Apple To Offer Gaming Subscriptions For $4.99/Month

https://www.pymnts.com/apple/2019/apple-to-offer-gaming-subscriptions/

The Apple watch site, 9to5Mac. has reported that the tech giant is set to charge $4.99 per month for its Apple Arcade service, which is expected to launch this fall.

Apple announced Apple Arcade in March at a celebrity-filled event that included Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg. The event was focused on showing off its TV+ platform. The aim is to drive more recurring revenue from online services.

The outlet has already received early access to the program, which was offered to the tech giant’s employees for a one-month free trial, followed by just 49 cents per month until the end of early access.

The pricing information regarding Apple Arcade was discovered in one of the APIs used by the App Store app, revealing that the program will cost users $4.99 per month, including a one-month free trial. 9to5Mac points out that since there has not been a formal announcement, the pricing could change.

Apple’s Arcade will reportedly include LEGO, Annapurna Interactive, Cartoon Network, Sega and exclusive titles. While some Wall Street watchers think the company can become a serious contender in the gaming market, it has to spend considerably to get there. In fact, sources have said that Apple is spending several million dollars on each of the more than 100 games it will feature in Arcade.

And the company isn’t the only tech giant entering this market. Earlier this month it was revealed that Google is in the testing stage for a monthly subscription that would give Android users something similar. The service, called Play Pass, would offer users access to premium apps and games for a monthly fee of $4.99. The apps would be free of ads and in-app purchases.

In contrast with Apple Arcade, Play Pass will also offer non-entertainment software free of ads and in-app purchases. It’s not known if Google’s service will be available on Android TV.

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Latest Insights: 

The Which Apps Do They Want Study analyzes survey data collected from 1,045 American consumers to learn how they use merchant apps to enhance in-store shopping experiences, and their interest in downloading more in the future. Our research covered consumers’ usage of in-app features like loyalty and rewards offerings and in-store navigation, helping to assess how merchants can design apps to distinguish themselves from competitors.

https://www.pymnts.com/apple/2019/apple-to-offer-gaming-subscriptions/

Visa Pushes Back On India’s No-Fee Debit Plan

https://www.pymnts.com/visa/2019/visa-pushes-back-against-india-no-fee-debit-plan/

Visa is unhappy with India’s plan to require banks and card payment networks to offer no-fee debit card transactions.

Last month, India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that businesses with annual turnover of 500 million rupees will not have to pay a merchant discount rate on debit card and other digital modes of transactions, excluding credit cards. The plan aims to spark adoption of electronic payments in the country, according to Reuters.

For debit cards, the fees are, on average, between 0.40 percent and 0.80 percent of the transaction amount. As of May there were 824.9 million debit cards in circulation in India, compared with 48.9 million credit cards.

“I find the logic a bit fallacious because the cost is not free … I am a firm believer in low economics, but no economics student can believe in no economics,” T.R. Ramachandran, Visa’s India and South Asia head, said earlier this week at an industry conference, according to Reuters.

Ramachandran added that if the government, the merchant and the consumer are all saving money through the use of electronic payments, then the stakeholders need to be fairly compensated.

While Sitharaman had said that the Reserve Bank of India and other banks would take on any costs, industry officials say it is still unknown who will actually take responsibility. But banks fear that the no-fee debit card plan could impact their fee revenues as they continue to deal with bad loans of about $150 billion.

In other payments news in India, the National Payments Corp. of India just revealed that it is reviewing an audit report to ensure Facebook’s WhatsApp complies with local rules.

The review will determine if and when WhatsApp can enter the country’s crowded digital market, where it will compete with more than 80 rivals on the NPCI platform, including Google and Amazon. India’s digital payments market is expected to hit $1 trillion by 2023, according to a report by Credit Suisse Group AG.

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Latest Insights: 

The Which Apps Do They Want Study analyzes survey data collected from 1,045 American consumers to learn how they use merchant apps to enhance in-store shopping experiences, and their interest in downloading more in the future. Our research covered consumers’ usage of in-app features like loyalty and rewards offerings and in-store navigation, helping to assess how merchants can design apps to distinguish themselves from competitors.

https://www.pymnts.com/visa/2019/visa-pushes-back-against-india-no-fee-debit-plan/

App Developers Don’t Like Apple’s New Privacy Rules

https://www.pymnts.com/apple/2019/app-developers-argue-against-apples-new-privacy-rules/

A group of app developers has written to Apple CEO Tim Cook about privacy changes to the company’s iOS 13 operating system that they claim will negatively impact their businesses.

According to The Information, the developers also accused Apple of anti-competitive behavior regarding how apps access user location data.

Apple is aiming to stop an apps’ abuse of location-tracking features via iOS 13, which will now feature a new option during launch that gives users an “Allow Once” option so they can check out the app before giving the developer permission to continually access location data. There will continue to be existing options “Allow While Using App” and “Don’t Allow,” while the “Always” option will have to be manually enabled via iOS Settings.

The app developers argue that this change can confuse less-technical users, and they pointed out that Apple’s own built-in apps (like Find My) are not being subjected to the same rules, which raises anti-competitive concerns.

Their email also noted that iOS 13 would not allow developers to use PushKit beyond internet voice calls.

“We understand that there were certain developers, specifically messaging apps, that were using this as a backdoor to collect user data,” the email said. “While we agree loopholes like this should be closed, the current Apple plan to remove [access to the internet voice feature] will have unintended consequences: it will effectively shut down apps that have a valid need for real-time location.”

The email was signed by Tile CEO CJ Prober; Arity (Allstate) President Gary Hallgren; CEO of Life360, Chris Hullsan; CEO of dating app Happn, Didier Rappaport; CEO of Zenly (Snap), Antoine Martin; CEO of Zendrive, Jonathan Matus; and Chief Strategy Officer of social networking app Twenty, Jared Allgood.

In response to the report, Apple explained that changes to the operating system are “in service to the user” and to their privacy, adding that all apps it distributes from the App Store have to follow the same procedures.

