Zelle Reports Record High Payment Value, Volume in Q1

Zelle, the P2P payments service run by Early Warning Services LLC, reported $39 billion in transaction value for the first quarter of 2019, representing a 54% year-over-year increase in payment value and a 72% YOY increase in payment volume, through 147 million transactions across its network — both all-time quarterly highs for Zelle. “This past …Read More

Zipline Begins Delivering Medical Supplies In Ghana

Zipline, the UAV maker and logistics services provider, is live in Ghana as of Wednesday (April 24) launching a program to deliver medical supplies via drones.

According to a report in TechCrunch, Zipline is working with the Ghanaian government to operate 30 drones from four distribution centers so that vaccines, blood, and life-saving medications can be distributed to 2,000 health facilities across Ghana on a daily basis. In an interview with the news outlet, Zipline Chief Executive Officer Keller Rinaudo said Zipline will do 600 flights each day, serving 12 million people.

“This is going to be the largest drone delivery network on the planet,” Rinaudo said in the report.  In a statement to the publication, Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo said Ghana is launching the world’s largest drone delivery service to prevent people from dying because they can’t access to medicine. “That’s why Ghana is launching the world’s largest drone delivery service … a major step toward giving everyone in this country universal access to lifesaving medicine,” said Addo.

With the program in Ghana, Zipline now serves two countries. It started with Rwanda and has begun testing the delivery of medical services via drones in the U.S. Zipline has raised $41 million from investors since launching and has been in Africa since 2016. Investors in the company include Sequoia Capital, Google Ventures, Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen, Yahoo Co-Founder Jerry Yang and Subtraction Capital.

Zipline CEO Rinaudo said the company is eyeing expansion into more countries. The executive said Zipline will launch in several additional countries and that not all of them will be in Africa, but did not provide specific details. And while the company is focused on moving medical supplies, the CEO told the news outlet it could move beyond medical supplies into more commercial operations. A company spokesperson confirmed that in the U.S. Zipline is gearing up to do live delivery of medical supplies sometime this summer, according to the report.

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Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. Check out our April 2019 Unattended Retail Report. 

BMO Bank of Montreal To Implement Mastercard Send In Canada

Mastercard and BMO Bank of Montreal announced  Wednesday (April 24) that BMO is implementing Mastercard Send in an effort to deliver faster, cheaper and transparent international payment services in Canada.

In a press release, Mastercard and BMO Bank of Montreal said with the partnership BMO will be able to better serve its Canadian-based business and commercial banking clients. BMO  said it is joining a growing list of global banks working with Mastercard to offer their clients a better way to send money internationally.

“BMO has a long history of serving cross-border customers across a wide range of industries, and our capabilities and experience in this area are a key differentiator for us,” Sharon Haward-Laird, head of North American treasury and payment solutions for BMO Bank of Montreal, said in the press release. “As a result, we have a deep understanding of the complexities involved in running a cross-border business, including as it relates to payments, and this latest offering with Mastercard Send reflects our commitment to providing customers with solutions that deliver against their changing expectations and needs.”

BMO said with Mastercard Send it can give clients the ability to send cross-border payments more efficiently and securely to bank accounts in more than 75 countries. Initially, the companies will focus on bank account transfer but will eventually expand to include payments to mobile wallets and cards around the globe.

“Consumers today expect quicker access to their funds, but businesses face numerous challenges when making cross-border payments,” said Brian Lang, president of Mastercard in Canada, in the same press release. “Mastercard Send helps banks modernize their cross-border services and deliver a better experience for their clients.”

According to BMO and Mastercard, businesses of all sizes are becoming increasingly global and as a result, banks will need cost-effective solutions to meet the needs of business customers. Mastercard Send sends funds quickly and securely to both cards and non-cards, including bank accounts and mobile wallets.

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Latest Insights: 

Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. Check out our April 2019 Unattended Retail Report. 

5 Reasons Why Malta Is Determined To Become The ‘Blockchain Island’

The island of Malta is renowned as a world-class tourist destination where travellers go to experience its array of historic and natural attractions. But, lately Malta has been making headlines for a completely different reason- blockchain technology!

For the last couple of years, Malta has slowly built a reputation as the go-to destination for movers and shakers in the crypto industry.

According to the Maltese government, the country seeks to grow with the emerging cryptocurrency industry and consequently reap the long-term prospects of blockchain technology. Read on to find out why Malta has taken this new direction in a bid to become the ‘Blockchain Island’.

Why Malta?

Malta has developed a regulatory framework and technological infrastructure that is very favorable to blockchain projects. As a result, it’s much easier for crypto startups to operate and launch ICO’s in Malta than it is in other territories. Thanks why blockchain tech giant Binance has moved their headquarters to Malta and inviting others to do the same.

Thanks to three bills that were passed in July of 2018, Malta is officially the first country to offer a dedicated legal framework designed to regulate the blockchain sector. The Technology Arrangement and Service providers’ bill for example, offers service providers an opportunity to register and get certified in their industry; while the Virtual Currencies bill is aimed at regulating ICO’s through the Financial Instrument Test.

All in all, Malta is the only established European country with a stable and thriving economy that has taken a stance to regulate the blockchain sector. It also doesn’t hurt that Malta has a strong gaming industry and financial sector which makes it possible for blockchain operations to thrive.  

