Commercializing Blockchain: Strategic Applications in the Real World

Blockchain solutions are available, ready to use and are poised to revolutionise business, government and community – but organisations lack an awareness of the massive potential of this revolutionary new technology. 

A practical and accessible resource, Commercializing Blockchain: Strategic Applications in the Real World is a timely and non-technical guide to how blockchain can level the playing field between large and small organisations to help solve many of the complex problems today’s businesses face – particularly in the areas of retail, supply chain and consumer goods.

“The technology is ready, the people and the processes are the stumbling blocks and these are where the world needs to focus – changes are difficult for humans and we need to be open to this new technology, which will give us more trust and transparency in the world around us,” says author Antony Welfare.

Blockchain technology delivers benefits of tremendous value in complex business environments:

  • Trust: all parties have the exact same copy of all data
  • Transparency: all transactions can be viewed in real time
  • Security: data is cryptographically secured
  • Quality: all raw data can be traced to its origin
  • Reduced costs: middlemen are eliminated and audits are simplified

Commercializing Blockchain draws on Welfare’s extensive experience of implementing blockchain in prominent organisations – such as global retailers, global technology companies, University College London’s Centre for Blockchain Technologies, the UK government, the Retail Blockchain Consortium and many other sources – to present real-world case studies on the use and benefits of blockchain. Topics include financial transactions, tokenisation, identity management, inventory management, supply chain transparency, global shipping and freight, counterfeiting and more.

Covering all of the essential components of blockchain such as traceability, provenance, certification and authentication, the book will initiate readers into the technology and demonstrate, through both real and fictionalised examples, the types of problems that blockchain is best suited to solve. Further, the book will show how blockchain can add value and bring increased efficiency to commercial operations.

Welfare continues, “I believe blockchain technology will revolutionise all our lives through moving forward our tired and complex systems, to quicker and more efficient systems, simultaneously allowing us to establish a level of trust and transparency that has been lost in the current world. There is an exciting world ahead powered by blockchain technology.”

For more information about this book, visit

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Domino’s Pizza Says No Thanks To Third-Party Delivery

Domino’s Pizza is just saying no to third-party delivery apps.

Instead, the company relies on its own employees to make deliveries from its 6,000 U.S. stores and most of its 11,000 international ones, as well as runs its own online-ordering app.

While rivals Papa John’s and Pizza Hut have said deliveries through Grubhub and DoorDash have helped them expand into new markets and boost sales, Domino’s Chief Executive Ritch Allison told The Wall Street Journal that the profit hit and reputational risk of working with those companies isn’t worth the extra revenue.

“As profit is extracted from the industry, I think we’re going to see a lot of players really struggle,” Allison said.

However, the company reported its slowest same-store sales growth in nearly seven years during its most recent quarter, and its shares were down 5 percent for the year as of Aug. 16. Shares in Papa John’s and Pizza Hut owner Yum Brands were up 7 percent and 26 percent, respectively.

Still, Domino’s stands by its decision, saying that partnering with third-party delivery apps would take too much of the profit away from the company and its franchisees. So it is investing in its own order and delivery technology, including GPS tracking technology that would be rolled out by the end of the year.

“This will be an innovation step that will bring even further transparency to the experience of tracking an order,” Allison said last month. In addition, the company recently announced a pilot program and partnership with American robotics company Nuro during the quarter.

And other companies are following Domino’s lead. For example, Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches is using its own couriers because it has found delivery companies slower and customers often blamed the restaurant for any problems with an order.

“The math just doesn’t work for restaurants. Many are realizing that now,” said Jimmy John Chief Marketing Officer John Shea.


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.

Skechers taps Aptos to update POS

Global footwear retailer, Skechers, is deploying Aptos, Inc. technology for point of sale and sales audits via the Aptos ONE software-as-a-service platform.

The effort is aimed at modernizing the retailer’s technology footprint, according to a press release, and adopting more modern, omnichannel-native solutions.

“Skechers is an authentic lifestyle brand that resonates with consumers around the world — and Aptos’ decades of expertise supporting industry-leading footwear retailers make us an ideal catalyst for its growth,” said Noel Goggin, Aptos CEO and culture leader, in the release.

“We were impressed with Aptos’ ability to implement software on a global stage with a single master configuration, solutions that are proven at scale and functionally robust, and their investments in innovation, including modern, API-driven architecture,” said Chris Coye, senior vice president of information technology at Skechers, in the release. “We believe Aptos is the right technology partner to support us as we improve the infrastructure and efficiency of our direct-to-consumer operations.”

The technology will give Skechers a single view of customers, products and orders to enable seamless experiences across channels and empower its workforce to provide informed customer service, faster checkouts and individualized customer engagement.