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Latest Insights: 

The Which Apps Do They Want Study analyzes survey data collected from 1,045 American consumers to learn how they use merchant apps to enhance in-store shopping experiences, and their interest in downloading more in the future. Our research covered consumers’ usage of in-app features like loyalty and rewards offerings and in-store navigation, helping to assess how merchants can design apps to distinguish themselves from competitors.

https://www.pymnts.com/apple/2019/app-developers-argue-against-apples-new-privacy-rules/

BoA Looks To Create Multi-Currency Digital Wallet

https://www.pymnts.com/cryptocurrency/2019/bank-of-america-patent-details-multi-currency-digital-wallet/

To provide users with different levels of access to funds that are stored, Bank of America is reportedly aiming to patent a security system that is “partitioned” for crypto-wallets.

The North Carolina-based bank filed a “Multi-Tiered Digital Wallet Security” application in February 2018 with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Coindesk reported.

The office published the application last week and lists a senior tech manager at the bank, Manu Kurian, as the inventor. Through the application, a process of handling cryptocurrency with a wallet interface that is multi-tiered is described on a peer-to-peer network that is decentralized. With the procedure, users would be asked to enter one out of multiple passwords.

One password would provide access to one tier, and another would offer access to a separate tier. Coindesk described the proposal as something akin to a valet key that can’t open the trunk but can open a car door. It also notes that the proposal conceptually resembles specific multi-signature bitcoin wallet types that have been in existence for a long time.

According to the application’s background section per the outlet, a need is present for a better digital wallet infrastructure as private keys can be misplaced and third parties don’t allow users to have complete control when it comes to their currency. As it stands, Bank of America is said to have won 36 applications for blockchain patents with 31 pending.

In separate news at the end of last year, Bank of America was possibly looking into using blockchain technology for automated teller machines (ATMs). The company was said to have detailed a system to “accelerate transaction speed and/or facilitate other types of transactions in addition to ATM transactions like cash withdrawals and deposits” per a USPTO filing.

The bank also noted, according to a report at the time, that the technology might allow devices to “handle a relatively larger amount of transaction volume while reducing its physical cash transportation needs.”

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Latest Insights: 

The Which Apps Do They Want Study analyzes survey data collected from 1,045 American consumers to learn how they use merchant apps to enhance in-store shopping experiences, and their interest in downloading more in the future. Our research covered consumers’ usage of in-app features like loyalty and rewards offerings and in-store navigation, helping to assess how merchants can design apps to distinguish themselves from competitors.

https://www.pymnts.com/cryptocurrency/2019/bank-of-america-patent-details-multi-currency-digital-wallet/

How savings app Plinqit wants to help banks

https://bankinnovation.net/allposts/operations/sales-mark/plinqit-wants-to-help-banks/

While third-party savings apps like Digit, Qapital and Tip Yourself aim to help customers save money automatically, Plinqit is pitching its savings app as a tool that partner banks can use to drive more business.

Plinqit was developed by Ann Arbor-based startup HT Mobile Apps (HTMA), which confirmed on Monday that it added Bank Michigan to its group of partner institutions. Plinqit’s partner ecosystem currently includes West Community Credit Union and First Arkansas Bank and Trust. In a statement, Richard C. Northrup, III, president and CEO of Bank Michigan, said Plinqit will help improve customer engagement and acquisition.

Kathleen Craig, CEO of HTMA, told Bank Innovation that Plinqit helps banks grow their deposit bases via customer savings amounts transferred to the app; it’s also a means to suggest products to customers based on their spending habits. Plinqit, which launched two years ago, also rewards users with cashback rewards for meeting savings goals, as well as listening to and offering feedback on educational videos from partner banks.

“There are beautiful, elegant, awesome fintech apps; they’re great products, but once you’ve done your saving with them, it’s kind of a ‘then what’,” said Craig. “For us, it’s a relationship with your community institution, bank or credit union; they can take care of your other needs and other parts of your life.”

Plinqit user interface

To use Plinqit, customers connect their bank account (it doesn’t necessarily have to be one of its existing partners) and assign time frames to goals. Plinqit is free, and customers get cashback rewards if they meet their goals (typically 1%), and set a penalty to pay to the bank if they take it out early (customers also can set no penalty if they choose). Plinqit generates revenue through fees banks pay to use the platform and from fee amounts customers designate if they take funds out early.

According to Craig, through Plinqit, banks can offer incentives to customers who view educational content and videos — insights they can use to refine their marketing approaches. “We’re in a content overload — we have to find a better way [to connect with customers],” she added. Banks also can use the data from transactional activity to recommend relevant products to them, thereby keeping customers within their own ecosystems.

The app is seeing growth among bank employees. According to HTMA, after the launch of the Bank Michigan integration, 50% of its employee base created Plinqit accounts.

The emergence of Plinqit is part of a larger trend towards “rebundling,” or banks’ efforts to grow their digital personal finance feature sets to drive customer engagement and retention. Notable examples include RBC’s NOMI financial insights tool and Fifth Third Bank‘s Dobot tool (the result of an acquisition in 2018), which lets customers move their auto-saved dollars into a Fifth Third account.

For banks that otherwise would have difficulty developing these functions on their own, a Plinqit-type partnership helps them add customers and grow deposits. By losing transactional activity to third-party apps and driving traffic away from banks’ products banks stand to lose out on an opportunity, wrote Bob Meara, senior analyst at Celent, in a recent blog post about auto-save app Digit.

While Plinqit is a third-party app, its objective is to drive traffic back to participating banks’ products. “Banks may not be calculating the opportunity cost that results from conceding key components of customer value to fintechs,” wrote Meara.