Why Malta Wants to Become the ‘Blockchain Island’

Reason #1: To establish Malta as a Crypto-economy giant

The Maltese government has taken a very strategic stance in terms of participating in the blockchain industry. They know that getting into the game early gives them an advantage over countries who are still dragging their feet or only looking at the short term gains of the blockchain economy.

Truth is, the blockchain industry in Malta has been regulated for the benefit of both the sector and the Maltese government. This has established Malta as an emerging yet notable Crypto-economy centre.

Reason #2: It’s great for the economy

For every blockchain company that comes to Malta, a multitude of jobs are created and/or sustained, due to the increased demand for professional services. Local businesses that offer legal counsel, branding, marketing services and real estate stand to benefit a great deal from the blockchain boom.

This will help to circulate money within the Maltese economy while further decreasing its already low unemployment rate of 4.4% possibly by another 2% or so in the coming years.

Reason #3: To attract the world’s largest cryptocurrencies

Thanks to having a favorable regulatory framework and technological infrastructure, Malta is attracting some of the biggest cryptocurrencies in the world. As mentioned, Binance recently opened headquarters in Malta and a plethora of other blockchain projects are launching ICO’s in this Mediterranean island.

Reason #4: To offer blockchain businesses a stable business environment that attracts investors

It doesn’t matter what field you’re in, every company needs to operate in a stable and conducive business environment in order to thrive. That’s exactly what Malta is offering through its legal framework- a long-term guarantee that bolsters investor confidence.

Reason #5: To benefit from blockchain technology innovation

Blockchain technology is about more than ICO’s and cryptocurrency. It’s an entire field of innovation that includes smart contracts, decentralized transactions and most recently a property management system known as LP 01.

This application was developed by ledger projects based in Malta to simplify notarial work and to offer updated data on property sales in the country.

LP 01 just goes to show that having Cryptocurrencies in Malta is a step in the right direction, and it may just usher in a new age of technological innovation in the country.  

Conclusion

Malta is one of the first countries to recognize that cryptocurrency is the future of money and has made great strides to establish itself as a hub for this emerging sector. The country is fully embracing the innovation offered by blockchain technology and is a pioneer in developing legislation for this sector. That’s why Malta is on track to become the “Blockchain Island.”    

Civic Pay app uses blockchain for automated retail, smart vending

Civic Network announced it will release its Civic Pay app to enable partners to combine identity verification, payment and rewards into a single transaction. The company has also announced 12 automated retail partners: AAEON, AR Systems, Fastcorp Vending, Global Vending Group, greenbox Robotics, Invenda, IVM, IVS, Retail Automated Concepts, SandenVendo, The Venders and Wemp, according to a press release.

The Civic Pay app will bring blockchain-powered innovation to the industry with simple access to age-gated products, an improved user experience and personalized rewards.

By integrating the Civic Pay app with automated retail solutions and smart vending machines, these partners will introduce the first real-world, Civic Pay use cases, where people can prove identity and pay for a product in a single transaction. Together, these companies represent over 1 million connected vending machines.

Combining identity with payment will further advance Civic partners’ automated retail solutions and expand vending opportunities for a growing market. Currently, there are over 3 million connected vending machines globally, a number expected to grow to 5.4 million by 2022, according to Berg Insight.

Most transactions require some form of identity verification and building identity verification into payment functionality simplifies that process. Vending machines make digital identity accessible and give people the ability to experience new technology. In addition, with the Civic Pay app, once users are verified, they are able to use the same verification over and over again, further streamlining the identity and payment process.

“Vending machines represent an introduction to the mass market, where people can see how digital identity functions in the real world, as well as opening up an entirely new market for automated retail,” Vinny Lingham, Civic CEO and co-founder, said in the press release.


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Can Home Sales Gain An Uber-Like Feel?

Pretty much nothing these days escapes the pull of the digital economy – and that goes for the most basic needs, such as clothing, food and shelter. Now comes further evidence of the change in home buying brought upon by technological advances and shifts in consumer behavior and desires.

The slow but ongoing shift from traditional boots-on-the-ground home buying to digital shopping continues with the launch of an iPhone app from Zillow that enables 3D tours of properties in the U.S. and Canada. According to one description of the newly released tool, “realtors use the iOS app to take panoramic photos of the home, which the server then stitches together into a complete 3D tour, in much the same way as Google’s Street View building interiors.”

Virtual Tour

Shoppers can click or tap to virtually move around the home. The 3D digital tool is not a full augmented reality “experience, but does provide a much better sense of the space of a home than static photos. The company says it is designed to supplement, rather than replace, video tours – as some buyers prefer to navigate around the home themselves.”

Zillow reportedly will add the tool to listings free of charge.

The move comes amid a larger effort by Zillow to turn itself into a real estate ecosystem and better compete with other real estate operators as home buyers become increasingly digital and mobile. Recent activity indicates Zillow also wants to help customers put in an offer, secure financing, pay their rent and – in some cases – even sell them the house directly. In short, Zillow doesn’t just want to be a customer’s entrance into the real estate market – it aims to be the real estate ecosystem that consumers can grow up and out with.

But as Zillow stands as a solid example of ongoing changes in the industry, the company is hardly the only real estate player that hopes to innovate and disrupt to make the most of digital technology, payments and commerce.

Less Friction

Among the main goals for some players?

Make the home buying and selling process come as close as it can to the “ease of trading in your car,” according to a recent PYMNTS interview with Sean Black, CEO of home trade-in platform Knock, which is coming off a $400 million Series B funding round led by the Foundry Group. He also likened the process to Uber, a relatively easy mobile experience by which customers can keep track of the transaction.