Topics: POS, Retail

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US Ambassador Sends Show Of Support To India Tech Firms

The United States ambassador to India would like the biggest American tech firms to meet with government officials in New Delhi to discuss data localization and eCommerce.

Last month Kenneth Juster wrote to the heads of leading U.S. technology companies in India with the request that they “participate personally” in the discussions, while also promising them support in their work for a fair playing field in the country.

“Our Embassy will continue working with you to ensure that U.S. firms compete on a level playing field. My team at the Embassy stands by ready to help,” Juster said in his letter, a copy of which was seen by Reuters. “We look forward to your continued success in India.”

While the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi would not comment on the letter, it did reveal that U.S. companies were the biggest source of foreign direct investment in India. “We hope that the Indian Government will pursue policies that create a welcoming and predictable environment for U.S. investors,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

India has imposed tighter foreign investment rules for the online retail sector, as well as come up with plans that will require companies to store more of their data locally. Companies including Amazon, Walmart, Mastercard and Visa have been impacted on the investment side, while the proposed data rules will affect firms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google.

In his letter, Juster said he had met Indian Trade Minister Piyush Goyal, who assured him that the government was adopting a “consultative approach” to the proposed regulations.

“The Government of India is seeking stakeholder input, and, given the importance of these issues, we strongly encourage you to participate personally in future meetings with the Minister and other senior officials,” Juster said in his letter.

Sources said at least four U.S. technology firms had received the letter.

“It is not normal to get such letters, but these are not normal times,” said one of the executives.


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.

BrickVest Launches Second Commercial Property Employee Participation Fund in Partnership with BEOS

BrickVest, the London-based online real estate investment platform, has launched its second Employee Participation Fund (‘EPF’) in partnership with BEOS, the German commercial property specialist, part of the Swiss Life Asset Managers family since August 2018.

Belonging to the BrickVest Solutions product family, the innovative EPF is a co-investment fund that offers BEOS employees the opportunity to invest in their employer’s existing real estate deals alongside institutional investors securely through BrickVest’s pan-European platform.

The fund, which boasts €5 million in assets at launch, is managed by BrickVest, while the underlying asset, a €300 million higher yielding German real estate portfolio, is managed by BEOS.

This follows the successful launch of BrickVest’s first EPF for Beos in 2018.

The BrickVest EPF is a compelling employee incentive that helps Real Estate developers to attract and retain talents of the highest quality. Employees often generate attractive returns through their work for their institutional clients but are themselves unable to access these investments opportunities. 

For the institutional investors, employee participation in the fund improves overall confidence and ensures greater liquidity in their investment. As such, the EPF structure uniquely ensures the alignment of interests of all three stakeholders.

Emmanuel Lumineau, CEO at BrickVest, commented: 

“We’re delighted to be partnering with BEOS to launch our second EPF which benefits deal sponsors, investors and employees equally. BrickVest is fast cementing its place as the go-to solutions platform for European real estate sponsors. We look forward to working with other European real estate firms to put similar schemes in place and further democratise commercial property investment.”

Holger Matheis, Management Board at BEOS, said:

“We have decided to renew our trust in BrickVest for our second employee participation fund, making it accessible to a larger number of our staff. BrickVest has designed and executed all of the steps involved in structuring and managing the fund in a tailor-made and flexible way.”

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Instagram Invites Security Experts To Hack Its Checkout Feature

Instagram is inviting a group of security researchers known as white hat hackers to stress-test its Checkout feature before it launches outside the United States.

Launched in March, the checkout feature enables consumers to purchase desired items while looking at “beauty tutorials,” images of shoes and fashion or other interest areas, with less hassle than would have been the case prior to the launch of the eCommerce tool. Checkout by Instagram includes participation by PayPal and its retail partnership program.

“Instagram is a place for people to treat themselves with inspiration, not a place to tax themselves with errands. It’s a place to experience the pleasure of shopping versus the chore of buying,” the company said at the time.

While Instagram has assured users that Checkout payments are secure, adding that it never shares payment information with sellers and keeps financial information on secured servers. However, it is still asking for researchers to search for any vulnerabilities before cybercriminals can find them and use them to their advantage.

According to CNN Business, the researchers will get early access to the global feature and earn rewards for eligible reports. The rewards can go up to $40,000 per case.

Instagram’s parent company Facebook launched its bug bounty program in 2011. The social media giant previously gave a select group of researchers early access to FB5, which is the site’s redesigned look that it unveiled earlier this year. And last year, it created another program focused on data abuse following the Cambridge Analytica data abuse scandal.

For Instagram, the launch of its Checkout feature represents its latest move to become more of a player in eCommerce. Also in March, the platform rolled out a trial of a new shopping program where users can shop and check out within the app.


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.