According to Craig, Plinqit users have saved just under $500,000 in the two years since its initial launch; the average amount saved in a 12-month period is $1,100. HTMA, which declined to disclose how much funding it’s raised, is a venture capital-backed startup with funding from FIS, fintech accelerator SixThirty, Invest Detroit, Invest Michigan and Stout Capital.

https://bankinnovation.net/allposts/operations/sales-mark/plinqit-wants-to-help-banks/

7-Eleven launches mobile checkout in New York City

https://www.mobilepaymentstoday.com/news/7-eleven-launches-mobile-checkout-in-new-york-city/

7-Eleven Inc. announced the launch of mobile checkout in Manhattan, allowing customers in the Big Apple to skip the checkout line and pay for their convenience store purchases using the chain’s mobile app. 

The mobile checkout is integrated with the chain’s 7Rewards loyalty program, so customers can earn points and redeem coupons on any purchases made through the app. New York customers can get $5 discounts off of their first mobile checkout transaction. 

“More people are on the go and looking for faster, easier ways to shop than ever before,” Gurmeet Singh, executive vice president and chief digital information and marketing officer at 7-Eleven, said in a company release. “7-Eleven continues to redefine convenience with frictionless experiences like mobile checkout.”

Customers need to upgrade their existing 7-Eleven apps in the App Store or Google Play and make sure the new app has the mobile checkout functionality. After tapping Get Started, they need to scan the barcode on the particular product and they can pay with credit, debit, Apple Pay or Google Pay. 

A QR code will appear after the purchase, and needs to be scanned to confirm purchase is made. 

The company first piloted the mobile checkout technology with employees at a store support center and later launched a pilot program in late 2018 at several Dallas locations. 

Image courtesy of 7-Eleven.


Topics: Contactless / NFC, Loyalty Programs, Mobile Apps, Mobile Payments, POS, Retail

Companies: 7-Eleven


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https://www.mobilepaymentstoday.com/news/7-eleven-launches-mobile-checkout-in-new-york-city/

WattzOn’s SNAP Delivers AI-Enabled Data Extraction For Cleantech Sales Teams

https://finovate.com/wattzons-snap-delivers-ai-enabled-data-extraction-for-cleantech-sales-teams/

Utility bill data solution provider WattzOn has unveiled SNAP, a new product for energy and cleantech firms that leverages AI to capture data from utility bills. SNAP will enable sales teams to provide prospects with faster, customized quotes and pricing, as well as make it easier for them to onboard new customers.

WattzOn CEO Martha Amram said SNAP was part of her company’s effort to give sales professionals in the industry the digital tools they need. “Leading solar and energy companies are out in the field, meeting potential customers where they are at,” Amram said. “Mobile data capture solutions are critically important for converting leads into customers, and for instantly offering customized plans that meet customer needs and secure profitable operations.”

A streaming data service, SNAP works by leveraging a set of pre-trained, machine learning models to automatically extract utility bill information from PDF files and images displayed on supported devices. Extracted data is sent to customers via API in seconds, and can be readily integrated into CRM, ERP, and custom software solutions. New utilities can be added to SNAP’s library to ensure broad coverage across states. And while the solution is pre-set for residential utility bills, SNAP can be configured for both commercial and industrial utility bills, as well.

“Our years of market experience have shown that adding the option of data capture from a single utility bill in paper or PDF form increases consumer engagement and sales conversion rates,” Director of Product Management for WattzOn David Nelson said. “I’m delighted that our powerful machine learning system can be applied to this important use case, opening up new sales opportunities for our customers.”

WattzOn demonstrated its Personal Energy Management Platform at FinovateSpring 2012. The company currently offers two solutions for the energy and cleantech industry in addition to SNAP: LINK, which extracts data and bills from utility accounts directly, and GLYNT, WattzOn’s automated, instant data extraction system for utility bills and other documents.

Headquartered in Mountain View, California, WattzOn was founded in 2008.

https://finovate.com/wattzons-snap-delivers-ai-enabled-data-extraction-for-cleantech-sales-teams/

Attorneys General To Join For Big Tech Investigation

https://www.pymnts.com/antitrust/2019/attorneys-general-join-big-tech-investigation/

With another layer of scrutiny brought to an industry that is within the federal spotlight, a collection of state attorneys general is getting ready to begin a joint antitrust investigation into big tech.

It is forecasted that the effort will be formally started as soon as September and explore whether a few platforms are tapping into their marketplace abilities to hinder competition, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing unnamed sources.

The multistate group’s composition is a work in progress. But the report noted that a bipartisan probe could provide the investigation with broader leverage and aid in insulating GOP officials from questions about whether political concerns are motivating their actions (like how digital platforms handle conservative speech).

A spokesperson for North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said per the report that he is “participating in bipartisan conversations about this issue.” And Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood said in a statement per that outlet that he is still “concerned with the aggregation of data in the hands of a few.” He added he is “always watchful of any monopoly.”

In addition, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton had put out a statement after a meeting last month that he, along with other attorneys general, discussed “the real concerns consumers across the country have with big tech companies stifling competition on the internet.”

The news comes after reports surfaced in July that the Justice Department (DOJ) will open a new, separate investigation into the potential antitrust activities of tech companies. (That was said to compound troubles for companies like Apple, Google and Facebook.)

The separate probe will look into whether these big-name companies are tapping into their influence and power to stifle competition. The main avenues to be examined are said to be shopping services, social media practices and internet search.

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Latest Insights: 

The Which Apps Do They Want Study analyzes survey data collected from 1,045 American consumers to learn how they use merchant apps to enhance in-store shopping experiences, and their interest in downloading more in the future. Our research covered consumers’ usage of in-app features like loyalty and rewards offerings and in-store navigation, helping to assess how merchants can design apps to distinguish themselves from competitors.

https://www.pymnts.com/antitrust/2019/attorneys-general-join-big-tech-investigation/

Bank Of America Patent Details Wallet Security System

https://www.pymnts.com/cryptocurrency/2019/bank-of-america-patent-details-wallet-security-system/

To provide users with different levels of access to funds that are stored, Bank of America is reportedly aiming to patent a security system that is “partitioned” for crypto-wallets.

The North Carolina-based bank filed a “Multi-Tiered Digital Wallet Security” application in February 2018 with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Coindesk reported.