The Knock process shows how digital technology combines with other fresh processes to provide a new kind of home buying and selling experience.

First, a homeowner submits a property to Knock for a price estimate, followed by a phone consultation. A “licensed local expert” working with Knock then helps the homeowner look for a new house. Knock also helps customers find mortgages via the platform’s partners, Black said. Next, Knock buys the new home via an all-cash transaction (in fact, part of the new funding round goes toward paying for that part of the business, he told PYMNTS). Paying cash usually results in discounts of between 3 percent and 5 percent.

New Models

The next step?

Knock handles the listing and sale of the old home with its own cash. Once the homeowner accepts an offer and the old house is sold, Knock transfers the new house into the customer’s name and mortgage. Knock and the customer then settle the improvements and other costs the company incurred throughout the process. Finally, Knock takes a 6 percent commission on the sale of the old house.

Home buying and selling platform Perch is another company that recently announced new funding – in this case, $220 million. Perch also targets homeowners looking to sell their current home in order to buy a new one, which the startup calls “dual trackers.” These customers currently represent about 60 percent of all homebuyers.

As you can imagine, millennials are also changing the way homes are bought and sold – again, via digital payments and commerce. The market for millennial real estate consumers remains an extremely uneven and, for many, rather uncertain place.

According to data released from Redfin, affording a down payment was the leading concern among millennials looking to purchase a home in the last 12 months, with 50 percent of respondents noting down payment woes. But new services are striving to turn that problem into a business opportunity.

For instance, HomeFundIt, which is operated by CMG Financial, gives otherwise qualified (by credit score and income) homebuyers a way to crowdfund down payments and other associated costs from family members and friends. As part of a conventional financing agreement with a bank or mortgage lender, consumers can receive cash gifts toward a down payment, but the circle of eligible gift givers is very limited – and those gifts must be carefully (and sometimes arduously) verified.

HomeFundIt allows consumers to take crowdfunded gifts from a wider range of their friends and family network, and on average helps users raise about $2,500 toward their down payment costs. CMG also offers users some access to match funds with grants to further boost their down payment amount.

From new listing tools that reflect some of the latest advances in retail tech to the use of digital financing, home buying and home selling are undergoing dramatic shifts, with more certain to come.

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Latest Insights: 

Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. Check out our April 2019 Unattended Retail Report. 

Masthaven Gets £60M Equity Investment From Värde Partners

Masthaven, the U.K. specialist bank, and Värde Partners, a global alternative investment firm, announced Wednesday (April 24) the completion of the strategic £60 million equity investment by Värde Partners in Masthaven.

In a press release, Masthaven said the agreement was previously announced in September of 2018, and that the completion of the investment will enable the bank to meet its goal of becoming a leading specialist bank in the U.K. residential and SME markets.

“Masthaven has made tremendous strides in the past few years. We have successfully launched specialist residential and buy-to-let mortgages, plus bolstered our savings suite by entering the SME savings market, all while growing our team to above 170 people and with a balance sheet in excess of £750 million,” said Masthaven Founder and Chief Executive Officer Andrew Bloom in the press release. “Now it’s time for us to further enhance our propositions for both our existing customers and intermediary partners as well as our future clients. Masthaven will deploy the Värde Partners investment to bring more capacity to the U.K. market and enable us to innovate in terms of both our savings and lending propositions.”

The company said the £60 million equity investment from Värde Partners, along with the bank’s existing capital base, will enable it to increase lending to consumers and SMEs over the next three to five years. It also enables Masthaven to provide deposit solutions to customers, according to the press release.

“Masthaven is a rising brand in the U.K. challenger bank scene, and we’re thrilled about the opportunity to work together to enhance the bank’s proposition and to take it to the next level,” said Elena Lieskovska, partner and head of European financial services at Värde Partners in the same press release. “At Värde, we are active in our portfolio companies, favoring the partnership approach to creating value, and that’s exactly how we expect to work with the Masthaven team.”

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Latest Insights: 

Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. Check out our April 2019 Unattended Retail Report. 

Selina Raises $100 Million In Funding For Expansion

Selina, the hospitality startup, announced Wednesday (April 24) that it raised $100 million in a round of funding.

In a press release, Selina said the Series C round of funding was led by Access Industries and included participation from Grupo Wiese as well as existing investors Colony Latam Partners. Selina said the company has raised $225 million in total funding and the latest round positions it to be the next billion dollar hospitality startup. Selina, which launched in 2015, operates 46 locations in 13 countries with more than 22,000 beds open or being converted. The startup is aiming to have 130,000 beds and more than 400 properties by 2023. It is going after the digital nomad and remote worker categories.

“We’ll be leveraging this financing to expand our corporate platform and secure more of the most creative talent in the industry,” Selina Co-Founder and CEO Rafael Museri said in the press release. “We’ll continue to invest in our technology innovation team in Tel Aviv as we explore digitally-driven ways to disrupt the hospitality industry, enhance the complete booking and user experience for travelers, and continue rapid expansion into new markets across the globe.”

Selina said that this year it will open an additional 35 properties in the U.S., U.K., Germany, Portugal, Greece, Israel, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. At the same time, it will expand into new European and Latin American markets and enter Asia by 2020. To support that expansion, Selina said it has secured funding commitments from regional partners who will acquire real estate and fund conversion costs at the country level for Selina. Selina to date has been able to secure more than $300 million in real estate commitments and is in advanced talks for an additional $200 million in Europe, Latine America, and the U.S.

