Partnerships / Acquisitions

Mastercard And WeWork Make ‘Hot Desks’ Pay

Mastercard’s Sherri Haymond, executive vice president of digital partnerships at Mastercard, says that its product development roadmap is largely driven by the needs of the end users who experience payments pain – whether that involves being paid or paying others – she told PYMNTS in a recent discussion.

“We try to anticipate our customers’ needs and to really approach the products we offer with a very end user-oriented approach – no matter who that user is,” Hammond said. “Consumers, small businesses, retailers, merchants or digital partners – we spend a lot of time trying to understand their possible pain points, and bring them back to the teams here to get busy trying to solve the problems.”

And while on the whole, she noted, they do a very good job of anticipating and designing solutions ahead of an expressed need, every so often a partner or potential customer presents a great idea that was never on Mastercard’s radar.

Such was the case with Mastercard’s just-announced partnership with WeWork to bring metered, frictionless payments to the space-sharing company’s 600 California Street location in the heart of San Francisco. To accomplish that, Mastercard is adding two new solutions to areas within We Work’s location to create a seamless, fully digitized experience for WeWork members.

“Once they came to us, we said, ‘Wow, yes, of course, what a great idea with loads of possible use cases,” Hammond said.

Now, she said, WeWork and Mastercard want to build on that great idea and the momentum it is creating to change the way consumers think about and use communal spaces of all kinds.

Hot Desks, A La Carte

WeWork comes to market with a vision very much like Mastercard’s: Find a way to make people’s lives easier by focusing new technologies on their end users’ friction and pain points.

In particular, WeWork is interested in solving the pain point for its office space and desk space users – and the reality is that for an emerging class of workers, renting an office on a long lease isn’t productive; it’s just a way to run up a lot of overhead on a space that will likely be under-utilized.

Before the partnership with Mastercard, WeWork’s innovation has been to allow users to subscribe to their service and get access to a desk as needed during the course of a month, or even for just a week.

But, Haymond noted, WeWork wanted to do one better, as many millennial consumers want a price model that presents even more options that are shorter than a weekly rental.

“[WeWork] was finding that today’s clientele doesn’t want to pay for things that way, because in some situations, they are paying to use something they don’t need,” Haymond said. “Business travelers come to town and may need a space for a day or two, or entrepreneurs [are] looking to keep costs down. Either way, they want to pay for exactly what they consume and no more.”

So that is just what WeWork, in partnership with Mastercard and Cisco, now offers. Users can log in through the WeWork app, and then sit down at a desk.

And that’s it.

A sensor under (and around) the desk can detect that a user is there. When the user is finished working, they get up, log out of the app and leave. The system then charges the payment method specified in Masterpass.

Haymond said that this idea has already gotten Mastercard’s creative minds working overtime to identify other use cases where this kind of payment-enabled technology would be useful – such as college campuses, airport lounges, communal areas in apartment buildings or anywhere people might need a better way to pay to use a workspace for a few hours.

And, she noted, while working with use-based payments, WeWork and Mastercard also recognized the potential to make shared spaces useful as unattended retail hubs.

Friction-Free Checkout

While the hot desk upgrade was an issue unique to WeWork, the space-sharing firm also had a need that gave Mastercard the chance to work on something all kinds of retail partners have been asking about: friction-free checkout.

WeWork, Haymond explained, houses “honor markets” in some of its locations – places where customers can grab a bag of chips or a soda to enjoy while they work. Currently, they can enter the app and pay, but WeWork and Mastercard can make that a bit easier now.

Using the same sensors, these honor marketplaces automatically detect who picked up that bag of chips, as authentication has already happened through the app, and then adds it to the cart. If a person changes her mind and puts the chips back, the charge is removed, and if that person picks up something else immediately after, the system adds the appropriate charges to the Masterpass account on file.

“The customer gets what they need in a frictionless way, walks out and gets charged,” Haymond noted.

It’s a capability that will be key for a wide swath of players in retail, food and hospitality, while redefining the market opportunity for shared space.

“Unattended retail is something Mastercard has been working on for a while, because it is clearly emerging as a trend,” Haymond noted. Despite popular worries, she doesn’t anticipate that this uptick will end the existence of retail workers in physical stores. In fact, she noted, she believes that the IoT’s tech, combined with the ability to put payments into the background, means consumers can actually have better retail experiences, and retail workers can add more value where and when it is needed.

“We think retail can work best when it can offer concierge-level services and make sure that they are always helping the customer do what they want to do,” Haymond said.

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