Kids’ Eyeglasses Get A Mobile And 3D Makeover

It’s a story commonly heard from children – and a story that, in this case, led to a fresh idea for subscription commerce.

As told to PYMNTS in a recent interview, the story involves the son of Gabriel Schlumberger, CEO of U.S.-based Fitz Frames, which makes and sells 3D-printed eyeglasses for children. Schlumberger’s own son wears glasses, and his son once told his teacher he could not play on the monkey bars during recess.

“Kids are aware of how expensive glasses are,” Schlumberger said. That’s unfortunate, he added, because that awareness – that fear of breaking them – can, in his words, sometimes prevent kids from being kids.

Entrepreneurs often start companies stemming from their personal experiences. The needs of children are a driving force for online and mobile innovation and disruption. So, too, are the often high prices of eyeglasses, including frames. Indeed, as PYMNTS has previously covered, those two traits have combined to produce more digital options for children’s eyeglasses. In the case of Fitz Frames, subscription commerce – among the hottest ongoing trends in eCommerce, one that is in a state of seemingly constant evolution – is also part of the mix.

Subscription Push

It’s not exactly unusual these days, of course, to find multiple eyeglass options online for both adults and children – the purchase of glasses was traditionally an expensive and friction-filled process before the spread of online sales. The general idea behind Fitz Frames is to entice parents into buying yearly $185 subscriptions that enable the purchase of as many glasses as needed to replace broken or lost pairs. (The company also offers one-time purchases for $95).

“The goal is to make glasses a lot less precious,” Schlumberger told PYMNTS.

Face measurements and purchases happen via a mobile app that consumers download. “We wanted the entire purchase process to be under five minutes from the time of downloading the app to placing the order,” he said. “The thing we are seeing, while the app is very fast, people are coming back and trying on all sorts of frames. It’s almost like a digital game.”

When it comes to selections, the company’s eyeglasses have lighthearted names, ranging from “Yesiree” to “Ten-Four,” with the goal of injecting some fun into the process.

Shoppers can check out using a credit card, debit card, Apple Pay or health savings account (HSA)/flexible spending account (FSA) at launch. Schlumberger said Fitz hopes to start accepting other insurance options by the end of the year.

The glasses are built at the company’s Youngstown, Ohio facility with state-of-the-art materials via 3D laser sintering. The company then delivers the frames to consumers’ homes.

Pop-Up Stores

It’s not just the subscription commerce trend the company is tapping into. Fitz is also striving to combine its online and mobile strengths into in-person experiences via pop-up retail. Already it has operated a pop-up experience in the Los Angeles areas, Schlumberger told PYMNTS, with more such efforts planned for other locations. He added that the service could soon find its way into eye doctors’ offices via such mobile devices as iPads.

Eyewear is big business in this online and mobile era, not just for children’s glasses – and competition keeps getting fiercer on all fronts.

For instance, Warby Parker rival Eyebobs previously opened two brick-and-mortar locations: one in the Mall of America and one in Orlando’s Florida Mall. The firm first began testing the concept last October at its Minneapolis-based Glenwood Avenue headquarters. Eyebobs’ move reflects something of a trend among current online sellers, despite the mall-based retail apocalypse narrative that is prominent today.

While online shopping has taken something of a bite out of the real world, and mobile has very much changed consumer habits, shoppers are still doing the vast majority of their shopping in physical stores.

According to one recent estimate, “The eyewear market is projected to have 11 percent of its total revenue generated through online sales by 2021 worldwide. With a market volume of $31 billion in 2018, the most revenue is generated in the United States, followed by Europe.”

As this recent interview with Schlumberger demonstrates, children’s eyeglasses are expected to be a big part of this growth trend.


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.

Why AP Management For SMBs Is More Than Making A Payment

Middle market companies need help navigating the complexities of accounts payable management, especially when it comes to cross-border, cross-currency payments.

Tipalti CEO Chen Amit told Karen Webster a holistic approach has helped his firm grow bookings by triple-digit percentages.

In business, process is as important as payments.

That’s especially important as businesses gain scale, as they expand reach into new geographic areas — and as they grapple with AP operations.

In an interview with Webster, Amit weighed in on the tailwinds that have helped the FinTech surpass $8 billion in annual transactions across its global payables platform, which, among other features, helps firms manage payments across units located in other countries.

In a release, Tipalti said earlier this month that it saw an increase of 250 percent in customer bookings in the first half of 2019 compared to the first half of 2018. During that timeframe, Tipalti’s FX services revenue increased 103 percent, driven in part by the company’s Multi-FX product launch. That solution, the company has said, helps firms save money on currency conversion for subsidiary-focused payouts across more than 30 different currencies.

