The wireless carriers' Isis mobile wallet venture is launching a new program to build merchant support for its technology.
Most point of sale manufacturers have already agreed to support Isis payments, and Isis' new Alliance Program is designed to smooth out the actual deployment at store locations. Since many merchants have long-standing relationships with technology and service providers, Isis hopes its message will be compelling if delivered by these providers.
"The alliance means merchants have an increased chance that they can access the point of sale partners they already use," says Jim Stapleton, chief sales officer for Isis.
Isis, a venture of AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile, launched its mobile app nationwide last week. To use the mobile wallet, consumers must first obtain an enhanced SIM card from one of the wireless carriers' retail stores. Afterwards, consumers can use the Isis wallet to shop at merchants by tapping their phone against a typical contactless card reader at the point of sale.
Isis expects the alliance program's participants will include point of sale technology and service providers, resellers, software developers, middleware providers, vendors, independent sales organizations (ISOs), merchant acquirers, and other companies that serve retailers.
Although the Isis wallet will work at any merchant with the proper contactless payment hardware in place, many of these merchants are not active partners of Isis. This has led to some confusion among consumers, which Isis has had to address in its communications over Twitter.
With Isis' new program, "the idea is to create a forum through which Isis partners can get access to the information, tools and interfaces that they need to turn on the value-added features that Isis offers," says Rick Oglesby, a senior analyst with Aite Group.
Membership in the alliance is free, and includes member communications such as webinars and newsletters, Isis product development news, product roadmaps, free training, and in certain cases joint business planning. In addition, Isis has compiled product information, promotional materials and information on industry terminology.
Participants can also access technical documentation offers and loyalty programs with the Isis mobile wallet.
"The alliance will provide an opportunity to expand and scale loyalty offerings with merchants and other providers," Stapleton says.
Marketing opportunities through digital wallets can be complicated to establish, Oglesby says.
"[It] means changing a lot of code within the point of sale system and exchanging more than just payments data through the terminal with Isis," he says. "All of that means new lines of code in every system that adopts Isis, so they need to reach out to and work with the development community to make this all happen."
Isis is also working to distribute the enhanced SIM cards necessary to enable handsets to use the mobile wallet, Stapleton says.
Isis began distributing the new SIM cards about three months ago, and more smartphones that include the cards are hitting the market, Stapleton says. The SIM cards are available for free at the wireless carriers' retail stores and online, Stapleton says.
The wireless carriers' stores are training their employees to provide instruction and support for using Isis, he says. "No matter how much people know about Isis, they can walk into a store and walk out ready to use Isis," Stapleton says.
Isis is also evaluating Host Card Emulation, the technology that lets Google added in its latest update to the Android mobile operating system. HCE allows a phone to make contactless payments without access to the secure element.
"The jury is out on that. We are looking at all of the different technologies that are out there; we are not tied to any specific technology," Stapleton says.