBanker’s recent blog post and a for fee report here.

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