The company’s revenue model, Amit told Webster, is tied to a fee structure that extends across several types of fees, from flat fees for platform access, software related fees, and transaction fees where Tipalti processes the flow of funds. Currency-focused services exist as an optionality play, he said, in which client firms sometimes need Tipalti’s offerings to send money across entities across multiple jurisdictions in local currencies, and sometimes they don’t.

The triple-digit percentage growth comes, said Amit, as the AP solutions market is fragmented, and peers offer tech-driven software solutions that attack separate and disparate functions of the payables process.

One solution may address tax issues, another currencies, and so on — and that approach, he said, works well for larger firms, but decidedly less well for everyone else.

An integrated, holistic offering involves technological “heavy lifting” that lies beyond the scope of Tipalti’s peers, Amit said.

The company has also focused its efforts on the middle market swath of firms. Those firms have not had the time, money or resources to fully attend to the complexities of managing AP on a global scale, which presents a challenge.

“If you are not delivering an integrated solution to the mid-market, they will not be able to integrate the solution itself from different pieces of software,” he said. “The global part of it comes into play with supplier management, tax management and compliance management.”

The mid-market is so underserved, he said, and the challenges of a holistic tech approach so onerous, that two-thirds of the deals Tipalti wins are uncontested. That represents a greenfield opportunity for the firm, and has been a tailwind for growth that should continue.

“The complexity [of managing those payments] increases if you have multiple entities,” he said, adding that “the complexity increases if you mix 1099s with W2s,” which, in turn, affects compliance and tax issues. And, he noted, the regulators are not making it any easier for firms to manage cross-border business flows.

“We’re just in the early stages of creating the category” of automated AP management for B2B, he said.

Asked by Webster where Tipalti is seeing demand currently, Amit said that beyond digital companies (defined as dot-coms) and online marketplaces, more than half of business now comes from “traditional” firms in verticals like manufacturing and insurance.

As these companies tend to use software offerings like NetSuite and Quickbooks — with which Tipalti also integrates — he said that conversions to Tipalti’s AP offerings have been significant.

“They just don’t have anything in place” when it comes to AP management, said Amit of those traditional companies. For the dot-coms, he said, those firms typically outgrow the solutions they’d had in place and need more complex and agile technology and support across cross-border activities.

“It seems to me that the market is hungry for a solution,” he told Webster.


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.

Benefits Of The Employee Student Debt Paydown Benefit

The $1.6 trillion debt time bomb.  The 21-year shackle.

Bigger than credit card debt. Bigger than auto debt.  Not bigger than mortgage debt – but then again, who can buy a house if you’re grappling with monthly student loan payments and if your retirement seems like a shimmering dream because you’re fighting with monthly student loan payments?

Increasingly, companies across the U.S. are stepping in to help employees pay down their balances through benefits programs that can help borrowers shave years off their repayment timetables. The Society for Human Resource Management has estimated that 8 percent of U.S. employers have such offerings in place, which, of course, means that 92 percent of them don’t.

In an interview with Karen Webster,’s CEO Scott Thompson said that much of the conventional wisdom about student debt is incorrect, so the magnitude of the problem is not fully realized, at least not yet, by employers who may not be cognizant of how employee indebtedness can impact corporate bottom lines — not to mention the nation’s longer-term economic prospects.

The Misconceptions

First, start with the interest rates themselves and the amount that is shouldered. While some might surmise that the federal government is doling out student loans at 2.5 percent to 3 percent, consider the fact that federal lending its capped — for undergrads — at $57,500, and that’s over the length of a four-year degree. Hardly enough to cover the cost of a typical undergraduate education, and for some institutions of higher learning, not even the first year. Borrow beyond that amount and rates top 6 percent or 7 percent. Grad school debt is even more expensive, with interest rates at the double-digit percentage rates.

Then there’s who’s shouldering the debt. Think the debt is confined to the millennials — that they’ll eventually figure it all out and pay it off? Think again.

Multi-Generational Ripple Effects

As Thompson relayed to Webster, the age segment that carries the most student debt spans the 30- to 39-year-old range. The group that has the highest student loan delinquency rate, he continued, are those ages 40 years old to 49 years old. The fastest-growing segment in terms of taking on debt? Increasingly parents and grandparents are signing on to loans — at age 60 and above. Moreover, he said, student-loan debt is the variable that is driving increasing numbers of older borrowers and cosigners into bankruptcy.

It’s a pressure that’s long-lived, he continued, noting that it can take as long as 21 years to pay off a student loan — often requiring that borrowers work several jobs to meet the monthly expense roster and pay down what they owe for higher education even as academic costs skyrocket.

“The(ir) parents are actually doing the responsible thing,” said Thompson about the decisions to cosign, “but the parents are left in a really hard place particularly if they don’t have savings.”

