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Online shopping is getting easier & so are online purchases by cash

The fastest growth sector in almost all retail markets is online shopping. Two new developments have just made it even easier, and could have severe implications for bricks and mortar stores

New ‘Flow’ feature in Amazon’s mobile shopping app

Amazon has announced a new feature inside its mobile shopping app that lets you scan items in your home using your smartphone’s camera and quickly order all of your packaged goods online. The new feature, called Flow, will be available inside Amazon’s shopping app for iOS. It’s iPhone-only for now.

Instead of taking a photo of an item or scanning a barcode, Flow recognises items via their shape, size, colour, box text, and general appearance. Hold your iPhone up to a row of items on your shelf or counter, and within seconds of “seeing” it with the iPhone’s camera, every recognisable item is placed in a queue that can be added to your Amazon cart.

All of this happens in seconds. Speed is important — our short attention spans have zero patience for a slow feature, and if you leave the app, that’s a potential lost sale for Amazon. 

There are some teething problems, e.g. recognition of size of bottle, but the new feature definitely is helping to achieve Amazon’s goal of moving their customer’s from “I need that” to “I bought that” in less than 30 seconds.

Paying by cash on the Internet

PayNearMe, which enables Americans to make purchases online and then pay with cash in real-world stores, has struck a deal with the Family Dollar chain of stores, bringing its total network to 17,000 locations throughout the US.

PayNearMe is targeting the tens of millions of underbanked Americans who still need, or prefer, to pay with cash. Companies such as online retailers, property management firms, utilities, and auto-lenders can join the PayNearMe network, providing customers with a code at the online checkout. The customer then takes the code - either printed out, on a card, or on a mobile app - to participating PayNearMe retail locations, including 7-Eleven stores nationwide, and pays with cash at the register. 

PayNearMe payment volume triple in 2013.


CTMfile take: For corporate treasurers these examples raise three questions about your company’s business model: 1) How can your company move customers from the thought “I need that” to actually purchasing the good, e.g. when your customers are running short could they just point the iPhone at the good and click buy with no searching for bar codes or QR symbol. 2) How much would accepting cash payments on the Internet increase your sales or open up new markets? (Remember that cash payments are not disappearing anywhere near as fast as many predicted and, in some countries, they are actually increasing market share, even in developed countries.) 3) Does the business model for your bricks and mortar stores need reviewing?

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Collecting Payments on the Internet
Collecting Payments via Mobile