“We believe Selina’s focus on building a global hospitality platform for digital nomads will redefine the way millennials live, work, play, learn and give back,” said Lincoln Benet of Access Industries in the same press release.

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Latest Insights: 

Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. Check out our April 2019 Unattended Retail Report. 

Civic Pay app uses blockchain for automted retail, smart vending

Civic Network announced it will release its Civic Pay app to enable partners to combine identity verification, payment and rewards into a single transaction. The company has also announced 12 automated retail partners: AAEON, AR Systems, Fastcorp Vending, Global Vending Group, greenbox Robotics, Invenda, IVM, IVS, Retail Automated Concepts, SandenVendo, The Venders and Wemp, according to a press release.

The Civic Pay app will bring blockchain-powered innovation to the industry with simple access to age-gated products, an improved user experience and personalized rewards.

By integrating the Civic Pay app with automated retail solutions and smart vending machines, these partners will introduce the first real-world, Civic Pay use cases, where people can prove identity and pay for a product in a single transaction. Together, these companies represent over 1 million connected vending machines.

Combining identity with payment will further advance Civic partners’ automated retail solutions and expand vending opportunities for a growing market. Currently, there are over 3 million connected vending machines globally, a number expected to grow to 5.4 million by 2022, according to Berg Insight.

Most transactions require some form of identity verification and building identity verification into payment functionality simplifies that process. Vending machines make digital identity accessible and give people the ability to experience new technology. In addition, with the Civic Pay app, once users are verified, they are able to use the same verification over and over again, further streamlining the identity and payment process.

“Vending machines represent an introduction to the mass market, where people can see how digital identity functions in the real world, as well as opening up an entirely new market for automated retail,” Vinny Lingham, Civic CEO and co-founder, said in the press release.


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Kohl’s To Accept Amazon Returns In All Stores

With the aim of bringing more people into its stores, Kohl’s plans to start taking returns for Amazon purchases at all of its locations. The retailer’s stock jumped almost 10 percent with the news, CNBC reported.

Kohl’s Chief Executive Officer Michelle Gass said in an announcement, “We are thrilled to bring Amazon Returns at Kohl’s to all of our stores across the country.” Gass continued, “Amazon and Kohl’s have a shared passion in providing outstanding customer service, and this unique partnership combines Kohl’s strong nationwide store footprint and omnichannel capabilities with Amazon’s reach and customer loyalty. This new service is another example of how Kohl’s is delivering innovation to drive traffic to our stores and bring more relevance to our customers.”

Through the offering, the department store retailer will take Amazon items that are “eligible” without a label or a box. (That reportedly comes without an additional fee on the part of the shopper.) The retailer then packages the purchases before sending them to a return center of the eCommerce retailer. While the option is reportedly only at 100 of the retailer’s stores today, it is said to come to all Kohl’s stores in July.

The news comes as Kohl’s has announced that it will lease or sell retail space at 10 locations to Planet Fitness. The gyms would be between 20,000 square feet and 25,000 square feet. And it was reported that the fitness facility wouldn’t share doors with Kohl’s, but the companies will promote each other. As it stands, the merchant has been at work on how to best use its spaces such as right-sizing its retail footprint.

The company, for instance, revealed last year that Aldi would be its first partner to sublet space in downsized stores. Neil Saunders, managing director of market research firm GlobalData Retail, said at the time, “This kind of thinking … shows that Kohl’s understands the need to give customers reasons to visit stores and is not afraid to experiment to achieve this.”

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Latest Insights: 

Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. Check out our April 2019 Unattended Retail Report. 

Allset enters Miami, plans additional cities with pre-order mobile dining app

Allset, a San Francisco-based mobile pre-ordering platform, has launched in the Miami restaurant market and expand to other major cities, including Washington D.C., Philadelphia and Phoenix, after previously operating in 10 markets before the Miami launch.

The platform allows diners to make reservations, order restaurant meals and pay for them through a mobile app before arriving at the restaurant.

“Most apps only allow you to book a table or order pickup/delivery,”Stas Matviyenko, told Mobile Payments Today via email. “Allset offers you more options: You can order ahead for dine-in and eat inside the restaurant, or order pickup and enjoy your food whenever you want. Your reservation and check are also taken care of.”

In addition, Matviyenko said Allset allows users to get a table at restaurants that don’t otherwise take reservations either online or by phone, because the service pays and tips the restaurant in advance, and the restaurant knows exactly when the client arrives.

Lastly, the platform uses artificial intelligence to analyze peak hours at restaurants to determine whether to send more or fewer reservations.

The company has already signed with a number of major restaurant chains in multiple markets, including Buffalo Wild Wings, Bj’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, Bareburger, Freshii and other brands. It also launched an integration three months ago with Google Maps, which allows customers to order through the service. In addition, Allset is integrated with multiple POS systems and kitchen printers, including Olo, Checkmate and Ordermark, which makes it easier for certain restaurants to accept reservations through the service, according to the release.

Several Miami restaurants, including Dos Alas Kitchen, Loui, Syndicate Kava Bar & Tap Room and Novello Restaurant & Bar, have signed up for the service, and about 30 area restaurants are set to go live in the first few weeks.

The startup firm has $8.3 million in funding, including backing from private equity investors like Andreesen Horowitz.