The office published the application last week and lists a senior tech manager at the bank, Manu Kurian, as the inventor. Through the application, a process of handling cryptocurrency with a wallet interface that is multi-tiered is described on a peer-to-peer network that is decentralized. With the procedure, users would be asked to enter one out of multiple passwords.

One password would provide access to one tier, and another would offer access to a separate tier. Coindesk described the proposal as something akin to a valet key that can’t open the trunk but can open a car door. It also notes that the proposal conceptually resembles specific multi-signature bitcoin wallet types that have been in existence for a long time.

According to the application’s background section per the outlet, a need is present for a better digital wallet infrastructure as private keys can be misplaced and third parties don’t allow users to have complete control when it comes to their currency. As it stands, Bank of America is said to have won 36 applications for blockchain patents with 31 pending.

In separate news at the end of last year, Bank of America was possibly looking into using blockchain technology for automated teller machines (ATMs). The company was said to have detailed a system to “accelerate transaction speed and/or facilitate other types of transactions in addition to ATM transactions like cash withdrawals and deposits” per a USPTO filing.

The bank also noted, according to a report at the time, that the technology might allow devices to “handle a relatively larger amount of transaction volume while reducing its physical cash transportation needs.”

——————————–

Latest Insights: 

The Which Apps Do They Want Study analyzes survey data collected from 1,045 American consumers to learn how they use merchant apps to enhance in-store shopping experiences, and their interest in downloading more in the future. Our research covered consumers’ usage of in-app features like loyalty and rewards offerings and in-store navigation, helping to assess how merchants can design apps to distinguish themselves from competitors.

https://www.pymnts.com/cryptocurrency/2019/bank-of-america-patent-details-wallet-security-system/

Former Apple Siri Leader Signs On With Microsoft

https://www.pymnts.com/personnel/2019/former-apple-siri-leader-signs-on-with-microsoft/

Former Apple Siri leader Bill Stasior was named Microsoft corporate vice president of technology and will collaborate with Microsoft CTO Kevin Scott, The Information reported on Friday (Aug. 19). 

In his new role, Stasior will be tasked with company-wide technology strategies as Microsoft works to reshape the role of its personal digital assistant Cortana.

Microsoft is removing Cortana as part of an integrated part of Windows 10 and will make it into a separate app. The repositioning of Cortana has been a goal of Microsoft for more than a year, hoping to move beyond standalone assistants like Alexa to more of an assistance aide. The company said Cortana is evolving to handle more complex queries, according to the report.

Stasior will “work to help align technology strategies across the company,” Microsoft said in a statement. Prior to his seven-year stint at Apple, Stasior led Amazon’s “A9” search unit and was a member of “the S-team” responsible for closely advising Jeff Bezos.

Stasior left Apple in May 2019 and became an executive advisor to Avellino Lab, which specializes in genetic diagnostics and data, and is still working for that company as an executive advisor.

Microsoft started re-positioning Cortana in 2018 after it fell behind Google Home Assistant and Amazon Alexa. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in January that the hardware giant no longer views Cortana as a direct competitor to Alexa or Google Assistant.

“Cortana needs to be that skill for anybody who’s a Microsoft 365 subscriber,” he said, in reference to Microsoft’s recent push for consumer subscriptions. “You should be able to use it on Google Assistant, you should be able to use it on Alexa, just like how you use our apps on Android and iOS, so that’s at least how we want to think about where it’ll go.”

Cortana used to be in Microsoft’s AI (artificial intelligence) research division, but the company moved the assistant into its Experiences and Devices team, signaling the change in goals for Cortana.

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Latest Insights: 

The Which Apps Do They Want Study analyzes survey data collected from 1,045 American consumers to learn how they use merchant apps to enhance in-store shopping experiences, and their interest in downloading more in the future. Our research covered consumers’ usage of in-app features like loyalty and rewards offerings and in-store navigation, helping to assess how merchants can design apps to distinguish themselves from competitors.

https://www.pymnts.com/personnel/2019/former-apple-siri-leader-signs-on-with-microsoft/

Better.com raises $160m to expand partnerships, launch insurance products

https://bankinnovation.net/allposts/operations/cap-fund/better-com-raises-160m-to-expand-partnerships-launch-insurance-products/

Better.com, a New York-based mortgage lending startup, raised $160 million in a Series C funding round on Monday to develop new products, hire new employees and launch new partnerships. Activant Capital, Ping An Global Voyager Fund, Ally FinancialCitigroup, AGNC, Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan and American Express Ventures joined existing shareholders Goldman Sachs, Pine Brook and Kleiner Perkins in the round.

Better.com, which has raised $254 million to date, is putting new funding towards disability insurance products and growing its partnerships with banks. It’s also hiring engineers and data scientists to develop the new products. 

“It’s a $34 trillion residential real estate marketplace, and the entire industry functions as if the internet was never invented,” said Vishal Garg, CEO and founder of Better.com. “The average American doesn’t think about mortgages every day, all day long. They need something like Charles Schwab or Fidelity for mortgages. That’s what we’re building.”

Better.com launched in 2016, and it aims to remove friction from the mortgage application process by getting information directly from customers’ banks, insurance companies and homeowners associations when underwriting loans. Better.com can provide estimates and pre-approval within minutes to borrowers. The company recently launched homeowners insurance, title insurance and a realtor matching platform, and it hopes to launch its life and disability insurance by the first quarter of 2020.

In addition to the data scientists and engineers it plans to hire, Better.com is hiring loan consultants and customer service personnel. In total, the company aims to hire 400 additional people to its current staff of 700 by year’s end, and it hopes to have 2,000 employees by the end of next year.

By digitizing the entire mortgage application process and cutting out loan officer fees, Better.com said it’s able to cut down on costs and pass those savings on to customers in the form of lower rates. The company said it’s processing about $375 million in loans each month. Its services are currently available in 40 states, but Better.com is applying for licenses in the remaining 10.

