U.S. Bank is developing a mobile app that can provide physical stores with the sort of data that is typically only available to online and mobile shopping sites.
Consumers can use the bank's system to scan watermarked items on store shelves to find product specifications and available discounts. And just as major online sellers know which products each shopper has browsed the stores would know that consumers scanned these products even if they leave the store without buying anything.
"The solution that we've been testing enables things like connecting the physical world to the digital world in a trackable way," says Dominic Venturo, chief innovation officer for U.S. Bank Payment Services.
U.S. Bank is developing this technology through a partnership with Monitise. U.S. Bank and Monitise plan to support product selection and instant checkout, leveraging digital and audio watermarking and scanning technology from Digimarc Corp. and Nellymoser, a division of Gruner+Jahr.
"[Watermark scanning] is a much simpler experience than going to a mobile website or a catalog and choosing the item you want," particularly because of the small size of most phone screens, Venturo says.
Digimarc's technology handles communication between devices and also monitors broadcasts and Internet distribution of television programming. It provides a digital identity to marketing content that can help with transaction tracking and security, and communicates details about digital images.
Nellymoser delivers media between connected computing devices, and generally supports sharing multimedia content on social networks. It also enables instant product purchases through mobile commerce.
U.S. Bank will also leverage Elavon, its processing division, to help tie mobile payments, multi-channel marketing and shopping together in the same consumer experience.
The watermark technology allows consumers to populate a digital shopping cart by scanning items with a mobile device. "We can also store things like billing addresses and shipping addresses," Venturo says.
Merchants can also place watermarks in ads. The app can track advertising responses based on the location where the scan took place, the product scanned, and other factors. "What [the market] hasn't seen yet is a seamless experience between print or broadcast media and payments," he says.
In a pilot, U.S. Bank and Monitise will integrate mobile action codes, mobile shopping and mobile payments in a format that includes product discovery, product information, purchases and social sharing.
"It's an expansion of the technology that we are working on in the cloud," says Lisa Stanton, president of the Americas at Monitise, in an interview. "This new partnership is focused on the merchants and what we can do to help them sell more effectively."
Monitise's mobile payment platform, called Vantage 5.1, includes a mix of cloud-delivered and on-premise technology to support payments and e-commerce products that can be delivered to merchants and consumers by issuing banks or other content providers.
U.S. Bank is the initial partner for the program, though other banks may join in the future, Stanton says.
U.S. Bank already uses watermark technology in other parts of its business. The Minneapolis-based bank uses watermarks to add audio and video content to paper reports and internal strategy documents. U.S. Bank is also an early user of voice commands for its mobile application. The Monitise project is unrelated to these other initiatives, Venturo says.
Other payment companies are also evaluating options to use mobile phones to order and ship items from within a store. MasterCard, for example, is developing technology that will allow consumers to use QR codes to make purchases and have products shipped to their homes. For example, a fan at a sporting event who does not want to wait in line to buy a team jersey can scan a QR code to have the product delivered.