Parents who, quite literally, sign on to help are faced with choices that are less than ideal — they can take out a home equity loan, put the payments on their credit cards or take out hardship withdrawals from their 401(k)s.  The result: The loan debt creates financially strapped borrowers a couple of decades away from retirement and financially strapped elders whose income streams may be limited to Social Security benefits and interest from their retirement savings.

The ripple effect is palpable, and with lots of ripple effects, said Thompson, that can take its toll on employers. The debt to income ratio that the just-out-of school borrowers carry means they can’t take on other debt instruments such as credit cards — so those borrowers job hop to find jobs that help make those ends meet.

“By classic banking definitions, th(ose) employees are broke,” said Thompson. Faced with paycheck challenges of meeting all those obligations, he said, these employees start to job hop, pursuing higher salaries in a desperate attempt to pay down what is owed. Churn, of course, hits employers, who have to hire and train new workers, with all of the costs that go along with retraining a workforce.

Adding salt to that wound, so to speak, is that these same workers have to make the hard tradeoff between paying off their debit and funding their retirement accounts. Guess what wins? Also, at a 21-year repayment rate, those employees are in their early 40s before they can even start to think about saving for retirement. Along the way, the opportunity to buy a home, a car or accrue enough discretionary income to spend, which drives our economy, is muted.

The Mechanics is a tech platform that sits in the middle of the process, helping client companies structure plans and transfer money from employees’ compensation to pay down their student loans.

Thompson said that programs are flexible, where companies can set dollar amount limits, or whether funds are disbursed to employees or the loan servicer.

“We determine how many people [within a firm] are eligible what they’re eligible for,” he said. also onboards and verifies the employee. “We then bill the employer. We get paid by the employer. We run a ledger against the funds that we just received. Then we push it through the ACH network to the loan servicers. That’s the simplest view of how this works,” he said.

As examples of the flexibility of the loan repayment benefits (spanning health care, financial services, government entities and others), he pointed to the program developed with CSAA Insurance Group, a AAA Insurer.  Dubbed the “Employee Choice Program,” employees can opt to direct up to 4 percent of their employer match benefit to paying down their debt. Shaving down the principal saves thousands of dollars over the course of the loan’s life in interest payments, while also allowing participants to save for retirement.

“We are just leveling the playing field in this instance for people who find [saving for retirement] unaffordable.  the good news is you’re going to get them to a much better financial place really fast,” he said.

In another example, earlier this month within the health care space, Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall in New York said that employees could convert unused paid time off into contributions that pay down debt, up to a maximum of $5,000 annually. That’s especially attractive, Thompson maintained, in an industry where healthcare professionals typically lose their PTO that accrues past a certain point — and their schedules are notoriously hectic, so much so that taking PTO is no sure thing. In addition, healthcare firms that offer the ability to cash out PTO usually mandate hefty discounts on those cashouts.

“There are all kinds of variations on this. So you’ve got to be a tech company like us to administer those plans,” he told Webster, adding that the student loan repayment programs are attractive enough that certain employers can offer the debt paydowns as a sort of signing bonus.

As he told Webster of the companies enabled by to offer student loan repayment programs “they’re saying to their employees that ‘if you stay with me for the next five years I can help you get rid of your student loan. That’s a compelling benefit.”


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.

Consumers Actually Want Sharing Economy Platforms To Verify Their Identity

Whether they are finding employment opportunities using platforms such as, finding affordable lodging for their next vacation or merely hitching a ride across town using Uber or Lyft, some 111 million consumers daily use services offered by sharing economy platforms.

Despite their popularity, platforms use weak identity verification and authentication techniques to sign on new users and login returning ones, which puts consumers data and digital identity at risk.

The crux of the issue is that many platforms are seemingly sacrificing transaction security and integrity for smoother user experience when they onboard new users, and do so again when those users return to access said marketplace accounts.

Luckily, recent PYMNTS research suggests that this dichotomy between platform security and ease of use may be more myth than reality. In early 2019, PYMNTS conducted a survey of 3,585 consumers to learn about how they used sharing economy platforms in their everyday lives and how those platforms were taking measures to defend against digital fraud and identity theft.

While consumers looking to use sharing economy platforms must only create one account, they must access that account time and time again — each time they to gain access to the services those platforms provide.

It follows that consumers would feel satisfied signing into existing accounts using methods that require a minimal amount of time and effort. Our survey showed that sharing economy users were most satisfied with authenticating their identities using fingerprint scans. In fact, 76.4 percent of consumers who are asked to verify their identities by scanning their fingerprints when signing onto existing sharing economy accounts report being “very” or “extremely” satisfied with their login process.

Figure 1: Consumers’ satisfaction with select verification or authentication methods

Share of consumers who are “very” or “extremely” satisfied with methods used to create or access accounts

This is a considerably higher satisfaction rate than for other forms of biometric identification. Just 54.8 percent of users who authenticate their identities using facial recognition scans report feeling “very” or “extremely” satisfied, as do just 41.2 percent of those who use voice recognition technology. All other authentication methods using biometric identifiers, including methods such as iris scans earned an overall user satisfaction score of just 36.8 percent.

