Softcard, Subway, Apple Pay And Mobile Payments
- Diem Do
A bit of humble humor went a long ways at Money2020 where several CEOs used their keynotes to promote their companies and themselves, bragging about partnerships while not inviting any partners to join them on the stage.
So Softcard’s CEO Mike Abbott drew appreciative applause when he told of his last two visits to the conference. Cabbies on the way in from the airport asked him to explain what he did, what mobile payments were. This year, his cabbie grasped the concept quickly. “Oh, like Apple AAPL +0.81% Pay.”
Coming shortly after Dekkers Davidson, CEO of the merchant card alliance MCX, got through his entire presentation without mentioning Apple Pay or the controversy over Rite Aid RAD +1.1% and CVS shutting down their near field communication (NFC) at checkouts to avoid accepting Apple payments, Abbott was refreshing. He also brought along the CIO of Subway to talk about adoption in its 26,000-store chain that is entirely franchises.
Softcard, which was founded under the name ISIS until events in the Middle East prompted rebranding, loads credit and loyalty cards on phones and has been downloaded by millions of customers, Abbott said. (Just to add to confusion, Softcard.com is an English company founded in 1997 that provides a variety of card services — the U.S. company is gosoftcard.com) All a customer needs is a mobile phone that will make a payment, a merchant who will accept it, and a bank account.
“I am thankful for Apple Pay. We faced an industry that has been fragmented, confused and riddled with inaction. Apple Pay has gotten rid of fragmentation. We can now agree on NFC, we can move on and build this industry together. I am also thankful for the other 60 percent where Softcard is the Android way to pay and for the Windows phone where Softcard is the Windows way to pay. We will be uploaded on a Windows platform by the end of this year; we will be on 100 different devices across multiple platforms.”
Hundreds of merchants already take Softcard or other forms of NFC payments, Abbott added, but the business is just getting started.
“In three to five years NFC terminals will exceed 75 percent coverage. At first consumers will use it because it is cool, but that only goes so far, and cool eventually gets cold.”
Consumers want more, he added, such as loyalty cards that can be used through Softcard’s SmartTap and the ability to receive personalized offers from merchants. SmartTap is already at more than 150 locations in the U.S. including Subway and Kroger KR -0.48%, he added, and it is growing at 40 percent month over month.
“The foundation is in place — are you going to let it happen or are you going make it happen,” he concluded.
Subway’s Success With NFC
If Subway can make the move to mobile anyone can, suggested Carman Wenkoff, an initially skeptical CIO. The chain’s challenge is that all its 26,000 locations in the U.S. are franchises, and many of its operators are not necessarily tech gurus.
He looked forward, at his first meeting with Softcard, to dismissing the whole idea.
“My intention at the first meeting was to blow them off in the first hour, but their team impressed me so much — they understood payments, data and merchants’ concerns.”
Softcard did its trials in Salt Lake City and Austin, so Subway participated in a couple of hundred locations in Salt Lake City.
“Our goal was to make sure our customers liked it, that it was possible to train our sandwich artists (yes, they really do call them that) easily and that it was fast. It was an operational test,. We surveyed our customers and stores and the results came back very, very positive.”
Subway uses it with Android and with Apple Pay, he added.
“What excites me the most about Apple Pay is the consumer education. I have been at this 15 years looking for mobile payments to finally be realized, and overnight we have millions and millions of customers who will understand how easy it is to pay with their phones for the first time. That’s fantastic for the industry.”
Subway has quietly launched its own app, he said, to let customers order and pay by phone.
“We introduced three new ways to pay and a way to order remotely,” he added. “It’s a lot to handle, and store operators weren’t necessarily in the tech business.”
The owners may be a little slow, but store employees — sandwich artists — picked it up immediately.
“This tech speaks to our store employees — they know phones, they understand this really quickly and they are excited they can do something cool in the restaurants.”
Source : forbes.com