Ben Perreira

My head's dropbox.

Month: November, 2013

An Idea for Cyber Monday

A week from now, retailers across the holidays-obsessed world will celebrate Cyber Monday as the biggest eCommerce sales day of the year. People with kids and other loved ones will surely head to their desktop computers or laptops to search for the deals that will garner the biggest smiles on Christmas morning.

Or will it happen like that? With Smartphone penetration surpassing 50% in the US earlier this year and tablet penetration on its heels, it seems much more likely that those who wait for deals will at least do some shopping on a mobile platform.

If you run a large credit card company, say Visa, this time of the year is important to your business. You make money off each transaction of course, but just as importantly, when your customers (merchants) are profitable, it becomes less likely they will default on your accounts receivable. You have the incentive to continue to provide them with a great way to allow people to pay for their goods.

People look to their phones for entertainment during boring TV programming, idle transportation rides and work meetings. They use tablets at similar times, but when they want a more robust experience when it comes to content delivery. In the age of continuous connection and simultaneous media consumption, the true cost of bad entertainment is bad ecommerce purchases.

If your goal is to make all transactions seamless, you must look for seams and snags. One such problem is that paying with a credit card while using your phone, at present, sucks. It involves simultaneously holding one’s card and phone while using one’s sausage fingers to input the correct sequence of 16 digits from a selection in 0-9 sequence in a horizontal line. When the person wants to complete another transaction at another mobile store, s/he must do the exact same thing. 

You have identified the problem, person who runs Visa: (1) your customers’ customers currently use their phones and tablets for quick bursts of stimulation, and (2) they are browsing mobile commerce sites yet frustrated with finishing the transactions as traditionally required. You further postulate that one’s boss or spouse would not be fond of seeing a credit card number being entered during an important meeting or a date. 

Here is your solution: you create a mobile application that allows people to input a simple PIN to complete mobile transactions. The person begins by inputting his/ her information into the app by taking a photo of the card, similar to inputting one’s credit card into Uber’s mobile app. 

Next, you release an API to your current customer base (which, because you’re Visa, is almost every brick-and-mortar and online merchant in the world) that makes the mobile keypad part of the checkout experience. The purchaser engages the payment part of the transaction by selecting “Pay with VisaGo” and getting the current best-in-class delivery of a keypad to enter his/her PIN, not unlike the experience Mint delivers. The purchaser confirms the credit card, shipping and billing information that the VisaGo app auto-fills and the transaction is complete. 

You have a few options for further propagation. You do, after all, want to turn this into a new revenue stream and not simply cannibalize your own ecommerce revenue. One option is to keep the experience exclusive to Visa. Another is to license the technology to your competitors under a different name, generating revenue off of every mobile transaction. Yet another is to license it to banks that offer you the optimal mix of reach and objectivity of payment type.

You want to retain all possible equity from being a leader in the mobile commerce space, so you decide that the best option is to develop the product and keep the experience within Visa. You know that 80% of credit card holders have a Visa (I made this number up), so you aren’t giving up much of the market by excluding sole American Express, MasterCard or Discover holders.

You enjoy the fruits of your labor by purchasing some trunks for your vacation in St. Kitts via your iPhone, lamenting the day you’ll have to figure out how the heck to remit payments through a smart watch.

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Read This: The 5 Essentials

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A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of going to see Dr. Bob Deutsch speak in Santa Monica at an event put on by my friends at Furlined. After some light chatter and refreshments Dr. Bob took the stage and served up a great talk. The term I took from it was “directed serendipity” – the idea that we don’t know the end of the story at the beginning of the story and we allow ourselves diversions within the realm of what we enjoy and what we want to accomplish.

The book is less self help or motivation in the Tony Robbins sense than a framework for discovering authentic stories. It became clear how Dr. Bob has been able to successfully work with advertising agencies and in diplomacy. His ideas are simple yet powerful. 

Here are the aforementioned essentials at their respective, uh, essences:

  • Curiosity: Desire to look deeper and figure out how things work.
  • Openness: Willingness to change based on information gleaned from the above.
  • Sensuality: Use of all available faculties to find new ways to understand things.
  • Paradox: Ability to hold competing ideas at the same time and find them complementary.
  • Self-story: Each person’s original and organic narrative about where (s)he is coming from and going.

Don’t just take my word for it. Pick up a copy of the book. You won’t regret it.

Thalweg

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I write a lot about things I learned in college. When you’re in college it can seem like most of what you’re learning is sort of useless. I started at Mira Costa Community College in San Diego before transferring to UCSB and my first year consisted of courses that fit requirements, but tangentially rather than just Biology 101 or English 101. I write about college because I am interested in the production of knowledge (or epistemology, another subject I first encountered at Mira Costa). I find that the more different things we study the more they all gain clarity. For instance, patterns and logic in nature serve as metaphors of patterns in human behavior. Metaphors are themselves dependent on the understanding of multiple things. Epistemology is sort of like peeling an onion; the more you get into it the more realize how complicated it is, and the more you want to cry.

I signed up for a geography class my first year at Mira Costa because I love maps. I didn’t learn much about maps, but I learned a lot about how the earth shapes itself. I learned about something called a thalweg. A thalweg is the deepest, fastest part of a river. It is the force in the direction of the river, causing it to meander and carve out valleys over centuries. It is not alive or controlled by anything other than the water that enters the river upstream and the sediment or rocks on the riverbed that happen to be in its way. In many ways it is in a constant state of re-birth and change, influenced by the elements around it at any given time.

Knowledge of thalwegs may win you a couple bucks on Jeopardy one day, but swap out geographical terms for those related to culture and you have a framework for how culture is created. Culture is like a river. It is constantly changing and both influences and is influenced by everything around it at a given time. Culture’s thalweg consists of its most influential people, brands, entertainment and events. History matters, as does the source of the water that makes up the river, but there is certainly a bias toward recent history. These things move the fastest and cut the deepest, changing the direction of that culture.

Just like metaphors are how we develop deeper understanding, culture is how we contextualize the world. What enters the thalweg in the United States may only exist on a slow moving edge in Germany, Guatemala or Grenada.

Keep peeling that onion.