This makes sense. While consumers are familiar with authenticating themselves with their fingerprints on their smartphones, laptops and other devices, they aren’t as familiar with other forms of biometric authentication. It will likely take some time before voice recognition and facial recognition techniques are advanced enough to function with the same ease and accuracy as fingerprint scans.

Signing up for new accounts is an entirely different matter.

While sharing economy users must authenticate their identities each time they log into their accounts, they must only create accounts once. More specifically, they are likely to tolerate a longer sign-up process than a login process.

When it comes to signing up for new services, sharing economy users report the highest satisfaction with answering personal questions. In our survey, 71.1 percent of consumers who were asked personal questions when opening new sharing economy accounts saying they were “very” or “extremely” satisfied with the method.

On the other end of the spectrum, sharing economy users were least satisfied with being asked to respond to a one-time email or text alert. Even so, as much 64.2 percent of sharing economy users who were asked to verify their identities by responding to such a message reported feeling “very” or “extremely” satisfied with it. This seems to indicate that consumers may not have particularly strong preferences with one verification method over another when it comes to creating new accounts on sharing economy platforms.

As consistent as user satisfaction was with verification methods, on the whole, there was a considerable amount of variability when measured across different market segments.

While 71.1 percent of all sharing economy users were “very” or “extremely” satisfied with verifying their identities by answering personal questions, for instance, just 33.3 percent of those who answered personal questions when signing up for clothing rental services said the same.

Figure 2: Consumers’ satisfaction with select identity verification factors

Share of consumers who are “very” or “extremely” satisfied with methods used to create accounts, by segment

Then, some consumers were asked to respond to one-time emails or text alerts when signing up for new sharing economy platforms. Consumers who use freelance platforms like are more satisfied with this verification method than consumers who use platforms in other market segments: 70.8 percent of them report feeling “very” or “extremely” satisfied verifying their identities via email or text alert during sing up. Yet, not even a single consumer who used clothing rental platforms was asked to respond to an email or text alert when creating their account.

So, we know consumers’ verification and authentication preferences. Are digital sharing platforms meeting their users’ expectations in this regard?

The short answer is, no. When it comes to authenticating returning users, only a tiny minority of sharing economy platforms employ the types of methods with which users are most satisfied. Just 9.2 percent of surveyed consumers say their sharing economy platforms authenticate them using fingerprint scans, for instance, and just 27.9 percent ask new users to answer personal questions when creating accounts. This is odd considering that these are the authentication and verification methods with the highest user-satisfaction rates.

Figure 3: How consumers are asked to verify or authenticate identities when opening or accessing accounts

Share of consumers that are asked to use select verification or authentication methods when opening or accessing their accounts

Instead of employing authentication and verification methods their users would prefer, most digital sharing economy platforms use the same, tired methods that have been in circulation since the days of the dial tone.

The most common way sharing economy users say they are asked to authenticate their identities when logging into their accounts is by providing simple passwords (49.5 percent report using them) and email addresses (35 percent). This is an issue, not only because user satisfaction rates are far lower for these methods, but also because they are notoriously unsecure, especially in today’s day and age where data breaches have seemingly become an everyday occurrence.

Digital sharing platforms’ verification techniques are not much better, either. The most common pieces of personally identifiable information new users are asked to submit when creating new accounts are their email addresses (71.5 percent of respondents were asked this when creating their accounts) and phone numbers (64.6 percent), respectively. With consumers’ personally identifiable information readily available on social media and the dark web, it can be remarkably easy for bad actors to use real consumers’ information to create fraudulent accounts.

The simple truth is that the sharing economy platforms that have become so omnipresent in most consumers’ lives are far less secure than they could be. The fact that many platforms require their users to authenticate and verify their identities using antiquated methods that have lower satisfaction rates than more advanced alternatives only adds insult to injury.

Luckily, this is a course that can be easily corrected.


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.

Amazon Presses The Gas On Voice-Assisted Cars

Among the biggest battlegrounds in retail is not only what amounts to a moving target — but a race involving the human voice. Moreover, now Amazon is reportedly trying to up its presence in this particular and growing area of commerce, a sign of the enormous stakes involved.

The specific area in question is the emerging ecosystem of connected cars and trucks — along with the increasingly popular and even vital area of voice-activated commerce, where Amazon’s Alexa is engaged in fierce competition with similar technology from the likes of Google and others. Most recently, according to a Bloomberg report, Amazon “is trying to persuade automakers to bake the voice-activated digital assistant into their entertainment systems.” Specifically, that effort is being at least partly conducted through a device called the Echo Auto, which according to that report “is the most visible element so far of Amazon’s ambition to take Alexa on the road.”

