First Data Corp. is giving the name “Universal Commerce” to the company’s campaign to combine online and offline shopping and loyalty rewards.
The Atlanta-based transaction processor came up with Universal Commerce, or uCommerce, in response to inquiries from its customers and consumers about what felt like a “perfect storm” of change in the payments industry, Mark Herrington, the firm’s executive vice president of global product management and innovation, tells PaymentsSource.
Those changes include a switch from magnetic stripe cards to EMV chip cards, the ongoing competition among various approaches to mobile payments, the relatively new habit of combining online and offline shopping, and the wealth of valuable data on shopping behavior the industry is collecting from transactions, Herrington says.
“It’s fairly overwhelming,” he admits.
Still, First Data believed it should address the whirlwind of change and thus decided last fall to respond, Herrington says.
When it comes to which devices will prevail in the rush to digital wallets, First Data concedes it cannot foretell the outcome, he says.
“The eventual winner?” Herrington asks rhetorically. “Who knows?”
But First Data does know consumers expect a seamless experience as they move among online and offline approaches to commerce, he says.
Consumers might, for example, download an offer on a home computer, save it to a mobile wallet, redeem it at the store and receive a text notification of loyalty points, according to the First Data website.
Expectations for a smooth transition among e-commerce, in-store and mobile venues mean that vendors can’t get by with providing different processes for various handsets, and retailers won’t train their staffs to deal with differing approaches to technology, says Herrington.
Meanwhile, companies will gather increasing quantities of information while still delivering transactions within 0.04 seconds, he notes.
The importance of gathering information from transactions has become clear with the decision by tech companies, such as Google Inc., to enter the industry, Herrington says.
First Data is responding to those realities by keeping its transaction infrastructure open and ready to accept any form of payment, Herrington says.
In the past 18 months, the company has increased its capacity to provide consumer information to merchants, including the ability to compare their performance with that of their peers, he says.
The company also will supply merchants with data to evaluate the results of marketing, ranging from ads to Groupon discounts, Herrington maintains.
More specifically, First Data unveiled its OfferWise product this month at the annual South By Southwest Interactive Festival earlier this month in Austin, Texas (see story).
Merchants may use OfferWise to attach deals, e-coupons and loyalty programs to consumers’ cards or digital wallets.
Gourmet food trucks working the festival in Austin used OfferWise and alerted patrons to go to an Internet page to link their cards or phones to offers. When food-truck workers scanned the cards, the deals automatically were included in the price of the meal–without the need for printed coupons.
The food-truck owners reported increased business without having to reprogram their point-of-sale equipment or train employees.
OfferWise is expected to become available to First Data’s 4 million merchants this summer, the company says.
Independent sales organization and sales agents can differentiate themselves from competitors by offering merchants the OfferWise product and the ability to track and analyze results from Groupon and Living Social, Herrington says.
Web and application developers can integrate OfferWise with the products because of technology from CardSpring, First Data says on it website.
RetailMeNot.com became the first offer publisher to launch a project using OfferWise, the site says.
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