The best and worst thing about being a retailer in 2015 comes down to one word: options.
In an interconnected world with consumers ever accessible on mobile devices that they are rarely separated from, there are more ways for merchants to create a relationship with a consumer than at any point in human history.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that having more options doesn’t necessarily make for better choices. The Paradox of Choice, made famous by Barry Schwartz in a book by the same title, leads to “analysis paralysis.”
The theory is simple and easy to understand. Too many choices often means no choice is made.
And, with respect to retail, too many choices also spoil the broth, a situation that is amplified the smaller the retailer is. So said Flint CEO Greg Goldfarb in a recent interview with PYMNTS.
“We are very zeroed in on the nontraditional merchant that is genuinely mobile – micro merchants that include one individual looking for a very simple solution to enable payments via the mobile platform,” Goldfarb said. “They may be small merchants – but there are a lot of them – and what they need is a solution that is simple and direct.
Simplifying and streamlining the payments experience for the small and highly mobile independent merchant is centrally built on Flint’s “dongleless” payment reading solution.
“We eliminate having to use any sort of extra card reader, and instead allow merchants to scan the number off the card – securely – using the smartphone camera,” Goldfarb noted. “All of that is designed to power the highly mobile businesses.”
Because, in Goldfarb’s opinion, the era of the card reading hardware of mobile is a thing of the past. One reason, he noted, is that it’s just basically inconvenient to deal with an extra piece of hardware. And while Goldfarb admits that plugging in a small device to take payments isn’t terribly inconvenient, it’s getting more expensive and less efficient for retailers.
“With the EMV liability shift approaching, the readers which have been essentially free now cost $50 and have a much shorter battery life. Business owners who are also mobile are now at higher risk of having a device go dead on them when they are using it in the field,” Goldfarb noted.
So that is what drove Flint to begin to make the process simpler and eliminate the device entirely. That also eliminates any future choice the merchant has to make about upgrades. And, Goldfarb notes, without having to make any concession on security.
“We’re not storing any image of the card or the card number on the device. Our technology works more like a barcode scanner. Our proprietary and patent protected algorithms extract just the main digits from the card, everything is encrypted as it is transmitted to our backend and the user is asked to enter card verification information.”
With a focus on keeping it simple.
The goal is to give merchants the ability to do more without committing to a lot of additional effort. And, Flint is also pitched to retailers looking to share digital space through iOS and Apple Wallet.
“Passbook, which is currently transitioning into Wallet is often a better option for a business instead of trying to build out its own loyalty app. We make it simple — like ‘it takes only a couple of minutes simple’ — to place an offer in an email or text that a business is sending to a consumer. The consumer can then tap it and download it into their iOS Wallet in one step.”
Keeping it small and simple may seem like a strange mantra, but the economy is a shifting place and by some estimates nearly 40 percent of the workforce will be self-employed freelance contractors. Statistically speaking, tech, media, accounting, entertainment, construction, art, architecture, and health care are all becoming increasingly populated by self-employed entrepreneurs.
That developing economy is driven by a mobile workforce. And from where Goldfarb and Flint sit, the future of making mobile an operational tool instead of an analysis paralysis-inducing liability is about making the device as simple and functional in as few clicks possible.
“We want our partners to think about their business instead of the technology they are using to run it,” Goldfarb said. “Working with iOS and Apple, we can better build easy access to Passbook and eventually Apple Wallet as well as to deliver more features that enable our customers to manage their businesses directly from their iOS devices. If mobile really is going to help smaller service providers and business, it has to be something that integrates into that business instead of taking over.”