Connected Vehicle Trends

Connected vehicles stand as one of the next big frontiers of payments and commerce. The motivation for such moves by Amazon and others is made clear by the PYMNTS Digital Drive report. It found that the U.S. commute is a contextual commerce channel worth $230 billion a year in commuter-inspired purchases. That’s not all, though. It’s a connected commuter experience that has increased more than 8 percent since last year.

Voice-assistant technology — already a big hit among first adopters, and quickly moving further into the mainstream, according to most signs — promises to stand as a significant part of the emerging connected-vehicle ecosystem (and, by extension, that includes smart homes and the Internet of Things [IoT]).

The role that voice will play in the lives of commuters and other drivers is becoming more evident. In a previous PYMNTS podcast, Karen Webster and Don Frieden, president and CEO of P97 Networks, not only mapped out that future, but described the primary, immediate challenges that will need to be overcome.

Among the main challenges?

The battle for dominance in this emerging connected-vehicle landscape is a complicated, multiple-part effort that includes payment, commerce and other tech firms, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and operating system providers. Not only that, but does consumers’ use of Alexa in the car guarantee the use of Alexa in the home and vice versa? Do the sides that consumers choose now — when it comes to voice and operating systems — permanently lock them into a particular system, even as the connected-vehicle ecosystem keeps developing?

BMW Deal

Amazon has made previous moves in the build-up to the present. BMW, for instance, has already announced its integration with Amazon’s Alexa. The deal is designed to give drivers access to Alexa skills and voice-activated services directly from the car’s infotainment system.

Here’s how it works: Once the driver is in a compatible car, they’ll be able to make voice commands to control all of their vehicle’s standard features, such as navigation and climate control. They can even check the tire pressure, oil level and other engine settings, and learn more about their vehicles. As they use the assistant, it will get to know them better, remember their preferred settings and even suggest changes over time.

A recent move from P97 also underscores the level activity in this space. A deal involving P97 Networks and Accenture Ventures provides the latest firm demonstration of how that emerging ecosystem is being shaped — and the most recent example of how the various players that will provide connected vehicle payments and commerce are taking sides and forming teams.

Accenture, according to P97, has made an equity investment in the company and formed an “alliance” with it. That means a few things, Frieden told PYMNTS. P97 gets more funding fuel for its ongoing global growth efforts, among the most challenging initiatives for any company. “It’s hard to round up a team around the globe very fast,” he said. Longer-term, P97 gets to team up with a company that has a focus on and experience with voice-enabled payments — which seems all but certain to play a vital role in the rise of connected vehicle payments and commerce, and its success.

Amazon — and probably most other players in this emerging ecosystem of connected vehicles — are not necessarily banking on immediate gains from their recent voice-related moves, at least according to the Bloomberg report. “While colonizing the car probably won’t generate much in the way of revenue at first, just being there would help Amazon position itself for a coming era of voice-based services,” the report stated before going on to quote Mike Ramsey, a senior research director at Gartner who tracks the auto industry.  “Amazon wants to get into the car in a big way,” he told Bloomberg. “They sense that there is a big opportunity.”

As 2019 gives way to 2020 — and the various players in payments, commerce and automotive race to gain better positions in the connected vehicle ecosystem — you can expect much more activity related to the voice-assistant component.


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.

Poll Reveals Low Confidence in Month-End Close Process

Almost three-quarters (73%) of respondents to an MHR Analytics Twitter poll revealed they are not confident about their data and numbers on month-end closes and audit submissions.

The findings from the survey of 1,000 respondents underline the increasing pressures facing finance teams.

A separate survey showed the new IFRS 16 lease accounting legislation to be taking its toll, with 30% of respondents calling it ‘complex,’ 17% ‘resource heavy’ and 24% ‘time consuming.’

Nick Felton

“With a backdrop of rising interest rates, an uncertain economy and increased regulation, finance and accounting leaders are facing a wide range of competing demands, and this is something we’ve seen in our research as well as from working with our customers,” says Nick Felton, MHR Analytics SVP.

“Compliance, chaotic data sets and close processes paint a complex picture, but the good news is that these challenges come at a time when powerful technology is widely available to automate these processes and remove some of the burdens blighting finance and accounting teams,” he added.

The specialist provider of business intelligence and financial performance management sets out three practical ways to address finance woes through automation:

  1. Automated close and consolidation: Financial close and consolidation encompasses everything from corporate reporting and regulatory filing to intercompany eliminations, tax reporting variables, disclosure management and consolidation of financial statements. Delivering reporting in a way that’s compliant and accurate, whilst closing and consolidating quickly is a balance that can be difficult to deliver. The MHR Analytics Twitter poll demonstrated these difficulties, with only 27% of those surveyed saying they were confident on audit submissions and month-end closes, 27% saying theirs required improvement and 46% saying they were not confident.

