In a media event held in Singapore today, PayPal took the wraps off a "Mobile Commerce in a Box" solution in Singapore to build mobile-optimized websites. Conducted as part of a limited pilot, PayPal claims that it is able to convert online stores into a mobile friendly interface in less than an hour and at no additional cost to the merchant. Among others, this includes optimizations to make it mobile device-friendly with the use of larger product photos, buttons, links and texts.
Optimizing for mobile commerce
"The proliferation of mobile devices in Singapore and across Asia is changing the retail landscape," says Rahul Shinghal, Director of Mobile at PayPal Asia Pacific. "Mobile is blurring the lines between offline and online. For instance, smartphones are influencing purchasing decisions at the point-of-sale." According to Nielsen, Singapore's mobile commerce market grew by a staggering 660% from S$43M (US$34M) the year before to S$328M (US$259.4M) in 2011.
At the event, Shinghal demonstrated the problems with a lack of mobile commerce capability by showing us a sleek website that lets customers literally build their own pizza from the crust up. Everything went without a hitch, until the credit card and delivery address page, which was an off-putting wall of text fields. "Payment was the missing link," concluded Shinghal, alluding to how PayPal's own mobile-friendly checkout experience.
Much of the examples and use cases that were presented revolve around the iPhone and iPad - both highly popular in Singapore, though there is no reason why they should not work on non-iOS mobile platforms.
Concerns on the security front
Despite the hassle, most credit card transactions in Singapore are protected with multiple layers of security: the credit card number and other details found on the card itself, a billing address that is not found on the card, and a verification PIN sent to a registered mobile phone. On the other hand, PayPal relies only on a static username and password combination, which is arguably easier to steal in a phishing or malware attack.
When I posed this question during the Q&A session, Shinghal observed that this is "always a game of security and convenience." He talked about how PayPal has 3,000 people who focus on security and tracking all transactions. "We have very safe, very secure, and very convenient [ways] to pay on mobile," he says, observing that "PayPal loss rate is way lower [than credit cards]." Moreover, PayPal also has a buyer protection policy to protect customers: "If the item will not be delivered to your house, PayPal will protect the buyer."
Clearly, PayPal would like to be the point of payment for all commerce, not just those conducted online or from mobile devices. The company's primary strategy of doing that appears to revolve around making the life of the merchant as easy as possible, and offering a seamless experience to customers. Whether the increased ease of making online payments using PayPal will eventually result in a higher loss rate though, remains to be seen.
For now, I'm requested for access to PayPal's pilot Mobile Commerce in a Box solution to better understand how it works, and if beleaguered IT teams can take into it to quickly optimize their company's website to work not just with computers, but mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.
Singapore businesses with an existing online store can register their interest for PayPal's Mobile Commerce in a Box solution at: https://www.paypal-apac.com/minabox/
Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.