PayPal: Making business
and consumer news

Keep an eye on these guys.

Keep an eye on these guys.

PayPal has been showing up quite a bit in the news lately, and not just in the business press. Consumers are well aware that PayPal nixed its plans to build a facility in North Carolina following Governor Pat McCrory’s signing of the Public Facilities Privacy and Securities Act. 

PayPal is making news in the trade press, too. PayPal One Touch, introduced last year, has 21 million and counting active users. As “One Touch” implies, users log in once and, from there, purchase with a single touch on a mobile device, laptop, or desktop computer. Increasingly, retail merchants like Macy’s and others are accepting One Touch as well. 

According to a report published two days ago entitled “Online Payment Type: Conversion Analysis,” by comScore’s Associate Analyst of Media Insights Amy Peterson, PayPal enjoyed a conversion rate of 87.5 percent during Q4 of 2015. Visa came in a distant second with 51.1 percent. “All others” combined totaled 45.6 percent, that is, just over half of PayPal’s performance. 

So when Kat McKerrow of thestreet.com recently reported, “PayPal has grown into a giant,” she was not hyperbolizing. “In 2015 alone,” wrote McKerrow, “the company processed 4.9 billion payments, more than a quarter of which were made with mobile technology. The company has 179 million active customer accounts and handles transactions in more than 200 markets worldwide and in more than 100 currencies.” 

It would not be unfair to characterize PayPal as something of a tail that has wagged more than a few dogs. PayPay began life in 1998 under the name Confinity, making security software for handheld devices. In 2000, Confinity merged with X.com, Elon Musk’s foray into online banking. Later that year, Musk discontinued other online banking operations to focus on Confinity, by then rebranded as PayPal. Not longer after, he changed the parent company’s name from X.com to PayPal. 

It was only a question of time before PayPal went public. Shortly after the IPO, eBay gobbled up PayPal and encouraged its shoppers to use it. With shoppers only too willing to comply, PayPal took off, outperforming and outlasting competing payment services such as Citibank’s c2it, Yahoo!’s PayDirect, Google Checkout, and Western Union’s BidPay. 

It wasn’t long before the acquired became the acquirer. Over the years, PayPal has picked up Verisign, Fraud Sciences (per Wikipedia, “a privately held Israeli start-up company with expertise in online risk tools”), Bill Me Later (now PayPal CREDIT), IronPearl, BrainTree, Xoom Corporation, and others. Along the way, PayPal forged partnerships with the likes of MasterCard, Discover, and others. 

Midway through last year, eBay spun off PayPal into a separate, publicly traded company. If recent numbers are any indication, the newly independent PayPal should manage quite well on its own.

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Say goodbye to
Google Wallet Card

But not to Google Wallet.

Sent packing.

Sent packing.

Google Wallet is getting out of the loadable debit card business.

A few days ago, an email from the Google Wallet Team told cardholders, “After careful consideration, we’ve decided that we’ll no longer support the Wallet Card as of June 30.”

Nor does it appear that Google plans to replace the card, as indicated by Google’s having referred cardholders to American Express and Simple, promising them an “added bonus” at sign-up.

The email offers no explanation for the move, and beyond announcing the card’s discontinuation, Google is keeping mum.

Still, it’s clear that Google remains very much in the payments arena. The email’s penultimate paragraph reads, “As we wind down support for the Wallet Card, we’re excited to continue enhancing Google Wallet to give you the best possible experience when paying friends and family. We’re hard at work on new features, so keep an eye out for those in the coming months.”

Curious to see where this leads? Me too. I’ll keep you posted.

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Of cryptocards
and being first

In a feat of logic, the BitPlastic, Xapo, CoinKite, and Bit-x cards each claim to have arrived before the others

First-ish

FROM THE MOMENT in 2009 when Bitcoin debuted as the world’s first decentralized cryptocurrency, I knew it was a question of time before someone introduced the world’s first cryptocurrency-based debit card.

What I hadn’t expected was just how many someones that would turn out to be. A casual search reveals that the BitPlastic, Xapo, CoinKite, and Bit-x cards all claim to have been first. In fact, they make a big deal of it.

For all of them to have been first presents something of a mathematical impossibility. Why go to the trouble of making that claim? I cannot help but wonder if someone in their marketing department read Al Ries and Jack Trout’s book Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind and decided they had to be first at all costs.

If that was the case, they don’t understand firstness.

Don’t get me wrong. Being first has its advantages. 3M Post-It® Notes provides a good example. Of the many knockoffs out there, I bet you can’t name one.

And remember Snuggie, the blanket-bathrobe hybrid that took the world by storm a few years ago? Bet you can’t name one Snuggie knockoff either.

Fooled you. Snuggie is a knockoff. The first blanket-bathrobe hybrid was the Snanket. And I bet you never heard of it.