“Failures in data collection, calculation and disclosure can all mean sleepwalking towards non-compliance.”

Tailored solutions like CCH Tagetik bring together disparate data sets and provide full control over reporting and time. This automated approach eliminates the costly mistakes made with manual methods and reduces admin time by automating repetitive tasks, creating fast and accurate reports to take away the month-end headache.

  1. Automated reporting: IFRS 16 lease reporting software is a primary example, with companies obligated to include virtually all leases on the balance sheet since January this year. For finance teams, the biggest change has been the removal of the distinction between finance leases and operating leases. From premises through to big-ticket office equipment, IFRS 16 demands detailed consideration of lease data relating to a potentially huge range of assets – many of which were previously dealt with off-balance sheet.

Failures in data collection, calculation and disclosure can all mean sleepwalking towards non-compliance. This can lead to loss of investor and partner confidence or severed credit lines – risks that few businesses can afford to encounter.

Research shows that the top performing businesses spend 20% more time on analysis of financial data than on gathering it

Equipping your team with an analytics solution can help. Implementing a single hub for IRFS reporting, data repository, calculation modelling, reporting and disclosures will allow teams to manage obligations while retaining ownership of the accounting process and ultimate peace of mind.

  1. Automated budgeting and forecasting. Research shows that the top performing businesses spend 20% more time on analysis of financial data than on gathering it. But to do this effectively, being armed with the right technology is fundamental – and a large number of businesses are still relying on spreadsheets which simply cannot provide the accuracy needed to effectively budget and forecast. Automated budgeting, forecasting and analysis, using IBM Planning Analytics for example, eradicates the risk of human error and transforms the finance function with complete visibility. One MHR Analytics customer has implemented financial workforce planning software to save an anticipated 30% in operational costs and generate long-term financial forecasts up to 10 years into the future.
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Six diverse picks of Fintech shovels & Fintech stacks


The transformation of Financial services continues and re-bundling is one of the trends that is at work. Fintechs are collaborating and creating fuller stacks by bundling several services and growing their businesses.

Six picks give you a picture of the diversity of this trend.

Mambu is a leader in the Saas core banking sector. It powers up Oak North bank, which is the No.1 UK challenger bank. It is the heart and brain of the ABN Amro`s digital banking spinoff, New10, that focuses on SME lending. It became the banking cloud platform that powered N26. The leading mobile banking app N26, transitioned to Mambu in 2016. This gave N26 full ownership of customer data and facilitated scalability from about 500,000 customers to now more than 2.3m.

Solaris Bank is a leader in Baas, by offering banking services without owning a banking license. Solaris Bank powers Modifi, which offers international trade finance to SMEs. CrossLend, is an online marketplace for European loans which is powered by Solaris Bank in order to offer instant securitization of loans.

Plaid is a US B2B Fintech that offers a diverse and growing set of tools to connect user accounts. It is enabling Prosper and SoloFunds (lending Fintechs) to quickly onboard new users and connect their bank accounts. It powers up Gusto (renamed from ZenPayroll) that offers a complete cloud-based payroll, benefits and HR management software for US companies.

Fidor Solutions, the German tech company powers Fidor Bank in Germany and the UK. It is also powering the o2 Telefónica Deutschland the mobile banking app of the German telecom provider.

Moven Entperprise is a US based technology company powering Fintechs like TD MySpend and WestPac CashNav – from Canada to New Zealansd. Both are free mobile PFM apps that allow users to track and manage real time their spending.

Habito is a UK online free mortgage provider that powers Starling Bank`s mortgage offering. WealthSimple is the Canadian robo-advisor on the Starling marketplace for investment services and PensionBee for pension services.

Saas offerings, re-bundling and the pot of gold

No Mambu jambo — the power behind N26

German start-up Modifi powers up for digital trade finance

SolarisBank and CrossLend start strategic partnership for fully automated loan securitization

Efi Pylarinou is the founder of Efi Pylarinou Advisory and a Fintech/Blockchain influencer – No.3 influencer in the finance sector by Refinitiv Global Social Media 2019. 

I have no positions or commercial relationships with the companies or people mentioned. I am not receiving compensation for this post. 

Subscribe by email to join Fintech leaders who read our research daily to stay ahead of the curve. Check out our advisory services (how we pay for this free original research).

Apple To Offer Gaming Subscriptions For $4.99/Month

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.


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.

Visa Pushes Back On India’s 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.


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.

App Developers Don’t Like Apple’s 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.


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.

BoA Looks To Create 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.”


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.

How savings app 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.

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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WattzOn’s 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.