See also: Citizens Bank sees digital mortgage tools as a way to expand relationships

In addition to its core products, Better.com partners with large tech companies like Airbnb to allow homeowners to refinance using rental income. The company also partners with banks, including Ally Financial, which use its platform to support mortgage application processes. Garg said the company plans to partner with “many more banks” in the next two years, but he wouldn’t say which ones.

Better.com is part of an ecosystem of digital lenders aiming to improve the mortgage underwriting process, including SoFi, Blend and LendingHome. Garg said the funding will help Better.com differentiate through more customer service reps, noting that the money instills confidence in consumers who might be wary of online lenders.

“We’re better capitalized than the bulk of mortgage brokers in this country,” said Garg. “When consumers think about someone they can trust, part of it is will these people be around.”

Mike Peretz, housing finance practice lead at Capco, said expanding into title and homeowners insurance are natural for a company like Better.com. Winning market share from incumbents and other digital challengers, however, will be a challenge, he added. 

“It isn’t about capital necessarily; it isn’t about having the smartest leadership,” Peretz said. “Businesses that become more efficient will be the winners.”

https://bankinnovation.net/allposts/operations/cap-fund/better-com-raises-160m-to-expand-partnerships-launch-insurance-products/

Restaurant Industry Sales Projected To Reach $863B In 2019

https://www.pymnts.com/news/retail/2019/restaurant-sales-projected-to-hit-863-billion/

As more consumers spend a larger part of their budgets on dining, U.S. Census Bureau data noted that sales at establishments for eating and drinking are up over 4 percent this year. And overall industry sales are forecast to hit a high of $863 billion this year, per projections from The National Restaurant Association, CNBC reported.

Morningstar Senior Restaurant Analyst R.J. Hottovy said, according to the report, “Generally speaking, the consumer – particularly the middle to upper-middle-income consumer – is healthy. This group has benefited from stock market gains, stable asset markets [and] wage growth that is pretty healthy.”

The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for restaurants has been 6 percent since 1970, but the pace slowed in the 10 years after the Great Recession to 4 percent. Even so, $0.25 of each dollar went to restaurants in 1955 compared to over half today. Although restaurant operators do face several challenges like increasing wage costs and a tight labor pool, the consumer spending outlook is strong.

At the same time, restaurant operators are working to lessen the burden of friction for diners. Almost every big player in the space is upgrading stores, adding delivery or growing its technology platform. “Demographics of younger restaurant patrons are dramatically different than baby boomers. Their expectation of restaurant experience basically incorporates some aspect of technology,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research for the association, per the report.

Consumer spending strength was reflected in many restaurants’ recent earnings reports. As its digital sales continue to rise and a new rewards program takes hold, for instance, Chipotle Mexican Grill came out ahead of expectations from analysts for second-quarter earnings.

The chain’s digital sales grew 99.1 percent and accounted for 18.2 percent of sales in the second quarter, while digital sales grew 100.7 percent to represent 15.7 percent of sales in the first quarter. In a July call with analysts, CEO Brian Niccol said delivery remains a “key driver” of the firm’s digital growth, given enhanced app and capabilities for the website with expanded reach.

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Latest Insights: 

The Which Apps Do They Want Study analyzes survey data collected from 1,045 American consumers to learn how they use merchant apps to enhance in-store shopping experiences, and their interest in downloading more in the future. Our research covered consumers’ usage of in-app features like loyalty and rewards offerings and in-store navigation, helping to assess how merchants can design apps to distinguish themselves from competitors.

https://www.pymnts.com/news/retail/2019/restaurant-sales-projected-to-hit-863-billion/

Madoff Whistleblower Has GE On The Defense

https://www.pymnts.com/news/security-and-risk/2019/madoff-whistleblower-general-electric-on-the-defense/

Boston-based General Electric (GE) is defending itself against accounting fraud alleged by the same whistleblower who called out Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, Reuters reported on Monday (Aug. 19).

Fraud investigators are accusing GE of failing to set aside funds to offset $29 billion in potential insurance losses and also charge that the company did not account for profits from its subsidiary Baker Hughes, the article said.

The 175-page fraud research report also alleged that GE misrepresented its accounting, which re-ignited concerns about the company’s economic standing. GE has endured numerous financial losses and has had to take on $40 billion in charges and write-offs.

Financial investigators Harry Markopolos and John McPherson published the report on Thursday (Aug. 15). The report said GE should set aside $29 billion for insurance reserves. Markopolos is known for sounding alarms about Madoff.

GE’s reported operating margins for the past three years are a negative 6 percent, lower than the historical average. Reported GE operating margins reached 16.1 percent in 2001, the report says.

Steve Winoker, GE’s investor relations chief, said in an email to Reuters that the company’s long-term care payouts would “play out over decades” and that GE uses “rigorous testing,” “sound actuarial analysis” and follows “regulatory and accounting” rules to estimate future payouts.

Winoker further stated that accounting rules require the company to include the subsidiary’s results in its earnings reports because it is the majority shareholder.

The allegations stem from Markopolos’ investigation into GE’s financials for an unnamed hedge fund client, which involved more than a year of probing.

“My team has spent the last seven months analyzing GE’s accounting, and we believe the $38 billion fraud we’ve come across is merely the tip of the iceberg,” Markopolos said in the report.

He also noted that the alleged fraud scheme “is going to make this company probably file for bankruptcy. WorldCom and Enron lasted about four months … we’ll see how GE goes.”

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Latest Insights: 

The Which Apps Do They Want Study analyzes survey data collected from 1,045 American consumers to learn how they use merchant apps to enhance in-store shopping experiences, and their interest in downloading more in the future. Our research covered consumers’ usage of in-app features like loyalty and rewards offerings and in-store navigation, helping to assess how merchants can design apps to distinguish themselves from competitors.

https://www.pymnts.com/news/security-and-risk/2019/madoff-whistleblower-general-electric-on-the-defense/

Taking The (Strong) Pulse Of The US Consumer

https://www.pymnts.com/economy/2019/taking-the-strong-pulse-of-the-us-consumer/

Data paint a portrait — rarely a photo in stark relief, usually more along the lines of an impressionist painting. Connect the dots a bit, among far-flung data points, and the impression that emerges is … the consumer is holding up, and actually doing just fine.

