Given the pressures of cart abandonment and showrooming brought about by digital marketplaces, traditional retailers are trying lots of ways to fight back with digital techniques of their own.
One possible inflection point is enabling people to buy and item directly from an advertisement, rather than redirecting to a checkout page from an ad. It seems intuitive, but there are many obstacles in the way of bringing such a concept to market.
OmnyWay, the company that helps power Kohl's Pay, among other retail clients, aims to solve this issue with the launch of ZapBuy, which it introduced this week to enable consumers to "zap" an ad to purchase the item.
Placing a buy button in an ad is more challenging than a purchase trigger on a website because the user has already signed on in the latter case, according to Tim Sloane, vice president of payments innovation and director of the emerging technologies advisory service at Mercator.
"There have been several attempts at advertising buy buttons via bar codes, but none have been successful," Sloane said.
OmnyWay, which this week changed its name from OmnyPay to reflect the growing move by payments technology vendors to reposition themselves as providers of broader merchant services, uses a mix of mobile technology and links to ad networks to move consumers directly from an ad to checkout.
"This one strikes me as different because it isn't a solution claiming to be out of the box for all ads, instead it is retailer specific," Sloane said. "This retailer focus is key to enabling a lower friction implementation."
Otherwise, ZapBuy sticks to the basics. It uses QR codes and other technology to allow smartphones to capture information about a product through a scan. This scan works for print, display, social media, email, television and other media.
QR codes are an old technology, but is a go-to choice for many mobile wallet providers because it does not require any advanced technology on the part of the consumer. Starbucks, Kohl's and Chase Pay all use QR codes or bar codes with their mobile wallets.
In the case of ZapBuy, once the consumer scans an ad for a branded product, he or she will find out where that product can be purchased and offer an instant payment for that product. If it's an ad for a product from a specific retailer, OmnyWay also allows a quick payment and purchase. Working as an interface between the consumer and retailer, OmnyWay then uses the consumer's stored credentials for ID security to complete the purchase as a "normal" m-commerce buy, but with less moving between sites.
"We saw an opening to keep the shopper 'in context' and to give them information to inform a purchase immediately," said Ashok Narasimhan, CEO of OmnyWay. "What we can to do is provide a buy button that provides multi factor authentication and then allows the purchase seamlessly."
Narasimhan did not reveal users for ZapBuy, and Kohl's did not do an interview for this story.
"Any brand or retailer can use the same mobile platform to offer ZapBuy," Narasimhan said.
OmnyWay is also part of an expanding number of technology companies that are trying to improve the linkage between mobile advertising and payments technology. Four years ago Zooz placed in-app purchase triggers inside banner ads on mobile shopping sites, and more recently Apple has supported Apple Pay purchases inside vending marching display advertisements. .
And there's also a sea of 'buy' buttons, or technology that triggers purchases from inside digital content or a "context" that's closer to the consumer's need or want than an online checkout page or a store's point of sale. The buy buttons are often inside the retailers' social network pages, or in the case of Amazon, they're a physical buy button that consumers can press to reorder household items such as detergent and toilet paper.