Commerce Weekly: Isis Wallet/NFC payments struggle for a foothold

Cashwrap brings Isis to iPhone, Target's price match goes year-round, and Shopgate makes products the point of sale.

Here are a few stories that caught my attention in the commerce space this week.

NFC-enabled Cashwrap case equips iPhone with Isis

At the 2013 International CES this week, Incipio and AT&T announced the launch of Cashwrap, an NFC-enabled iPhone case that equips iPhones with the Isis Wallet, currently only available for NFC-compatible Android phones. According to a post at 9to5Mac, the case will be available in March and will cost $59.99 to $69.99.

9to5Mac shot a short video of the product from the CES show floor (the Cashwrap representative mistakenly indicates the case will support iPhone 5 — at launch, it will support iPhone 4 and 4S):

When Isis launched in October, some questioned the viability of the payment platform and whether or not it was addressing a real problem. In a report at Consumer Reports, Jeff Blyskal concluded: “Isis, like Google Wallet, still seems to require a lot of work and needless complexity for the questionable convenience of paying by cell phone.” Now, on top of the complexity and questionable convenience of NFC payment, iPhone users must not only attach an appendage to the phone, but fork over a not-so-insignificant amount of cash — all for a payment platform that’s only available in Salt Lake City and Austin, and only at select retailers.

At Telecoms.com, Elliott Holley covered a recent report by financial research firm Celent that says the issues NFC payment technology has faced thus far are only going to be compounded in 2013 and that NFC payment solutions will be overshadowed — perhaps ultimately replaced — by cloud-based wallets. Celent senior analyst and author of the report Zilvanas Bareisis told Holley that not only is using the technology still much more difficult than swiping a credit card, but in markets such as the U.S., “the infrastructure bill is huge and convincing retailers and merchants is difficult.”

Holley highlights a key insight from the Celent report:

“Part of the problem for NFC digital wallets is that while the physical POS world is dominated by cards and the mobile equivalent is to have payment credentials inside the phone and sent to the POS via NFC, the online world is dominated by cloud-based wallets such as PayPal. That makes it difficult to bridge the online-offline convergence of customers who use their mobiles while shopping to read product reviews, compare prices and order online, or pick up an item from a local store, according to Celent.”

Target goes all-in with its price match strategy

Target announced this week that it would bring its holiday strategy against Amazon to the overall retail battle — the big-box retailer will now price match online retailers year-round. According to the press release, in addition to Amazon, Target will price match its own online site, Walmart.com, Bestbuy.com and Toysrus.com.

Best Buy implemented the same strategy against Amazon during the holiday season. There’s no news yet on whether Best Buy’s policy also will be continued year-round, but on a visit to Best Buy January 5, the retailer price matched a Bluetooth wireless speaker for me, using a product search of Amazon from my iPhone. Some are calling this tactic an all-in bet that can’t be won, but in the short-term anyway, consumers sure are winning.

App aims to make products the new point of sale

Bridging the gap between print advertising and online/mobile retail is something of a holy grail in the commerce space — being able to buy a product straight from a traditional print ad, for instance. PayPal recently experimented with such an endeavor, partnering with The West Australian daily newspaper to incorporate QR codes into print ads, allowing readers to purchase items on the spot by scanning the code. But what if you could skip the added complexity layer of a QR code? That’s what German startup Shopgate is aiming to offer. The app, profiled by Will M at SocialTimes this week, allows consumers to simply scan the product in the ad and, according to the product website, buy it in two clicks. Will M describes how it works:

“Shopgate enables consumers [to] take pictures of print ads and then purchase products within them using their phone. Product tagging works without QR codes — similar to how Facebook identifies your friends in pictures and suggests them for tags. People touch the product tags, put the items into shopping carts and then purchase products via a mobile storefront.”

Will M reports that the company’s vision is to provide “everywhere commerce,” and says “Shopgate executives say ‘Products as POS’ (Point of Sale) is the future of mobile commerce.” According to his report, the app works with product companies and retailers alike, and so far has 800 merchant partners. In addition to product tagging from print ads, the app also works with QR codes and UPC codes.

The German company plans to expand to the U.S. market early this year. You can watch a demo of the app in the following video.

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