Would You Go Shopping To Your Bank?

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17 April 2014
Zilvinas Bareisis
This week I saw the news that Bank Zachodni WBK in Poland, part of the Santander Group, "embedded an extensive m‑commerce marketplace into its mobile banking & payment application." The users can log into their mobile banking app, and from there shop at a variety of merchants embedded in the application. According to the announcement, "the purchase is made with one click only and all user’s financial data is protected by the bank. Customer does not have to trouble with attaching multiple credit cards, remembering shops’ logins or learning their functionalities (all shops and financial services share one unified UI); a delivery address is already stored." Poland is a very innovative market in payments, from being one of the leading markets on contactless POS penetration to working on solutions for payments directly from a bank account (e.g. IKO). This is yet another example of creative thinking in payments and commerce, and the bank should be applauded for its innovation efforts. But is this the right model? I can understand the attraction to banks: the opportunity to earn additional revenue while giving more reasons for your customer to use your app. It might make sense for the merchants as well. If payment is processed directly from a bank account rather than a card, they are likely to have lower costs. And one-click purchasing might increase the conversion rates, a crucial metric for success for online merchants. The big question is whether customers are prepared to view their banks as online malls where they go shopping across a broad range of retailers. What can such a bank mall bring over and above individual merchant sites? O2 Wallet in the UK has tried to build a similar mall, by enabling shopping at selected merchants directly from the wallet, but has recently shut down to re-think its strategy. Nectar, a multi-merchant loyalty scheme, also has partnerships with many online sites, including leading brands, such as Apple, Argos, Currys, Debenhams, and, until recently, Amazon. If the customer goes to the participating retailer's site via Nectar website, they would earn Nectar loyalty points for their shopping. As much as I like my Nectar points, I can never remember to go to their website first; I either go to the merchant website directly or Google to find what I am looking for... My view is that such a model may work for small local merchants, which need help to be discovered and lack ability to build an online/ mobile presence themselves. Combining with a single sign-on, unique offers and one-click checkout you get a viable proposition. It is much more difficult to imagine a customer going to Amazon or another leading brand via his bank. Understandably, banks want to play a bigger role in the broader commerce, not just payments, and will continue to experiment with different models. Ultimately, it will be consumers and merchants that will determine what works best for them. What do you think is the right model for banks?

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