That assessment comes amid headlines that flash, perhaps, other signals, and which come from macroeconomic corners: The yield curve inverted, then flattened. Interest rates are going negative in at least some regions in Europe. And of course, the global economy is slowing … and you might have heard that a trade war between the United States and China remains as a headwind to growth.

And yet, two of the data points that most immediately impact consumers, at least domestically, are benign. Inflation remains low, and so does unemployment.

The latest retail sales figures come from July, of course, and come before the latest back and forth about tariffs, but show that sales were up 70 basis points, above the 30 basis points that economists had forecast, and ex volatile auto and gas prices were up 90 basis points.

Dig a little deeper, and it turns out that internet retailers were up 2.8 percent in July, a jumped helped in no small part by Amazon Prime Day.

Earnings season, which for most companies provide snapshots of the three months that ended in July, show the secular shift at work for retailers, where clicks are replacing bricks, in a way. Walmart’s results showed that eCommerce sales in the U.S. gained 37 percent, helping the company report overall sales gain 1.8 percent. Sam’s Club eCommerce sales were up 35 percent.

Macy’s has posted double-digit eCommerce sales growth (though an exact number was not disclosed). The firm logged $1 billion in mobile sales in 2018, and the growth rate could top 50 percent this year.

And here lies the tale of two different channels — online and offline. There’s the tap of fingers on screens versus the absence of the pitter patter of feet in some stores, at least among traditional (read: not big box) retailers. For even though Macy’s pointed toward growth in digital activity, total sales were down 50 basis points. Similarly, JCPenney has pointed to improvement in eCommerce but overall sales were down 9 percent year on year.

The department store model has its headwinds in place, then, and across retailing in general store closures have topped 7,600. At least some estimates peg store closings to tip toward 12,000 by the end of the year.

“From what we see, the consumer is still in good shape,” Walmart Chief Financial Officer Brett Biggs said in an interview with CNBC late last week. “Low gas prices, strong employment, it’s really positive overall.”

The rising tide does not lift all boats equally. The sanguine outlook from Walmart is not shared, say, by at least some luxury goods retailers. Tapestry owns brands like Kate Spade and management has termed the current environment challenging.

For Walmart and Amazon, where staples are among the offerings, weathering a recession, without the (real) anchor of physical footprint that does not see, well, real footprints (OK, traffic) can make all the difference when a recession comes. But that recession may be farther off than conventional wisdom holds, and in the meantime, the firms that have invested heavily in eCommerce will pull further ahead of the pack.

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Latest Insights: 

The Which Apps Do They Want Study analyzes survey data collected from 1,045 American consumers to learn how they use merchant apps to enhance in-store shopping experiences, and their interest in downloading more in the future. Our research covered consumers’ usage of in-app features like loyalty and rewards offerings and in-store navigation, helping to assess how merchants can design apps to distinguish themselves from competitors.

https://www.pymnts.com/economy/2019/taking-the-strong-pulse-of-the-us-consumer/

Alterna Bank Partners with nCino

https://finovate.com/alterna-bank-partners-with-ncino/

A new partnership between Alterna Bank and nCino will enable small businesses in Canada to take advantage of a new digital banking solution that features a seamless, anytime, anywhere, account opening experience, as well as automated decisioning, digital document management, and portfolio management.

The agreement marks nCino’s first Canadian credit union customer. nCino CEO Pierre Naudé called Alterna – which consists of Alterna Savings and its subsidiary Alterna Bank – “one of the most innovative financial institutions in Canada.” With a combined $8 billion in assets under management, Alterna was also the first bank in Canada to offer its customers an end-to-end digital mortgage experience.

In addition to its plan to enhance its onboarding processes, Alterna is also working on other initiatives to further improve the customer journey. These efforts include new loan referral and merchant services, and a partnership with Canada’s largest acquirer, Global Payments. The firm said that it plans to deploy its new nCino-powered, digital Small Business Banking Solution by the end of this year.

“At Alterna Bank, we’re dedicated to finding the best solutions for our valued small business customers,” Alterna President and CEO Rob Paterson said. “We know that small business owners are extremely busy and we took on the challenge to create a faster and easier banking experience for them.”

Winner of RateHub’s Best Personal Banking, Best eChequing, Best TFSA eSavings, and Best RRSP eSavings account awards, and named Canada’s Best Bank for Millennials, Alterna Bank was founded in 2000 as a subsidiary of 110-year old Alterna Savings. Alterna Savings was the first credit union established in Canada outside of Quebec, and has been awarded a Canadian Top Employer award for three consecutive times.

nCino’s partnership with Alterna Bank is the latest in a string of big fintech headlines for the Wilmington, North Carolina-based fintech. Last month, nCino announced that Columbia Bank, a New Jersey-based bank with $7 billion in assets, had gone live with nCino’s Bank Operating System. Also in July, nCino announced its acquisition of analytics and insights specialist Visible Equity for an undisclosed sum. Headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, Visible Equity has more than 850 bank and credit union customers who use the firm’s technology to better manage risk and improve credit decisioning.

Other partnerships for nCino this year include deals with Westfield Bank and South State Bank in June, with S&T Bancorp in May, and with Navy Federal Credit Union in April. Navy FCU is the largest credit union in the world, with more than eight million members and 329 branches.

Founded in 2012, nCino has raised more than $133 million in funding, and counts Insight Partners and Salesforce Ventures among its investors. More than 1,100 financial institutions around the world are partnered with nCino, including 12 of the top 25 FIs in North America. nCino demonstrated its Bank Operating System at FinovateEurope 2017.

https://finovate.com/alterna-bank-partners-with-ncino/

Disney+ Streaming Service To Launch In November

https://www.pymnts.com/subscription-commerce/2019/disney-streaming-service-to-launch-in-november/

Disney’s anticipated launch of Disney+ will roll out on Nov. 12 on most major streaming platforms, CNBC reported on Monday (Aug. 19).

