Mobile devices could be the next major platform from which consumers shop for products. But, for ecommerce merchants, there are issues with mobile commerce having to do with screen size, product images, and payments. Payments on a mobile device, from a consumer to a merchant, can be difficult. But there are companies seeking to simplify paying for products online via a mobile device and one of them is mPayy. To find out more we spoke with its CEO and founder, Conrad Sheehan.
PeC: What is mPayy?
Conrad Sheehan: “mPayy is an alternative payment platform for online merchants and online buyers that is completely outside of the Visa and MasterCard network. The platform is built around the mobile phone number and specializes in mobile payments. We identify buyers and sellers via their cell phone number, and the ways in which people conduct transactions are through our mobile website or through our Android application or iPhone application.
“The charges come right out of the customer’s checking account or a stored value account. All they need to do to make a purchase is enter their cell phone number and password. A buyer can type in their cell phone number and password and we send the shipping address on the server-to-server side to the merchant. So, it becomes a very simple purchase process.”
PeC: Do consumers need to sign up for your service first?
Sheehan: “Yes. They can open that up an account right at the merchant’s website or they can open it up at mpayy.com.”
PeC: How does a merchant incorporate mPayy into his or her mobile-optimized site?
Sheehan: “You open up an mPayy merchant account, you get a merchant ID and people pay you. Merchants could do that today with no development.
“The next step up would be creating a hyperlink from the merchant’s mobile-optimized site to mPayy just simply clicking a button ‘Pay with mPayy.’
“The next step beyond that would be through a set of APIs (application programming interfaces) in which there would be development. The merchant would send us data behind the scenes and we would send back confirmation for the payment. That could be done from the mobile web, from Android or from an iPhone, and, when they do make that step to one of those applications, we’d be ready to handle their payments across all three platforms.”
PeC: Is there a set-up fee involved?
Sheehan: “No. We take 2 percent and $0.20 for each transaction. There are no other fees.”
PeC: What are some the issues involved with mobile payments from the perspective of an ecommerce merchant?
Sheehan: “You’re dealing with a much smaller screen. You’re dealing with fewer keys, and not a full ‘qwerty’ keyboard in many instances. That inherently creates a different user experience, particularly for the buyer. That’s one of the fundamental challenges that any payment system working to enable mobile commerce and enable merchants to sell through that channel needs to solve–it has to be a simple yet secure way to pay.”
PeC: How do you handle disputes?
Sheehan: “If a customer doesn’t get what they ordered or it’s the wrong item, we make sure that he or she contacted the merchant first, then we collect information from the merchant and from the buyer and adjudicate in a very similar way to how credit card chargebacks would occur. We just do it a lot faster.”
PeC: What is a good mobile strategy for small to medium ecommerce merchants?
Sheehan: “Building a mobile-optimized site takes time, energy and capital. Every phone is a little bit different for the mobile web and you have to spend a lot of time thinking about how to optimize it and then you have to code it against that. So, keep an eye on what are the most popular phones. If a new phone comes out, you want to make sure your site renders properly on all its versions, which segues into ‘Do I build an iPhone app or do I build an Android app?’ A well-done iPhone app will probably run you north of $20,000. Same with the Android platform.”
PeC: Are those two separate apps?
Sheehan: “Yes. Android is the operating system that was launched in 2009 by Google and it came out on T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon. It’s very, very good and it’s a strong competitor to the iPhone experience on AT&T. The overall design will be similar to an iPhone app, but all the development and all the coding underneath are completely different. You can’t borrow the code from one to make the other.”
PeC: How should a merchant on tight budget get started in mobile commerce?
Sheehan: “I would take a look at who my customers are and what’s my average ticket. A high average ticket is not going to create the beachhead drive for early adoption of mobile commerce. It will lower average ticket transactions, almost micro payments. If it’s something that can be delivered digitally, that’s also more likely to get earlier adoption.
“Then, what I would do first is develop a mobile-optimized website and there’s a couple companies out there that create essentially a mobile mall. One is called Usablenet. They do all that work for you.
“Before I put $50,000 into iPhone and Android, I would get my information out on the mobile web, track statistics, see if people are surfing it. I would conduct my payments through mPayy because you don’t have to spend any money to do that. And if I saw a lot of traction, then I would use that to justify an application development, and I would do Android first. One year from now, there’s a very, very good chance there will be many more Android devices out there. And, Android is in Java, and it’s a lot easier to find a Java developer at a good price point than it is to find an iPhone developer, which is in C.”