Merchant Innovation

5 Billion More Chances To Buy

Americans get 5 billion emails a day and 75 percent of them are viewed on mobile devices. @Pay has taken this 30 year old communications tool and turned it into a powerful point of sale. PYMNTS CEO Karen Webster caught-up with @Pay’s CEO John Killoran on how its Buy Button uses two clicks to allow consumers to spend and send their way to mobile commerce happiness.

Everyone loves shopping online right up until the end when credit cards must come out, passwords must be created (or remembered) and personal information that one has entered thousands of times before must be entered again. On a desktop, it is frustrating. But on a mobile phone, where one can only easily see one screen at a time, it can be a deal breaker for consumers. Sometimes those shoppers come back when they are at a desktop device and can finish the online transaction, but they often just give up and go to Walmart.

It isn’t that there are no answers to this problem. The payments industry has dedicated missions to mars’ amounts of time, talent and treasure to solving the problem of mobile e-commerce. There are dozens of platforms and hundreds of apps that want to make e-commerce easy—the problem is that with no emergent favorite, dongles pile up and apps start eating up phone memory and suddenly these services are now just a new element of the problem. It is very hard to disrupt market when using the product disrupts consumers lives—they simply won’t use it.

@Pay approaches the problem of low adoption with common sense: Don’t ask consumers to use something new. Give them a better way to take advantage of something they already like. CEO John Killoran told PYMNTS CEO Karen Webster in a recent podcast interview that, in the case of his company, the obvious platform to tap into is E-Mail.

Killoran told Webster that the use case of E-Mail doesn’t have to be made, because it is obvious and well established over more than 30 years. Consumers receive 5 billion E-Mails per day that are designed to do nothing but sell them things. @Pay taps into that  market by making it possible to simple insert a “buy” button into those E-Mails so that with two clicks—one to spend and one to send—a customer can make an order.

Moreover, E-Mail is actually the best window into mobile—since people spend 30 percent of their time on mobile phones reading E-Mail.

“These smartphones are the new cigarettes. Back in the day you were never alone if you had a cigarette. Well today you are never alone if you have your smart phone.”

What E-Mails people are reading matter too, 70 percent of the aforementioned 5 billion commerce E-Mails are read on mobile devices. Only two percent of those E-Mail are ever revisited, meaning if the merchant is going to convert the consumer they have one shot to do it in.

Without commerce enabled E-Mail, the best an E-Mail can contribute to making that conversion is steering someone to a merchant website. Killoran notes that @Pay helps businesses do better, by giving them a change to make that conversion on the spot.

“Click through to a website its all nice for pushing your brand but most merchants are in business to sell products. Our button that we put in an E-Mail gives them a chance to convert right there and then throughout the E-Mail they can still put hyperlinks to their site to drive them there to look. So it doesn’t really cost the merchants anything and they definitely see the upside…”

How much upside?  Killoran referred to anecdotal merchant data that saw a 35 percent increase in conversions when buy button enabled E-Mails were A/B tested against those without. Killoran also noted that the service was particularly effective for non-profits who through these E-Mails are developing a consistent base of donators who always click and contribute—largely because it is so easy to.

If the idea seems obvious, that has occurred to Killoran as well. In fact, he says he doesn’t know why he is not surrounded by competitors all of the time.

“I think it was just the fact that it’s such an older technology. I find that the e-commerce movement happened and it was already 30 years old. I guess no one ever thought of it. I really don’t have an answer for that question, we’ve been wondering about this in the three years we’ve been doing @Pay.”

And the two-click E-Mail purchase principle was not initially developed as an e-commerce application. Killoran, while developing an entirely separate business, developed the E-Mail platform as a way for employees to, through an E-Mail button, certify work they had done and then send it to be entered into a central database.

However, one terrible online shopping experience during Christmas later, and Killoran saw the light about the best use for the technology he was developing.

“So I got online and I’m not a big online shopper, or at least I wasn’t three years ago. It was just so frustrating going through shopping cart after shopping card trying to buy stuff. And I had to put my credit card in all over the internet. And I had to put in my billing address and had to set up a password and username for all these different places. And I went to bed with a significant headache after doing this and then at 3 o’clock in the morning, I came flying out of bed and I said ‘Holy Mackerel. Our other technology could process financial transactions.”  And that was December 2010 and we incorporated @Pay in March 2011 and have been going 100 miles an hour ever since.”

There are two options for signing into the service. It can be done directly through a merchant website or through an E-Mail with a buy button in it. Sign up—wherein one enters billing and credit card data—is a one time deal in either origination location. Once users put their information into the system, @Pay can use it in any transaction with any @Pay merchant.

The system does not choose between payment methods and seeks to be agnostic as to platforms. “It’s been very fun to go to the different payments conferences and watch the clash between Silicon Valley and the payments world. I watched that clash and the bloody noses and all that and we strategically said, ‘Let’s build a system that works completely with the existing payment system. So we have @Pay set up to where we’re integrated into  50 different gateways. The entire ISO network and payment processor network can resell @Pay to their merchants.”

At the end of the day, @Pay wants to make it simple. In its next iteration, @PayWebCheckout, the vendor hopes to help eliminate passwords entirely by instead offering shoppers a chance to simply enter their E-Mail address at the end of an e-commerce transaction.

An E-Mail will then shoot to their system, and they can complete the transaction there—all with the (double) click of a button.

The goal, said Killoran, isn’t to climb into the catacombs that is the payments industry and change things. Instead, @Pay just wants to help everyone—merchants, consumers and payments insiders—to use what they already have just a little bit better.


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