 


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BMO to implement cross-border payments with Mastercard Send

Mastercard has entered an agreement with BMO Bank of Montreal to implement Mastercard Send, which will allow faster cross-border payments for its Canadian-based business and commercial banking clients, according to a company release.

Mastercard Send will allow the bank to move cross-border payments to bank accounts in more than 75 countries worldwide. Initially focused on bank accounts, the service eventually will allow payments to mobile wallets and card accounts, as well.

“Consumers today expect quicker access to their funds, but businesses face numerous challenges when making cross border payments,” Brian Lang, president of Mastercard in Canada, said in the release. “Mastercard Send helps banks modernize their cross-border services and deliver a better experience to their clients.”

Sharon Haward-Laird, head of North American treasury and payment solutions at BMO Bank, said the bank has a long history of working in the cross-border payment area.

“As a result we have a deep understanding of the complexities involved in running a cross-border business, including as it relates to payments,” she said. “And this latest offering with Mastercard Send reflects our commitment to providing customers with solutions that deliver against their changing expectations and needs.”


Topics: Card Brands, Mobile Banking, Mobile Payments, Money Transfer / P2P

Companies: MasterCard


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The Telemedicine Approach To Quitting Smoking On Subscription

Quitting smoking is hard.

More Americans are doing it — in 2005 just over 20 percent of adults reported a smoking habit, and by 2016 that figure had fallen to around 15 percent. But over 30 million Americans still report smoking every day or some days. But even among those tens of millions of smokers, the majority report wanting to quit. According to the CDC, 68 percent report wanting to quit, but being unable to.

Telemedicine firm Ro — best known for its online erectile dysfunction treatments — is now in the business of helping smokers get clean. For $129 a month, smokers can subscribe to the Zero Quit Kit, which is advertised as a multi-pronged and end-to-end approach to offering up services to give smokers a better chance to kick their habit.

The math, Ro said, is simple. Though about half of all smokers attempt to quit each year, only about 3 percent successfully do so for more than six months using willpower alone. But layering in other factors changes those odds. Using a patch or gum gets the odds closer to 10 percent, counseling increases the odds further to 15 percent and adding medication to the mix pushes things into the 30 percent range.

The options are out there, but consumers still find quitting an incredibly uphill climb, largely because it is not easy for people to actually put all the pieces together on their own. When every piece of the smoking cessation process is a separate undertaking, the odds go up dramatically that the now stressed-out consumer is going to decide to just go buy a pack of smokes instead.

“They go to the doctor and the doctor says, ‘Great, here’s a prescription,’” Zachariah Reitano, Ro’s CEO and co-founder, told Vox. “Then it’s maybe 45 minutes to the pharmacy, then it’s a wait for 45 minutes, and then they also have to figure out which gum to chew, and then they also have to download an app. There are so many steps where someone can, frankly, mess up or not have everything they need.”

Quitting is going to be hard no matter what. Unlike subscription services that are selling access to shoes, food, Mexican candy or the myriad of other products that are fun to receive in the mail throughout the month, Zero is sending customers a kit to do something that almost no one in history has ever viewed as a fun experience. Zero Quit Kits are not advertised as making quitting easy, according to the firm — but instead as functioning more like  “a water bottle and a backpack” for a hiker at the base of a long trail. It is going to be hard work no matter what, but at least they’ll have everything they need within reach.

The subscription program starts with a consultation with a doctor for $15  that ends with a recommended personalized quit program. If you think Zero might do the trick, it doesn’t come cheap. The doctor-recommended Zero Quit Kit costs $129 per month, but the customer also has the option of purchasing individual elements of it for $42 a month. That is a better deal financially than smoking — the average price a pack-a-day smoker pays in the U.S. is $150 a month (and in high cost urban markets that number can be closer to $300 or $400) — though there are less expensive smoking cessation mechanisms on the market.

Mechanisms that Ro says it is in full support of — because according to Ro other nicotine cessation firms aren’t their competition.

“If someone else does a really great job in helping people quit smoking, more power to ’em. When it’s something that’s as important as smoking, which is the leading cause of preventable death in the world, we’re just kind of rooting for everyone except for the people that are encouraging people to smoke,” Reitano said.

The competition, he asserted, is the tobacco industry, which brought in $93.4 billion in 2016, or the eCigarette market that grew 40 percent to $1.16 billion in 2017.  Smokers may not like smoking — and there are fewer of them. But those who remain are paying more, and not finding the right support they need to quit.  The hope is with the right kit, they might be able to make a bigger dent in those figures.

“Smokers don’t need to be reminded that it’s bad for them. So when they want to quit, [we want to be] kind of a judgment-free place,” says Reitano.

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Latest Insights: 

Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. Check out our April 2019 Unattended Retail Report. 

eTailers Look To Jolt Instant Coffee Via Subscriptions

Entrepreneurs are founding coffee startups to connect consumers with instant brews through the help of subscriptions and one-time purchases. Nate Kaiser started Swift Cup Coffee “to help make great coffees a little bit more accessible,” he told PYMNTS in an interview.

Kaiser came from a roasting background, having worked at specialty roasters and cafés for the last 10 years. While he loves the ritual of brewing coffee, making a great cup of joe is challenging, as it involves many variables. He noted that it is “pretty difficult” to reproduce a high-quality cup of café coffee while at home, traveling or working.