People can subscribe to Disney+ via numerous devices and platforms, including Apple TV and iOS, Android and Sony PlayStation 4. Amazon’s Fire TV isn’t on the list yet, but Disney said it plans to add more distributors before the initial launch.

The move by Disney is an effort to tackle rivals with original content such as Netflix, Apple and Amazon. Disney+ is planning to offer streaming content from brands like Marvel, Star Wars and Pixar. “Re-imagined” content from popular titles, such as “Home Alone,” will also be featured.

The U.S. cost for the service is $6.99 per month or $69.99 per year. Disney+ will also be available in Canada and the Netherlands on the same day, with Australia and New Zealand getting the service a week later, the article said.

Disney CEO Bob Iger announced earlier this month that U.S. users could subscribe to Disney+, ESPN+ and an ad-supported Hulu subscription for $15 per month. The bundle will launch alongside Disney+ on Nov. 12.

The streaming market is an increasingly competitive space, as Disney+ strives to compete with other services such as Netflix, AT&T’s WarnerMedia and Apple TV. Offering a combination of original content and viewer favorites is just one of the ways services are attempting to create competitive differentiation. The latest Subscription Commerce Conversion Index goes a step further, exploring how consumers use streaming services and what keeps them from canceling subscriptions.

Streaming is by far the most popular type of subscription, with 70 percent of consumers subscribed to at least one streaming service. Online gaming services were the second-most common at 30.6 percent, followed by digital media services at 27.7 percent. Only 16.7 percent did not subscribe to any service.

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Latest Insights: 

The Which Apps Do They Want Study analyzes survey data collected from 1,045 American consumers to learn how they use merchant apps to enhance in-store shopping experiences, and their interest in downloading more in the future. Our research covered consumers’ usage of in-app features like loyalty and rewards offerings and in-store navigation, helping to assess how merchants can design apps to distinguish themselves from competitors.

https://www.pymnts.com/subscription-commerce/2019/disney-streaming-service-to-launch-in-november/

Lawsuits Likely In Aussie Bank Probes As Regulator Doubles Down

https://www.pymnts.com/bank-regulation/2019/lawsuits-likely-in-aussie-bank-probes-as-regulator-doubles-down/

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) is just weeks away from filing lawsuits against the country’s biggest banks, as the regulator increases its active investigations, Reuters reported on Monday (Aug. 19).

The agency said in a recently published report that it was going to add more analysts, investigators and lawyers to ensure ASIC has the ability to probe “and where necessary litigate against, market, corporate and financial sector misconduct,” the report said.

Regulators in Australia are being tasked with auditing big financial institutions following an investigation that discovered deceptive tactics like trying to upsell low-income people and charging fees without giving anything in return.

The number of enforcement investigations being conducted into what the agency calls “the big six” grew by a fifth in a little more than a year, according to the report. ASIC Deputy Chair Daniel Crennan said the latest proceedings would be issued by year-end. He added the regulator had “a very large number of investigations on foot and there will be cases being issued in coming weeks, which are the result of those investigations,” the report said.

The big six refers to Australia’s four largest retail lenders and two key financial firms: Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Westpac Banking Corp, National Australia Bank, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, investment bank Macquarie Group and financial planner AMP, according to the report.

Former ASIC Chairman Greg Medcraft warned earlier this month of a potential Enron-style corporate collapse due to the failings of the nation’s auditing industry.

Big banks defended their use of auditors as consultants, which led to allegations of conflicts of interest. The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services is being pressed by some to investigate those claims and examine the state of the auditing industry overall. Declining audit quality runs the risk of high-profile corporate collapses described as the “gatekeepers” that “facilitate trust,” Medcraft said.

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Latest Insights: 

The Which Apps Do They Want Study analyzes survey data collected from 1,045 American consumers to learn how they use merchant apps to enhance in-store shopping experiences, and their interest in downloading more in the future. Our research covered consumers’ usage of in-app features like loyalty and rewards offerings and in-store navigation, helping to assess how merchants can design apps to distinguish themselves from competitors.

https://www.pymnts.com/bank-regulation/2019/lawsuits-likely-in-aussie-bank-probes-as-regulator-doubles-down/

Trump Said Tim Cook ‘Made A Good Case’ About Impact Of Tariffs

https://www.pymnts.com/apple/2019/trump-apple-tim-cook-china-tariffs/

President Trump said on Monday (Aug. 19) that he spoke with Apple CEO Tim Cook over how U.S. tariffs on China will affect the company, and also how they might help Samsung, a competitor from South Korea, according to a report by Reuters.

Trump, speaking to reporters at a New Jersey airport, said that Cook “made a good case” about how the tariffs could adversely affect Apple, especially since Samsung won’t face the same restrictions. The U.S. and Samsung made their own trade agreement last September.

The tariffs are expected to be implemented in two phases, the first on Sept. 1 and the second on Dec. 15. They will affect $300 billion of Chinese products.

“I thought he made a very compelling argument, so I’m thinking about it,” Trump said about his conversation with Cook.

The comments help to boost U.S. stock futures, and Trump tweeted earlier that talks were “doing very well with China.”

Some of Apple’s products, like AirPods, the Apple Watch and the HomePod, will face the first round of tariffs. The second round will affect laptops and iPhones.

The news comes at a critical time for Apple, who could announce the newest iteration of the iPhone as early as next month.

Apple released its newest iOS 13 beta to developers on Aug. 15, which included an asset called “HoldForRelease” that showed a home screen of an iPhone with the date set to Sept. 10 – around the time the tech giant usually holds its fall press event.

The iPhone 11 isn’t expected to be all that different from previous models. In fact, Barclays semiconductor analysts predicted in May that Apple’s 2019 iPhones will offer “relatively few design changes,” with JPMorgan Chase analysts agreeing that major updates would happen in 2020.

