Microsoft has made a series of recent partnerships with payments companies such as AnywhereCommerce, Vantiv and FreedomPay.
The partnerships are designed to take advantage of Microsoft's ability to quickly deploy the value-added services that accompany payments, such as customer relationship management, consumer analytics and automated business management tools.
"You can liken it to the suite of products that went along with Microsoft Office, such as PowerPoint, Excel, etc.," says Mitchell Cobrin, CEO of AnywhereCommerce. "You have a variety of modules that a retailer can add to payments that help manage business, such as ordering or marketing, or other activities such as [enterprise resource planning]."
As part of its partnership, AnywhereCommerce's mobile point of sale technology will be integrated into Microsoft's Surface line of tablets. It will also work with other mobile phone and tablet operating systems, enabling a suite of payments technology and services for retailers such as hardware, software, EMV-chip, Near Field Communication and other electronic commerce options.
Microsoft and AnywhereCommerce are testing their systems with Delta Airlines, which distributed Nokia 820 smart phones, outfitted with AnywhereCommerce's card acceptance attachment, to flight attendants to accept payments for food and duty free items while on airplanes. Delta did not return a request for comment by deadline.
AnywhereCommerce's technology can configure a Surface tablet so store employees can serve consumers while in an aisle at a store, Cobrin says. "The retail staff will be able to take payments without having to do the computations themselves," he says. "The tablet app will be able to compute stuff like sales taxes."
Vantiv is separately collaborating with Microsoft to build mobile point of sale and software-delivered business technology for retailers. The two companies plan to leverage Vantiv's payment processing and acceptance technologyand Microsoft's software and business management toolsto develop packages for a variety of use cases, such as mobile payment collection in the field, individual direct sales transactions, and retail stores.
"It's about as plug-and-play as it can possibly get," says Elizabeth Rector, a senior vice president of electronic commerce and mobile at Vantiv, who says the technology will work with most tablet and mobile operating systems. "There will be some integration to outfit the devices to accept payments, but we are designing it to make it easy to deploy."
Vantiv has also partnered with AT&T to deliver mobile point of sale and tablet-based payment products; and with NCR to offer mobile payments to businesses. "We found that retailers want the ease of mobile point of sale but want to be integrated into existing technology that they already have," Rector says.
In the mobile wallet market, Microsoft has partnered with FreedomPay to use payment data to inform targeted offers.
In the next year, Microsoft and FreedomPay, which developed of the Vibe mobile wallet, will market a white-label app that will package the Vibe wallet with geolocation and proximity-based loyalty offers and other marketing products informed by Microsoft's analytics technology.
"If I know more about my customer's spending habits, I can offer added value that is not as much about knowing what payment method they will use but something that encourages consumers to enter a location to buy items," says Colin Kerr, business development director for worldwide financial services at Microsoft.
The positioning of the Vibe wallet will also change, becoming more of a white label service that is offered as part of the dual suite of merchant services, payments, market and loyalty programs that Microsoft and FreedomPay offer.
The Vibe Wallet, which debuted in St. Louis in 2013, was a pilot of sorts, allowing FreedomPay and Microsoft to determine which services resonate with consumers before approaching retailers and banks with a mobile wallet service, says Andrea Walden, a vice president of FreedomPay. Going forward, the Vibe brand will become less of a factor, she says.
Merchants and banks can also integrate the Microsoft/FreedomPay mobile marketing and payments app into their own mobile apps or websites, Kerr says.
"Most merchants or banks already have a mobile app, so they can pick and choose what services from us they want to integrate with," Kerr says. Kerr would not address the Vantiv or AnywhereCommerce partnerships.