Exclusive to Paybefore. February 2013.
The rise of mobile payments creates a complex maze of options for the small to midsize business owner (SMB) hoping to take advantage of this substantial potential shift in the market. Businesses without a dedicated in-house team to focus on tackling the unique challenges of mobile can be overwhelmed easily with creating and executing a coherent strategy. Many firms, from established stalwarts in software, like Intuit, to upstarts, like Dwolla, have jumped in to help SMBs tackle mobile payments.
But like the early days of e-commerce when expectations of customers varied widely and industry standards were few, managers at SMBs are inclined to follow the research and advice of staff that keeps up with the industry. Unfortunately, the two specialists in an organization most likely to have strong opinions on mobile payments and the impact on the business—software developers and accountants—are unlikely to assign value the same way. If we look at a few current offerings in mobile payments, it provides some insight into how startups and their established competition are courting these in-house influencers.
Dwolla is the kind of product, and the kind of company, that developers are apt to follow and will defend in meetings until long after the last bagel has disappeared into fat storage. From their abrasive, profanity laced, "us vs. them" style of presentation at otherwise conservative financial conferences to their clear disdain for overly complex banking policies (and the systems built to implement them), Dwolla is getting attention among technologists by picking a fight and then offering a solution to a presumed evil it hopes to eradicate.
The basic idea of Dwolla is quite easy to understand even for the non-technical—an inexpensive, simple and well-documented transaction API (set of instructions) for transferring money from person to person and business to business. Frustrated by the often antiquated systems that make programming for the banking industry very expensive and slow, Dwolla is out to make life easier for developers. As such, developers can make the case internally that using Dwolla can simplify developing payment options in Web and mobile apps and let them focus on other areas, such as improving the user experience.
Although Dwolla is a dream to developers wanting to make custom solutions, old stalwarts like Intuit offer a pitch that is hard to ignore down the hall in accounting—a credit card reader for mobile devices that integrates with existing software behemoth Quickbooks. For the thousands of businesses that track every cent in Quickbooks, Intuit's Go Payment is a natural extension of the business. While few developers and IT staff get excited about yet another Quicken extension to support, putting a toe in the mobile payments pool with a known entity is likely to be compelling, cheaper and a bit less intimidating, than writing an app.
The offerings of Dwolla and Intuit are two of many potential starting points towards mobile payments for SMBs, but illustrate the difference in approach and wide range of staff opinions that managers must sift through as they embark on a mobile strategy. From custom development based on the work of interesting new startups to point-of-sale credit card acceptance that won't throw off the processes in the accounting department, mobile payments is a frontier with no shortage of options.