TECHNOLOGY

Study: Monthly person-to-person payment usage is increasing

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

As more purchases are made online and via mobile devices, more customers are opting for person-to-person (P2P) payment services.

P2P payment services, such as PayPal, Venmo, Google Wallet, Facebook Messenger, and other options accessible online and in app, are the preferred payment method among 57% of all customers, according to “U.S. Consumers and Debit: Shift to Online May Inhibit Use,” a report from Mercator Advisory Group.

In addition to being more regularly used at some stores, the service is also becoming a preferred way to pay back family and friends, to split the bill at restaurants or events when purchasing with a group, even to pay rent or other household bills. It is especially favored across a majority (78%) of young adults aged 18-to-34. Fifty eight percent of this group uses P2P at least once a month, and 28% use it weekly or more often.

According to the study, one factor driving this service’s adoption is that U.S. consumers are making a greater share of purchases online and by mobile. While credit cards are often preferred to debit cards, there is a wider range of payment options available than ever before.

And with the rising use of online payment services, consumers may start to bypass traditional payment cards, and keep funds in their payment service rather than transfer it back to their checking account, the study reported.

“The rise in use of online and mobile commerce may be shifting the payment methods used,” said Karen Augustine, senior manager of primary data services at Mercator Advisory Group. “We continue to see slight declines in debit card use as consumers are faced with an ever increasing range of payment options which may circumvent debit transactions.”

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TECHNOLOGY

Report: Amazon tests ‘invite-only’ warehouse and shipping program

BY CSA Staff

Amazon is letting select sellers in on what it is calling a “groundbreaking program.”

The online retailer is testing a new invitation-only program that provides sellers with more efficient storage and shipping options, reported CNBC. It also allows merchants to add Amazon’s software and logistics into their own warehouse.

Amazon calls the new service, which is dubbed FBA Onsite, “groundbreaking,” since it combines the best parts of its existing fulfillment programs and brings down shipping rates, according to CNBC.

Click here to read more.

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Q&A: Talking Blockchain

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

As more transactions are becoming digital, it is getting harder to track data and keep it secure — but changes are on the way.

One of the changes could be blockchain. Described as a shared ledger, blockchain is a means of recording — and storing — transactions. It is shaping up to as a platform that can connect all members of a value chain, eliminate cumbersome manual documentation and safeguard important data, according to Accenture Consulting.

Paula Rosenblum, co-founder and managing partner at Retail Systems Research, spoke with Chain Store Age about the potential of this nascent technology, and what it means for the retail industry.

CSA: What is blockchain technology?
Rosenblum: Blockchain is an open-source encrypted distributed ledger/database where actions and transactions are recorded.

Just as open-source operating system Linux has offshoots that serve specific purposes, so does the blockchain. For example, Ethereum is a “flavor” of blockchain that is designed to support smart contracts between untrusted parties. The operative words here are “untrusted,” “distributed” and “encrypted.”

CSA: What are blockchain’s implications for the retail industry?
Rosenblum: It’s a little early for retailers to be doing a lot more than gaining a real understanding of blockchain. There are so many new products being churned out, that in some ways, it’s best to wait for the dust to settle.

Over the long haul, retailers will have the opportunity to maintain constant visibility into the chain of custody of items traversing the supply chain, and have automatically triggered payment points. Those payments can be accomplished without the retailer paying transaction fees.

CSA: Do any others come to mind?
Rosenblum:
Yes. There is also a real opportunity to create a personalized web experience while the consumer maintains anonymity. For example, one soon-to-be-released iteration of blockchain (and an associated token) is meant to become the standard for shopper identity. So, let’s say a consumer visits a retailer’s website. She wants to get a feeling for the retailer’s offering and relevance to her, but doesn’t want to be subject to endless retargeting or emails.

In exchange for a token, the consumer can give the blockchain called Shopin permission to use her preferences (not her personal information), and compare it with a retailer’s inventory. This would allow the retailer to create a completely personalized offering and display it on screen, without knowing any of the shopper’s details.

This anonymous personalization satisfies the customer’s desire for privacy without sacrificing relevancy.

CSA: What challenges/opportunities does the technology offer retailers?
Rosenblum: In general, retailers are so far behind the innovation curve that there is just so much they can absorb at a time. The trick is to wait for just the right moment to “hop on” the blockchain use-case bus.

CSA: Does the technology have a disruptive potential?
Rosenblum:
Totally. Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, who said four years ago that Bitcoin was a scam, has recently “taken it back” and added “the blockchain is the future.” He sees the opportunity within his own company to streamline the entire global payments system — that’s a pretty big turnaround in four years.

CSA: How is blockchain related to Bitcoin?
Rosenblum: Blockchain is the ledger that records all bitcoin transactions, but it’s only accessible if you know the “key” to your particular piece of Bitcoin.

Every single iteration of blockchain, in every flavor, has an associated cryptocurrency or “token,” but the tokens belong to no nation or individual. Therefore, there are no fees to be paid to anyone, and their value is based on a fixed supply and a growing or shrinking demand. They are an odd combination of pure populism, anarchism and capitalism. It’s fascinating, really.

While it’s fascinating, we obviously can’t live with anything that’s value bounces around the way Bitcoin’s has. I don’t even think the fluctuations in the price of gold comes close.

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