They say to dress for the job you want, not the job you have, and First Data's Clover operation did just that.
The mobile point of sale business always had an eye on bigger clients than the mom-and-pop shops that typically use portable payment devices. And as its devices got smaller and smaller — with the addition of the Clover Mini and Clover Go card readers — its ambitions stayed big enough to fill a stadium.
Now, as First Data makes its first move into sports arenas through a partnership with Bypass — a company experienced in the entertainment sector with cloud-based software and back-office management services — it can demonstrate how its technology was designed to work on a much bigger scale.
"Many people thought Clover was a closed small-business product, but it's really an open platform able to move up and down the spectrum with different partners," said Dan Charron, executive vice president of global business solutions at First Data. "It can work on a large scale, which is what we are doing in this case … we call ourselves grand collaborators, and we expect to do many more of these as people come to us and work with us."
The partnership figures to benefit from the trend of sports and music arenas becoming complex marketplaces in which payments can be made with various devices. Technology is advancing to the point where fans can purchase items from any stadium vendor or concession stand without leaving their seats.
Bypass brings expertise in working with multi-site food and beverage operations, using its system to track inventory and other business facets at the arena.
"It's all moving to an experience vs. a transaction at these sporting events and concerts," Charron said. "Clover's security and EMV capabilities, the whole nine yards, is available, depending on what type of interaction they want to have with a customer paying at the seat, at a counter or while in a line."
After going through the initial public offering process late last year, First Data began aggressively clearing the decks for more interaction with application developers. In doing so, First Data put the Clover platform in a position to compete with the likes of Square, Revel and others pushing mobile POS as an option for a vast array of small-business merchants or larger venue operations in which small, durable POS systems are vital.
First Data and Bypass expect to announce some major stadium clients in the near future, a move that will help clarify Clover's role in the ecosystem, Charron said.
The process illustrated the challenge mobile point of sale hardware has "to move up market," said Tim Sloane, director of emerging technologies advisory services for Boston-based Mercator Advisory Group.
"But First Data is getting a real lead in building up the library of applications and experience with this solution," Sloane said.
Ultimately, First Data may have some difficult decisions to make about whether the advancement of the Clover platform will mean certain services are exclusive to Clover hardware, Sloane added.
"As more devices become capable of supporting the encryption and other capabilities to operate as a point of sale, it will be interesting to see how Clover evolves," Sloane said.