August 28, 2012 - James Wester and Dawn Yankeelov
Mobile Payments Today
Unattended retail, incorporating remote, self-service, purchases from mobile applications, kiosks, vending units and even digital signage, is already on the rise. The association representing the unattended retail industry, the National Automatic Merchandising Association, reported that U.S. consumers are spending $42 billion every year through these automated channels.
Seattle-based startup BYNDL is looking to enable all those mobile transactions at unattended retail outlets. The company entered the mobile transaction space with technology developed in Estonia and originally deployed for cell phone parking payment. It's now looking to take that proven technology, which has processed millions of transactions in nine countries over the past six years, and become an industry leader for all types of these "point of decision" transactions. It has attracted payment veterans including Bruce Shirey from USAT and Steve Elefant, former CIO of Heartland Payment Systems, to its leadership ranks.
BYNDL offers companies the ability to own mobile transaction services such as payments, awards, discounts and access control - all from their own software or machines to any mobile device. Mobile transactions can include vending at kiosks, paying for parking, couponing and even managing identity and access security. The platform aims to turn all of these interactions between a buyer and seller, or an enterprise and an employee, into one simple mobile transaction.
And unlike other mobile payment services, BYNDL isn't developing an end-to-end solution with an established payment processor; it's looking to support merchants regardless of their existing third-party payment relationships.
"BYNDL will support the millions of existing customer-vendor relationships that want to extend their current offerings to mobile transactions," said Lori Salow Marshall, BYNDL's CEO. "Mobility enables choice, freedom, efficiency and cost reductions for a merchant or enterprise to transact and interact with their clients; BYNDL enables that freedom by allowing the consumer their choice of any device, and offering the merchant multiple payment methods through any payment processing model."
BYNDL is not only agnostic when it comes to payment processors, but it's technology-agnostic as well. Marshall said BYNDL is independent of technology and payment processor bias because the company believes this allows for optimal innovation.
For instance, the BYNDL platform takes commands from any mobile device or technology, working with QR codes, NFC, text messages and automated voice systems. The BYNDL platform also allows integration with existing point of sale systems, mobile apps, or even social networks, extending those channels into mobile transactions.
What's more, BYNDL's tiered reporting capabilities capture data across all payment methods, consumers, and merchants, giving merchants a view of consumer behavior down to the individual end-user. It also enables any front-end interface to access backend functionality tied to payment methods, feeding reporting and analytics.
From an integration standpoint, BYNDL's open attitude also means retailers, many of whom have spent billions on developing mobile apps to drive closer consumer relationships, don't have to start from scratch when it comes to adding mobile payments to kiosks or self-service machines.
Retailers want their apps to work more for them now, to enable real-time point-of-decision sales at unattended retail sites, Marshall said. "Mobile application development firms are looking for service providers to 'transaction-enable' their apps at sports venues, retail complexes, theme parks, casinos, and hotels," she said.
Disrupting the disruption
BYNDL's long-term strategy, however, only begins with enabling mobile payments, Marshall said.
"Data capture at source is the ultimate disintermediator," Marhsall said. "Capturing native customer transaction data simplifies supply chains, enterprise resource planning, and even financial services, disrupting current distribution ecosystems. Mobility enables this data capture and paves the way for cashless interactions to be easier and less expensive than in existing models."
In the end, Marshall said, payment processing needs to go the way of the Internet, where payments are confirmed and switched between disparate parties and devices, much like email and telephone calls are now.
Dawn Marie Yankeelov contributed to this story.