Kaiser started to look at how he could create an easy, accessible experience for coffee drinkers. Instant coffee, he noted, “is about as easy as it gets.” Consumers add water to the coffee and it’s immediately ready. The only problem is that instant coffee has a reputation for being, well, awful. Kaiser became curious as to why that was, and what part of the production and manufacturing process was causing a poor-quality cup. After a significant amount of research and development, he created a method to produce a high-quality cup in an instant form from specialty-grade brews. The coffees are “expressive and flavorful and also ethically sourced,” he noted. Swift Cup Coffee brews it down to a flavorful concentrate, and consumers add water to bring the coffee back to life.

To order the coffee, consumers visit the company’s website, where they can buy nine different coffees as a one-time purchase. They can also purchase a two-cup sampler, but the core product is a six-cup box. (There is also a 48-cup bulk pack available.) Consumers can also purchase a subscription, which is a collection of Swift Cup’s current offerings. Kaiser describes it as a variety pack, adding the company aims to have a “rotating menu” of different coffees from around the world to turn into instant coffee. Customers can then have 10, 20 or 30 cups delivered each month. 

The Online Platform

Pennsylvania-based Swift Cup runs its payments through Square and accepts credit as well as debit cards. It works with a local startup called Clockwork Wholesale, which developed a platform that lets the company manage its one-time and recurring orders. (Clockwork says on its website that it has tools for “coffee roasters, chocolatiers and bakers,” among other merchants.) Beyond the payments, Kaiser noted he wanted to celebrate the diversity within coffee.

Swift Cup aims to offer some of the best coffee available globally, with a heavy focus on East Africa as well as Latin America. It also seeks to celebrate what is unique among a full spectrum of flavors, much like wine. Overall, Kaiser noted coffee is truly an agricultural product that his company happens to make in instant form. At the same time, he noted specialty coffee is an exploding market, with hundreds of roasters are sourcing and roasting coffees.

In addition to its website, Swift Cup has some major partners, such as two grocery chains and a recreational supply company, in addition to a handful of smaller cafés. When it comes to the company’s target market, Kaiser noted its consumer base has evolved. At first, it spoke to the specialty coffee crowd, selling to people who had worked in the industry. While the company does have a strong base of coffee enthusiasts, it also caters to businesspeople who buy coffee to drink at the office, as well as many travelers.

The Coffee Market

Beyond Swift Cup Coffee, other eCommerce innovators have enabled recurring deliveries of java. Trade Coffee, for instance, sells beans (or ground beans) by the bag or through a subscription offering. The company’s Chief Executive Mike Lackman told PYMNTS in a January interview that the company “really [sees] subscription as something that is a way to make sure customers just don’t run out of coffee.” The company has an offering that is designed to serve customers who are new to specialty coffee, as well as one for those with more experienced palettes.

From Trade Coffee to Swift Cup Coffee, eCommerce innovators are changing the way consumers get their cups of morning joe – or the second cup after lunch – with the help of subscription options.

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Latest Insights: 

Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. Check out our April 2019 Unattended Retail Report. 

Ford To Invest $500M In Electric Vehicle Maker Rivian

In a deal that connects Ford with an electric vehicle startup, the automaker is investing $500 million in Rivian Automotive Inc. The company, which is the second-biggest automaker in the country and produces the F-Series pickup line, is also creating a partnership with the upstart electric vehicle firm, Bloomberg reported.

Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s automotive president, said per the outlet, “We don’t have all the answers and we don’t pretend to.” Hinrichs continued, “We can learn a lot from Rivian.” Ford reportedly plans to bring a vehicle to its lineup that would be created using what Rivian calls its “skateboard.”

In addition, by 2022, Ford plans to bring 40 electrified vehicles to market such as a battery-powered crossover vehicle that is inspired by the Mustang. And the company plans to bring a gas-electric hybrid to market in 2020 of its F-150 truck and reportedly has indicated that it would release a truck in an all-electric version.

The news comes after news surfaced that Rivian Automotive LLC notched a $700 million equity investment led by Amazon following the unveiling of its electric vehicle concepts last year. Rivian Automotive LLC Chief Executive Officer Robert J. Scaringe said before a Feb. 15 announcement, according to reports, “We will bring on additional partners, but less because of capital reasons and more because of a need to have strategic relationships as we scale toward our broader vision.”

As it stands, the company’s R1T pickup and R1S sport utility vehicles reportedly had outstanding reviews at November’s Los Angeles Auto Show, and it is said they could have a driving range as high as 400 miles. At the time, it was also reported that self-driving car technology company Aurora had notched upwards of $530 million in a Series B financing round led by Sequoia Capital, with a large investment from T. Rowe Price Associates as well as Amazon.

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Latest Insights: 

Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. Check out our April 2019 Unattended Retail Report. 

How Amazon’s In-Garage Delivery Could Take On Porch Pirates

Retailers are offering new delivery options designed to ensure that packages reach their intended recipients — and don’t fall into the hands of enterprising thieves called porch pirates. Amazon, for instance, unveiled a way for eligible members of its Prime program to receive products in their garage via a Key Smart Garage Kit. Shoppers can select an “In-Garage delivery” option during the Amazon checkout process. In addition, shoppers can use the Key by Amazon app to check the status of their garage doors as well as open or close them remotely.

GM of Key by Amazon Rohit Shrivastava said in an announcement for the offering, “We know it is important to keep innovating to make delivery as convenient as possible for customers, which is why we’re excited to now have Key for Garage available.” Shrivastava continued, “Today, we are thrilled to open Key by Amazon to millions of Prime members who can now have their Amazon packages delivered securely to their garages. With this new option, members can truly unlock the convenience of the Amazon experience.”

