SXSW Festival Update: Mobile Driving Wide-Scale Integration of Ecommerce, Payments
By: Ana Cantu
Mobile is driving wide-scale integration of ecommerce and payments, and 40 percent of eBay Marketplaces’ gross merchandise volume in Q4 involved a mobile touch point, illustrating why eBay and PayPal drive value together for merchants and consumers, eBay Inc. executives said at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.
As part of South by Southwest Interactive’s Mobile Saturday panel lineup, eBay’s Kevin Hurst and PayPal’s John Lunn shared how the company has been capitalizing on the many global opportunities that lie at the intersection of mobile and retail.
As people increasingly use eBay for commerce on mobile – via phone, tablet, wearable or connected glass – they’re being exposed to PayPal technology for payments, creating a seamless shopping experience.
South by Southwest – commonly referred to as SXSW — is an annual confab of interactive technology, music and movies, and has evolved as a destination for startups, venture capitalists and technologists.
During the SXSW panel “Mobile Means Business: Learn How to Get Ahead,” Hurst used eBay’s journey into mobile payments, which began seven years ago, as a guide for other businesses seeking to innovate using a mobile-first strategy.
Hurst, noting that 40 percent of eBay Marketplaces’ gross merchandise volume in Q4 involved a mobile touch point, called mobile “a key driver of eBay’s business right now.” The ecommerce giant did $22 billion in mobile commerce volume in 2013.
Because consumers can shop anytime, anywhere and on any device, Hurst said, the company started its mobile initiative with push notifications to alert customers when auctions were ending. That contributed to revenue growth as more buyers signed up to get alerts. Now eBay users can also list items via mobile app, and “things like that are really accelerating growth.”
“Now there’s a concerted effort to make everything multi-screen to improve the customer experience,” Hurst said, and it extends to wearable technology, the next frontier in mobile. For example, eBay recently launched an app for the Pebble smart watch, and PayPal just unveiled a Samsung Gear 2 app.
A key part of improving the customer experience encompasses payment technology.
“At eBay, PayPal’s a part of us and it’s focusing on taking the pain out of payments,” Hurst said. The combination of frictionless payments and predictive personalization – based on eBay Marketplaces data – is strengthening the company’s core businesses.
In his solo session “Developers: Take the World Stage by Storm,” John Lunn, global director of the PayPal Developer Network, also offered practical advice to startups on how to take their businesses international, which Lunn has done with three companies in his career.
First, he said, companies should assess whether their mission statement is something that translates globally. Startups must study everything from their user base to their commitment to mobile, but shouldn’t get discouraged because “innovation happens everywhere in the world.”
“By constantly innovating, you don’t allow clones or competitors to catch you,” said Lunn, citing PayPal as an example because over half of its business is international.
“Banks have been trying to clone PayPal for a number of years,” he said, but the company’s attention to customers’ needs and Marketplaces data have allowed it to remain agile as it enters new markets. When PayPal went to Brazil, for example, it found that Brazilians frequently paid for goods in installments so it began offering that payment method as well because of the rewards of competing in that market.
The main point Lunn stressed throughout his talk is that startups should evaluate international market opportunities based on how they tie into the startup’s core business strategy. “Don’t base your strategy on what will make your life easy. Where will you get the biggest return on investment?”
It’s also incredibly important, Lunn said, for companies to choose the right global and local partners to help them reach their goals.
“You need a local payment partner,” like PayPal and Braintree, and e-commerce partners like eBay, that can support a startup’s business model.