Our Data Dive’s weekly recap this time around takes its cue from news from some of the biggest names in payments: Google, Stripe and Amazon. Each of these firms said it was branching out into new businesses or expanding existing ones, indicating that while the temperatures are on the rise, so, too, are opportunities to bring eyeballs, wallets and transactions to new use cases.
Stripe unveiled a series of big upgrades this past week to its Stripe Connect, which is its offering for on-demand and marketplace firms. The company said that the new capabilities, leveraged across that Connect infrastructure, will let users bring on board three new business models (now for a total of five). The focus is on streamlining, via an Express function, some of the processes that can cause friction in onboarding, and as the company noted in a release, “we handle all the gritty details like identity verification, regulatory compliance and a mobile-optimized onboarding flow, allowing the marketplace to spend its own engineering time on other challenges more unique to their business.”
The latest announcement represents a boost to the Connect services already in place, particularly in payments, with movement beyond one-to-one transactions and with a new ability to foster many-to-many payments. Connect, as has been noted, helps Stripe connect eCommerce marketplaces and gig economy workers. Drilling down a bit, Stripe is able to accommodate account debits, which can debit sellers’ accounts for subscription or per-transaction fees.
Google is banking on credit card data to help show that ads are the way to gain consumer attention and induce them to buy and buy again. That’s long been an assertion by the company, and now it is seeking to delve into data to illustrate the veracity of that connection amid purchases at its physical stores. The data itself will come from the credit card transactions that are the hallmark of commerce offline.
The company is sifting through billions of transactions that have wended their way across credit cards, accounting for as many as 70 percent of transactions (credit and debit) in the United States alone. The data stems from all the platforms in the Google arsenal, from Google Maps to email (we mean Gmail, of course), among others, each a treasure trove of data, and that data is valuable to not just Google, but the people who find Google valuable (after all, it sports the world’s biggest online ad network, with $79 billion in revenues last year).
As for data privacy concerns, Google has said that it has endeavored across “years of effort to develop a solution that could meet our stringent user privacy requirements,” as noted in a statement. “To accomplish this, we developed a new, custom encryption technology that ensures users’ data remains private, secure, and anonymous.”
That encryption, said the firm, is tied to mathematical equations on which it has patents pending — users’ names and personal data are converted into “anonymous number strings” that essentially mean that neither Google nor its partners are able to identify individuals.
It was a busy week for the eCommerce giant, where it yet again planted a flag in three dimensions, most recently by announcing a new bookstore in New York City — you know, the physical kind — its seventh such opening nationwide. Interestingly enough, the New York location is one that was previously home to a Borders bookstore — remember them? – which may yet linger as an example of what eCommerce can do to bricks and mortar, before it focuses, of course, on bricks and mortar as an ancillary business.
The company also showed some additional movement on the West Coast, with the introduction of its AmazonFresh Pickup service in two of Seattle’s neighborhoods, SoDo and Ballard. That means groceries bought online and then picked up, and, as has been elsewhere, there is also a delivery option. In one wrinkle that helps bridge the gap between “click” and “collect” (the groceries), monitors on site identify and match customers’ license plates to orders.
Lest food and books not be enough, what about love? Amazon also said that it has debuted the Handmade Wedding Shop, which is focused on wedding decorations and invitations, bringing the digital age to timeless disagreements over calligraphy, gilt edges or tiny figurines.
Think that’s all Amazon had in the quiver for its arrows? No, there was more. In commerce, might stickers prove sticky? Drilling down into the Amazon iOS app, this week came the news that people can search for items as viewed through the iPhone camera — billed as a form of product discovery — add stickers to pictures (i.e., digital stickers on digital pictures) and thus create a link to the iOS mobile app that brings you to the point of purchase. Tap the sticker and then you get to the products and learn about cost and availability.
So at the end of a busy week, for Stripe, it was about platforms in addition to payments; for Google, cards in addition to clicks; and for Amazon, the tangible and tactile over touch of a button.