The offering taps into the proprietary myQ connected technology of the Chamberlain Group (CGI). Consumers who already have a garage door opener that is connected to myQ can link those accounts with their Amazon accounts via the Key by Amazon app. Alternatively, they can buy one of two Key Smart Garage Kits. In addition, consumers can supplement either kit with an Amazon Cloud Cam (Key Edition). U.S. shoppers can also use the Key by Amazon app to manage access to their garages.

CGI President and Chief Operating Officer Jeff Meredith said in the announcement that a recent survey found 72 percent of Americans “who live in a house or townhome take extra measures to ensure delivery acceptance of their packages, including staying home from work to wait for the package.” Meredith continued, “With Key by Amazon, homeowners no longer have to reorganize their life to receive packages. Key plus myQ smart garage access gives homeowners control over the package delivery process while offering a safe and convenient destination for unattended package delivery.”

In-Car Deliveries

In-garage delivery is not Amazon’s only attempt at efforts that could keep packages in the hands of their intended recipients — and thwart porch pirates. Last year, news surfaced that the eCommerce retailer started to deliver purchases to the inside of its shoppers’ cars. At the time, it was said that the free service was only available to Prime members in certain cities. According to the company’s website, “Key In-Car delivery is available with model year 2015 and newer Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC and Volvo vehicles with an active connected car service plan, such as OnStar or On Call.”

Prime members register their eligible vehicles with Amazon and then go through the typical checkout process with the eCommerce retailer to receive deliveries in their cars. Consumers park their vehicles at a predetermined delivery address on the arranged date. Drivers then put the purchases inside the vehicles and lock them. That option came after the retailer announced the launch of Amazon Key in 2017, which is described as a way to facilitate unattended in-home deliveries for Prime members.

Online Package Delivery Services

Beyond large eCommerce retailers, startups have tackled the challenge of keeping porch pirates at bay. Last year, Vyllage was gearing up for the launch of a service to let consumers have their packages delivered to their neighbors when they are not home. Vyllage Co-founder Laura Borland told PYMNTS in an October interview that the offering is, in a sense, a “neighborhood watch for packages.”

Users can tap into the startup’s service by opening an app and locating neighbors within their ZIP codes. They then pay a small fee by credit card that varies depending on the size of the package once they choose a neighbor. After they complete that step, they receive the full address of the neighbor who can accept their delivery. And they receive a name the neighbor has chosen for the address in addition to a four-letter identifying code for the location that they provide to an online merchant.

With the help of new delivery technologies, both eCommerce merchants and online innovators are creating new ways to help make sure that packages reach their intended recipients and don’t fall into the prying hands of porch pirates in the digital age.

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Latest Insights: 

Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. Check out our April 2019 Unattended Retail Report. 

Traveling A Tech Road for Better T&E Management

Beating the paper chase remains an elusive goal, but one that is devoutly pursued by firms of all sizes – especially when it comes to travel and expense management.  Reliance on paper receipts, hauled in from airlines and meals and taxis, tracked in spreadsheets, and eventually shepherded toward a paper check that is cut weeks later, is less than optimal.

And, of course, there is always the chance that fraud slips through the cracks, where less-than-scrupulous actors charge meals and travel and hotels that weren’t expressly tied to being a road warrior for the firm. Or, at times, expense invoices and receipts can be made up out of whole cloth. Thus, automated solutions, as detailed in the Workforce Spend Management Tracker, can help speed payments, reduce the clutter and, with machine learning and other tools, catch erroneous or fraudulent submissions before they are paid.

Data:

$1.7 trillion: Projected value of global business spending by 2022.

$3 billion: Projected global value of the SaaS expense management market in 2024.

95 Percent: Share of Indian enterprises that have not yet issued corporate cards beyond their top 10 executives.

$1 trillion: Estimated value of B2B commerce in 2020.

64.3 percent: Share of consumers with banking relationships of at least five years who say their primary FIs are “good fits” as estimated by PYMNTS.

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Latest Insights: 

Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. Check out our April 2019 Unattended Retail Report. 

Kazakh Eurasian Bank Upgrades Cash Tech with Fiserv

Kazakhstan-based Eurasian Bank has signed with Fiserv to streamline and automate its cash management processes with technology from Fiserv, reports Henry Vilar of Fintech Futures (Finovate’s sister publication).

The bank is implementing a range of cash and logistics solutions to enable web-based cash supply chain management and provide real-time visibility into cash needs.

This can allow the bank to centralize currency management, giving the bank a unified view of cash needs “rather than needing to piece together multiple sets of information.” Staff can then more accurately forecast cash needs across the bank’s ATM and branch network based on customer demand.

“Kazakhstan has a cash-based economy, and our customers have to be able to reliably access cash in order to conduct their daily lives,” said Natalia Iliyashenko, head of operations at Eurasian Bank. “With Fiserv, we will be able to gain a better view of where cash is across our entire network, so we can make sure money is available when and where our customers need it.”

“Access to cash is a defining component of banking convenience for Eurasian Bank customers,” said Lee Cameron, managing director of EMEA at Fiserv.

“Being able to optimise cash levels at our branches and self-service devices allows us to reduce our overall operating expenses,” continued Iliyashenko.

