To a degree that would likely shock an outsider, the payments industry loves a thrill.
The industry’s favorite adjective is “disruptive” and an invisible disruption is, well, intuitively something that sounds objectively impossible—like a round square. Why such an atmosphere would attract innovative and revolutionary players is clear: the traction it might have amongst those who want to play nicely with others and collaborate is somewhat sketchier.
That creates an odd problem for retailers looking to deploy mobile commerce. Technologists have no problem creating innovation and, consequently, retailers are drowning in pitches about innovation. New ways to accept payments, advertise to customers, push loyalty programs, get consumers to buy —the numerous ways in which mobile can enhance retail are expanding every days.
But making those ideas real and making them work with what’s already in place is another thing entirely. Then there’s the “unicorn” of mobile payments, according to Ted Tekippe, CEO and Jeff Toewe, COO of DoubleBeam. DoubleBeam is a mobile retailing platform that helps retailers create mobile interfaces for their customers. They do that by making it easy for a retailer to assemble what they need to draw shoppers in and get them to buy, and to close the loop with a low cost payment method that draws directly from consumer bank accounts—thus avoiding costly swipe fees.
If that sounds familiar, it’s supposed to. It’s what MCX is pitching to a coalition of merchants. The DoubleBeam proposition is different in one important way: DoubleBeam doesn’t require that a retailer be part of a coalition to get all of the goodies and is agnostic about what a merchant should or must offer to use its mobile platform. Tekippe and Toewe recently talked with Karen Webster about their plans, their vision and the future of payments.
(Listen Here)“The retailer gets a kit. Their tactics can be quite different one to the next. We don’t’ think that retailers are all that enthusiastic about doing exactly what their competitors are doing. Coalitions and standards don’t necessarily drive the market so well, the Target’s REDCard and the Starbucks program are very successful and those companies were not forced into doing the same thing as their competitors. We provide a kit that enables the platform as a service for these different tactics to be used on the front end to initiate payments, and then payment is initiated at a much lower cost.“
Currently, both Tekippe and Toewe both think mobile’s ignition problem is rooted in the fact that it’s offering to consumers and merchants isn’t that strong. It is novel, and consumers like novelty—but that’s about it.
(Listen Here) “Right now, the array of mobile commerce solutions are not only complicated, it adds another item to a to-do list, costs money and takes time. It also lacks a clear and tangible reward.” And, the DoubleBeam double team noted that there is no merchant that wants to take on software that doesn’t offer them a clear economic victory, which right now is not always the case.
The lower costs payments rail provides the economic incentive—it’s cheaper to let customers pay with a direct transfer from their bank account that it is to have them swipe a card—and the platform’s flexibility allows customers to see benefits from their rewards programs without the retailer having to reinvent the wheel and abandon what they are already using. This is particularly important as merchants are facing upgrade fatigue as the EMV deadline approaches.
(Listen Here)“We support the tactics the retailers chose or how the prevailing winds are blowing at that time and also any existing tech the retailer wants to preserve. I think there’s about 150 million people registered for grocery loyalty programs, for example. There’s a tactic and identifier used. Will that be going away or can that be powered as well? Retailers are quite skeptical about the new phenomenon and whether or not they want to make capital investments. They’re already forced to address the EMV question. They’re already begrudgingly moving toward the EMV deadline and hoping that the can gets kicked down the field a bit longer so they comply and don’t see the shift in liability. They see that as a necessary evil and they’re not necessarily enthusiastic about additional tactics. “
As a platform, DoubleBeam is typically not branded from the consumer’s point of view.
(Listen Here) “We started out and are still actively pursuing the grocery space. So, often times, it’ll be us running inside a local, regional or even national grocery chain. There we’re integrating into their legacy point of sale system, often times their existing loyalty program as well as pulling in digital coupons, digital receipts and making it very simple and elegant."
Keeping it simple and elegant in grocery may turn out to be the advantage DoubleBeam can offer in the increasingly time-challenged world where consumers simply want to get in and out buying the staples of everyday life.
Both Tekippe and Toewe know they work in a hard space and are unsurprised at all the attention grocery is getting.
(Listen Here)“It’s high repeat customer visits and if you think about what a consumer is going to want to use their phone to do it’s not going to be a boutique retailer that you’re going to twice a year, but a grocery store that you and your family go to twice a week, yeah, probably."
(Listen Here)“It is also a space where there is room for lots of improvement
The reason why a lot of technologists have focused on it is there is good opportunity to improve the experience in that space. Be it in order ahead and curbside pick up of groceries to help them compete with Amazon Fresh or through really improving that transaction when they’re paying at the register through the ways we’ve talked about, there’s a lot of good opportunities to improve that business. “
In a low margin business like grocery, where the accumulated swipe fees can make a big difference to the bottom line, DoubleBeam’s lower cost rails are a big difference with likely a lot of distinction.
Apart from their low cost payments “sweetener,” though, DoubleBeam wants to innovate by helping retailers be innovative—and if they succeed their disruption will be felt, though their part of the ownership of the disruption will be invisible. But that’s perfectly fine with them. DoubleBeam prides itself on playing nicely with others and improving what they bring to market. With that focus, perhaps they can help retail reinvent itself.