What soft drink comes first to mind? If you’re like most people, you thought of Coca-Cola. (And yes, the name really does derive from the fact that the original recipe contained cocaine from the coca leaf and caffeine from the kola nut.) Yet orange soda, root beer, and Dr Pepper all came along first. Somehow, I don’t expect that revelation to win away very many Coke aficionados.

All of which demonstrates a point about being first that not a few marketers miss.

First in the customer mind, which is a strong position, doesn’t necessarily follow from being chronologically first. It follows from delivering a level of quality that sets you apart, and from effectively communicating as much to your target market.

Sometimes advertising goes to absurd lengths to get away with claims of having been the first to market. Don’t bother. You needn’t have arrived first to be first.

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What do you mean,
that’s not marketing?

This, too, is a marketer.

This, too, is a marketer.

Maybe it was his red face. Maybe it was the steam coming from his ears. Either way, it was clear that Brent was worked up.

Asked what was bugging him, Brent replied that, just the evening before, his neighbor said something rather insulting. “You’re in marketing?” the neighbor said. “So is Mike, down the street.” The insulting part came next: “He’s the top salesperson at an auto dealership.”

Top salesman at an auto dealership? Perhaps you can see why Brent was upset. Brent occupies an office on the 22nd floor of a prestigious tower. The tower happens to be ivory-colored, but this is surely coincidence. There, seated at a desk beside a window overlooking the city, he carefully culls and crunches marketing data. “That’s marketing,” he said, with not a little pride. To say that a mere seller of cars was a “marketer” was to trivialize the level of Brent’s expertise and accomplishment.

This was not the time to make Brent angrier. He was holding a briefcase he could easily have deployed as a weapon.

But between you and me, he couldn’t have been more wrong.

“Marketing” is a large umbrella covering many valuable functions. These include research, product design, packaging, data mining, creative work, media analysis, branding, programming, planning, Brent-style number crunching, and more. All of these require specialized training and expertise. But for any specialist to say that salespeople aren’t marketers would be like coaches and sports analysts saying that the folks wearing helmets out on the field aren’t football players.*

It is equally naïve and unjust to claim that face-to-face selling requires no specialized expertise. If you knew Brent, you would agree that he is the last person you should turn loose on customers, his MBA notwithstanding. He has great data skills, but he has the people skills of a ground wasp.

It’s important not to lose sight of the ultimate goal, and of what ultimately pays the salaries, of the above-listed marketing functions. Namely, getting someone to buy something. News flash: shorthand for “getting someone to buy something” is selling.

Marketing is a euphemism. It has the advantage of sounding more hifalutin and avoiding the pushy salesperson stereotype, but it has the disadvantage of allowing people like Brent to lose sight of what their profession is about.

To dismiss salespeople as not-marketers is more than snobbish. It is shortsighted. People who are daily face-to-face with customers know things that traditional kinds of research will not turn up. Input from salespeople might just add real-world perspective to all of those programs and policies descending from Floor 22.

Brent would do well to spend a bit of time on the sales floor. (Provided, that is, that he only observes. Trust me on this, you don’t want him talking to customers.) He might pick up valuable information that his numbers will never show.

___________

*No analogy is perfect. To assert that the folks wearing helmets on the field aren’t football players may be correct in the case of teams that are not the Denver Broncos.

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A marketing warning
in a bowl of cereal

breakfast-1149903_960_720EACH TIME A NEW generation rises, supposedly every 20 or so years, two things happen.

The first thing that happens is that someone decides the new generation needs a name. There have been deserved names like “Greatest” and creative names like “Baby Boomers” and “Baby Busters.” As for names like “Generation X,” “Generation Y,” and “Generation Z,” they seem to show that whoever has the job of thinking up generation names has gotten really bored.

The second thing that happens is that marketing people who write articles and speak at conventions—yeah, people like me—drone on in hopes of sounding smart about the unique marketing challenges that each new generation presents.

Which I shall now proceed to do, based on a new
insight from global research firm Mintel

It appears that Gen Y, aka Millennials, now lays claim to posing a marketing challenge that no one anticipated. A recent Mintel survey reveals that nearly 40 percent of Millennials aren’t terribly keen on eating breakfast cereal …

… because cleanup after a bowl of cereal is such a major pain.

It’s perfectly understandable if you take a moment to think about it. I mean, you have to close and put away the cereal box and then rinse or, worse, wash and put away the bowl and spoon. If that’s not arduous and unreasonable, I don’t know what is.

Everyone appreciates simplicity and ease, but 40 percent of Gen Y-ers have managed to carry it to the extreme. This is an insight that may help cereal marketers sell more cereal, fire a warning shot across the bow of anyone thinking about marrying a Gen Y-er, and, not to be overlooked, prove instructive for financial institutions. Consider the growing chunk of your customers that Gen Y respresents. If rinsing a bowl is too much work for them, your financial apps had better require as little thought and effort as possible.

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