An Idea for Cyber Monday

by Ben Perreira

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.