With each week that passes, the so-called unified buy button concept introduced by the major card networks last month takes on more definition, but despite all the discussion, the idea of an online checkout shared by multiple payment networks remains too vague—and too futuristic—to suit some expert observers.
“I keep looking for confirmation that they’re actually working on this,” says Rick Oglesby, principal at payments consultancy AZ Payments Group, Mesa, Ariz. “I keep finding sketchy half statements.”
Al Kelly, chief executive at Visa Inc., confirmed on Tuesday that there are “a lot of meetings going on, on things like branding and what will the actual button look like.” But he also said experts at Visa are “still going through the technical specifications to make sure we understand exactly what we have to do to implement it,” according to a transcript of the session. Kelly made his remarks during a question-and-answer session with a JPMorgan & Co. analyst at a technology conference sponsored by the bank.
The “technical specifications” mentioned by Kelly refer to the Secure Remote Commerce spec recently drawn up by EMVCo, a standards body controlled by six global card networks, including Visa as well as Mastercard Inc., American Express Co., Discover Financial Services, Japan’s JCB, and China UnionPay. A technical framework for the spec was released Nov. 1, but the spec itself so far is available only to subscribers.
While TS Anil, global head for payment processing products and solutions at Visa, has said publicly that the card company will begin moving its digital wallet, Visa Checkout, to the SRC standard late this year, some observers estimate full implementation of a common checkout will take much longer. Thad Peterson, a senior analyst at the Boston-based consultancy Aite Group LLC, figures the effort will take three to five years. “It’s not going to be fast,” he says.
Still, Kelly ventured some general speculation at the JPMorgan conference on how the common button might work with respect to branding. “It’ll be …like in the physical [point-of-sale] world where there’s a number of networks represented on the same decal, it’d probably be something similar to that,” he noted.
As for the common button’s interaction with consumers, Kelly had this to say: “They don’t have to look at all the various options and buttons they see, some kind of buy button yet to be defined and branded. It’ll open up a wallet. They’ll have probably a card preselected. They can override that, select their product and confirm their purchase. Very streamlined, far less friction…”
The question is, says Oglesby, who will control that wallet that opens up? And if it opens access to any wallet enrolled by the consumer, he asks, who controls that enrollment?
Other parties, too, are waiting for more definition of the networks’ unified-checkout approach. Merchants, for example, fear the big card networks may shut them out of the development work and possibly disregard their routing rights when it comes to debit checkouts.
The very fact that the SRC specification is available only to subscribers on the EMVCo Web site is disturbing in the face of Visa’s statement that it wants to act before the end of the year, says Laura Townsend, senior vice president of operations for the Merchant Advisory Group, a Minneapolis, Minn.-based trade group for major retail chains and airlines.
“It’s a speed-to-market challenge for merchants that have their own pay buttons,” she says. And yet, she says, “We don’t have access to the spec.”
Regardless of how long it takes to create a streamlined, online checkout that serves for all or even some interested payments parties, the networks concede they must act soon. Cart-abandonment rates are dismal, and PayPal and Amazon have long since stolen a march on the likes of Visa Checkout and Mastercard Inc.’s Masterpass online checkout. PayPal’s market share among the top 10,000 sites is 6.75%, compared to 0.24% for Visa Checkout and 0.41% for Masterpass, according to data compiled by Similartech.com.
The proliferation of acceptance marks online doesn’t help, especially on small mobile screens. “What we have today is the moral equivalent of having to ask a face-to-face merchant to have a different terminal for each network,” Kelly said at the JPMorgan conference. “Imagine the confusion at the point of sale if you had seven or eight terminals.”
Summing it up for merchants and consumers, he added, “the experience stinks.”