When cash sits idle in a bank or in a self-service device, like an ATM, it is costly for the financial institution because that money cannot be used for another purpose, such as funding a consumer loan.

Yet if there is not enough cash in the device for a customer to make a withdrawal, there is increased risk that a customer will take their banking business elsewhere. Through technology, banks can make certain the right supply of cash is available at branches, ATMs or any other self-service devices.

Fiserv recently appeared on the FinovateSpring 2018 stage alongside Samsung SDS, where the two showcased how Samsung SDS integrates its biometric authentication and collaboration solutions into Fiserv’s Commercial Center: Security (CC:S) to create a more secure and convenient digital banking experience. Some of the company’s recent partners include Eurasian Bank, NBT Bank, and Hellenic Bank.

How a Debt Collection Agency Can Preserve Customer Relationships

Traditional debt collection only focuses on the actual process of recovering money. It has nothing to do with customer relationships. But in the modern business era, customer relation is valuable to grow a business and gain a foothold in the industry. This has made hiring a debt collection agency imperative to maintain customer goodwill and ensure them that the company believes in harmony, and not blackmail.

Personalised debt recovery

The first step to improving customer relationship while opting for personal debt collection services is to offer personalised debt recovery options. Customers who genuinely have problems while paying back a loan will find these options helpful. You can introduce flexibility in payments such as paying through net banking or their debit or credit cards.

Sometimes, increasing the debt recovery time can work wonders for the customers. They will be in a better position to pay when funds arrive. Apart from flexibility in payment time, you can also waive off the interest rates for a particular period. For example, if your customer owes $1,000 and the repayment date is 3 months from the date of lending, you can increase the time for a month and specify that no interest will be charged in the fourth month, but if there is a delay in payment after that, the customer will have to pay an increased rate of interest.

However, it is always wise to consult with the collection agency about the strategies you want to implement. There is a difference between personal and business debt collection methods. The collection agency shouldn’t be too harsh or aggressive on the business owner who owes you money. Since the goodwill of both businesses is at stake, a softer approach will be beneficial for everyone. You wouldn’t want to damage the long-term relationship with the other business because of a pending claim.

Avoiding bad debts

Bad debt is a dent to the company’s profits, and that is the worst thing that can happen if the debt collection agency fails to do its job correctly. But there are several techniques to avoid bad debts. They are as follows:

  • Always perform a quick credit check on the customer before discussing payment terms. If the customer has a poor credit report, try giving them an extended repayment period for a small amount of money.
  • Always have a signed contract where the terms and conditions of the credit application are mentioned in detail. Ask the customer to read the offer documents carefully before signing.
  • Always follow up on the customer days before the contract expires. This will act as a gentle reminder to the customer about the repayment date. Discuss the consequences of late payment and see what their reply is. You can inform everything to the debt collection agency so that they can try other methods to get the money back and maintain the customer relationship.

Modern business is more about customer satisfaction than profits. But if you need to balance both at the same time, hiring a debt collector will be essential because they come up with innovative techniques to recover the money without hampering customer relations.

Deep Dive: How Online Gaming Platforms Can Fight Fraudsters, Customer Defection

Online gaming and gambling platforms provide engaging and enticing experiences for users, but their efforts are shattered if clunky onboarding practices stand in the way. This means they must ensure the entire process is simple, smooth and speedy to maintain customers’ interest. 

According to a recent report, more than 25 percent of potential online gambling customers abandoned their account opening processes because they were too lengthy or complex. Forty percent of those surveyed said opening their accounts took at least 10 minutes, and 10 percent said the process took longer than an hour. A separate survey found that 15 percent of online gamblers felt onboarding should be faster, while 35 percent said they wanted to provide fewer personal details during registration. 

Improving upon onboarding processes can be tricky, though. Gaming and gambling platforms must adhere to tight regulations to remain compliant and keep users safe, and they cannot afford to sacrifice security – even at the expense of convenience. To top it all off, the global online gambling market is slated to grow to more than $74 billion in revenue by 2023, which makes it necessary to balance streamlined onboarding with robust fraud prevention efforts. 

Tackling Fraud 

Gaming and gambling platforms must also confront various issues, ranging from preventing underage users from signing up to thwarting more serious abuses. If they aren’t vigilant, they risk allowing fraudsters to access users’ accounts to seize funds, create accounts to launder money or use stolen or false identities to access platforms – even after they’ve been blocked. In other cases, users could collude to fix games’ outcomes, ruining participants’ experiences. 

Resources are available to help platforms fight back, and such efforts can take place behind the scenes without bothering customers. Efforts to curb cybercriminals’ collusion include checking the histories associated with certain IP addresses, devices and locations to see if they are associated with past misbehaviors. Platforms can also determine whether multiple accounts use the same IP address or device. Such activities could signal that parties behind the accounts are working together to unfairly determine games’ outcomes.

Leveraging tools like artificial intelligence to assess customers’ selfie videos and IDs could also ensure onboarding processes are swiftly and securely handled. Such automated scans can discover documentation issues that suggest falsification, while facial liveness testing can help monitor for spoofed selfies. Human employees can also step in when cases prove too ambiguous to be solved through technology alone. 

These speedy verification measures could help online gambling and gaming platforms stay compliant and protect their customers from fraud, while preventing them from losing users to sign-in frictions. When it comes to ensuring their bottom lines, these platforms can’t afford to gamble with their customers’ onboarding experiences. 

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Latest Insights: 

Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. Check out our April 2019 Unattended Retail Report.