Starbucks Square’s deal shakes up Payment Industry

A couple of weeks ago Square Inc a two year old San Francisco start-up founded by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, announced that they will be taking over the processing of all the payments for Starbucks 7,000 USA retail stores.  As part of the deal Starbucks will be investing $25 Million in Square and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz will join the Square board. The Wall St Journal article on the announcement is here.

Starbucks acquired its stake as part of a $200 Million funding round that valued the company at $3.25 Billion (twice what it was valued a year ago).  If you have 17 minutes to spare the WSJ video interview of Schultz and Dorsey on the link above is worth watching.

Initially, the Pay with Square application will allow Starbucks customers to show their mobile phone and mention their name to complete the payment in a Starbucks store (by scanning a 2D barcode on the phone).  Later Geo Location functionality on the smart phone will be used to identify customers who have checked into the store and allow other associated smaller retailers in the area to promote special deals to the customer on their phones (even using Starbuck loyalty points).

Square was previously known for its white Square dongle that plugged into the audio socket of the iPhone and iPad to accept Credit Card payments that was used by numerous small businesses and taxi’s in the USA.  This was a significant departure for them and would increase their payment processing capacity significantly (before Starbucks it was already estimated at $6 Billion p.a. – Starbucks could more than double this).
Shortly after the announcement shares in traditional EFTPOS Payment processor Verifone, with a significant slice of the US and international payments market (estimated at $10 Billion p.a. in the USA alone), dropped more than 10% on the USA share market and prompted their CEO to quickly make a statement saying the deal was good for Verifone as they had been busy adapting to the burgeoning mobile payments market as well and had released a Square-like mobile service called Sail.  See the article here.

A week later news also came out that Wal-Mart, Target and 7-Eleven in the USA had joined together and were developing a “mobile payment network” to allow customers to pay with their smartphones.  The system, known as Merchant Customer Exchange, will be driven by the retailers themselves and would include a number of other retailers including Best Buy, Sears, CVS and Publix.  They are in discussions with banks and payment networks and were looking integrate their promotions into the payment processing application.  The Article is here.

With all the talk around mobile payments a number of the traditional (and some new) payments companies have joined together to form a Mobile Payments Committee as part of the Electronics Transactions Association, hoping to define the future of commercial mobile transactions.  The companies include Visa, MasterCard, Amex, all the USA mobile phone carriers, Google, ISIS and PayPal (significantly Apple and Square were not included).

August has been a big month for mobile payments, topped off as McDonalds has now just announced that they are trialling a new mobile payment system using PayPal Here in 30 locations in France.  PayPal has also struck deals with more than 15 large retailers in the USA including Home Depot and Office Depot to accept PayPal payments (see next post).

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