“Our expectations include all three Sep-2020 iPhones (5.4″/6.1″/6.7″ screen sizes) will adopt OLED displays and 5G baseband modems (with support for mmWave frequencies), and at least two of the three models adopting world-facing 3D Sensing (Time of Flight) driving industry-leading AR/VR capabilities, which can be leveraged by custom-built applications (including games),” wrote analyst Samik Chatterjee.

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Latest Insights: 

The Which Apps Do They Want Study analyzes survey data collected from 1,045 American consumers to learn how they use merchant apps to enhance in-store shopping experiences, and their interest in downloading more in the future. Our research covered consumers’ usage of in-app features like loyalty and rewards offerings and in-store navigation, helping to assess how merchants can design apps to distinguish themselves from competitors.

https://www.pymnts.com/apple/2019/trump-apple-tim-cook-china-tariffs/

Crypto.Com Adds Social App For Direct Crypto Payments

https://www.pymnts.com/cryptocurrency/2019/crypto-com-adds-social-app-for-direct-crypto-payments/

Crypto.com has launched “Pay Your Friends,” which will allow for no-fee, direct crypto payments and offers a $50 equivalent in rewards for getting friends to use the Crypto.com Chain (CRO), according to reports.

“What we want to achieve with ‘Pay Your Friends’ is to give our users a reason to bring all their friends into cryptocurrency. The user experience is instantaneous and free — the more users get a chance to experience it, the closer we get to global adoption,” the company said in a blog post

Crypto.com wants to make its digital assets more popular, and its pushing innovation with the new direct in-app payment, which is an addition to its debit card business. The move will put the company in direct competition with other social payment platforms, like Venmo, Revolut, Circle and Square.

CRO was trading in the area of $0.045 with its volumes up a little, but still down after a latest round of sell-offs. The coin that’s associated with Crypto.com, MCO, was trading around $3.44, which was near its lows. 

However, the new social platform has the potential to help demand for CRO, because rewards are directly tied to how much is staked inside the system.

To utilize Crypto.com, the company has a verification process that involves a picture ID and a selfie, so anonymous payments are not possible. It’s also easy to use for newcomers, the company said, as it allows for users to buy MCO and CRO through the use of a debit card. The company’s digital wallet supports seven currencies and 44 digital assets, it said. 

In May, Crypto.com launched two key products to their finance product line: Crypto Credit and Crypto Earn. 

Crypto Earn allows users to earn up to 8 percent p.a. interest, beginning with BTC, PAX, and TUSD, while Crypto Credit gives users an instant loan by depositing crypto (initially bitcoin) as collateral. In fact, there is no fixed repayment schedule, monthly fees, late fees or payment deadlines.

“Crypto Earn offers the most attractive interest rates in the market today. With the MCO Visa Card and Crypto Credit, we are uniquely positioned to do it while maintaining sustainable unit economics. MCO Visa Card, Crypto Earn, and Crypto Credit together form a powerful product suite that nobody else in the industry has today. We’ve never been more excited about the potential of our platform and look forward to continue scaling it globally later this year,” said Kris Marszalek, co-founder and CEO of Crypto.com, in a press release at the time.

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Latest Insights: 

The Which Apps Do They Want Study analyzes survey data collected from 1,045 American consumers to learn how they use merchant apps to enhance in-store shopping experiences, and their interest in downloading more in the future. Our research covered consumers’ usage of in-app features like loyalty and rewards offerings and in-store navigation, helping to assess how merchants can design apps to distinguish themselves from competitors.

https://www.pymnts.com/cryptocurrency/2019/crypto-com-adds-social-app-for-direct-crypto-payments/

Zillow Brings Fast Cash Home Selling Platform To South Florida

https://www.pymnts.com/real-estate/2019/zillow-brings-fast-cash-home-selling-platform-to-south-florida/

Home sellers in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and other parts of South Florida now have the option of getting a cash offer from Zillow to buy their house, the company said in a press release.

The new service, called Zillow Offers, helps sellers close faster by eliminating repairs, showings and varying timelines. Sellers can pick a closing date and move 5 to 90 days after accepting Zillow’s offer. Zillow then gets the house ready to sell and puts it on the market.

“We’re on a mission to transform real estate by creating a seamless experience through Zillow Offers — no more open houses or worrying about when your home will sell,” Zillow Brand President Jeremy Wacksman said in the release. “Since we launched Zillow Offers a year ago, the response has been incredible, and we’re excited to bring Zillow Offers to homeowners in South Florida’s tri-county region who are looking for a stress-free way to sell their homes.”

The company said more than 170,000 homeowners have requested an offer from Zillow since April 2018 when the service started.

The South Florida region is the sixteenth location for Zillow Offers and it is planning to expand the program to include more properties in more locations. Home sellers can check eligibility to participate by typing their address into Zillow.com

Upcoming locations include Austin, Texas; Cincinnati, Ohio; Los Angeles, Oklahoma City, and more. The company’s plan is to set up Zillow Offers in 26 markets by mid-2020.

“I’m excited to welcome Zillow and their innovative Zillow Offers program to South Florida today,” said Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis. “I’m proud that innovative, consumer-oriented companies like Zillow continue to come to the area, and help our economy thrive.”

Zillow research shows that when it comes to the stress of selling a home, decluttering and getting it ready for showings comes in as top complaints. When people are also faced with having to sell and buy at the same time — as are 61 percent of sellers — it’s even more challenging.

The company also announced in April that it was going to offer home loans through a new division that lets mortgage seekers get funding right from the company.

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Latest Insights: 

The Which Apps Do They Want Study analyzes survey data collected from 1,045 American consumers to learn how they use merchant apps to enhance in-store shopping experiences, and their interest in downloading more in the future. Our research covered consumers’ usage of in-app features like loyalty and rewards offerings and in-store navigation, helping to assess how merchants can design apps to distinguish themselves from competitors.

https://www.pymnts.com/real-estate/2019/zillow-brings-fast-cash-home-selling-platform-to-south-florida/