SAN FRANCISCO – Visa Inc. unveiled a new product for mobile payments and e-commerce today, aiming to help consumers to buy online goods and services more quickly and in turn, to help retailers lose fewer sales when moving customers from the shopping cart to closing the sale.

Branded as Visa Checkout, Visa executives say the product gives customers a username and password to get access to their debit and credit cards. From the shopping cart, transactions take just 10 seconds to go through, as their accounts keep their card information and shipping addresses on file.

ITBusiness.ca caught up with Brad Greene, Visa’s vice-president of mobile payments, to ask more about the direction the payments processor is taking, its digital strategy, and where it hopes to go in the future.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

 

ITBusiness.ca: We’ve seen a lot of interesting things today with the launch of Visa Checkout. But it does seem very similar to MasterCard MasterPass – how will Visa be differentiating its offering?

Brad Greene: The focus is on making the online and mobile payment experience as simple and fast as possible. So that really was our design goal and I think we’ve been very successful with that. As Sam [Shrauger, vice-president of digital solutions] said today, we really weren’t out to build a digital wallet. And I think what we’re learning, from just our ongoing engagement with consumers and merchants and partners, is that the notion of this all-encompassing digital wallet, might not be one that in practice, is the optimal one for enabling merchants to get consumers through the checkout process as fast as they can.

We really have tried to boil this down to the essence, which is making the Visa card in the online and mobile world as fast and simple to use as the plastic version has been in the physical world for a long time.

ITBusiness.ca: There’s been a lot of mention today of V.Me, which came out in 2011. It was similar, so how do you see [Visa Checkout] being successful this time around?

Greene: Sure. I think V.Me was very successful for us because it enabled us to get in and have what I call that first-person conversation with merchants and consumers. And it allowed us to test and learn and refine. And this is really an ongoing process. Visa Checkout builds on the investment and foundation of V.Me. And we have changed several things that we think are very important, but there will be more change ahead. So we think this is a process and the V.Me experience laid the foundation for where we’re at now with Visa Checkout, and we think where we are now will lay the foundation for how things will look in 18 to 24 months.

And it may look far different from how they do now because this space is just changing so fast, and the needs of merchants and consumers are evolving so quickly. Again, we think this is going to be a process, not the final destination.

 

ITBusiness.ca: What kinds of shifts have we seen from V.Me to Visa Checkout?

Greene: The simplification comes in two ways. One is just the experience in using it. So we’ve really refined that checkout process … We’ve literally had, whether you have AB testing with real consumers and real merchants, or in the lab, we’ve had so many different permutations to the point where we really think we have this thing simple and streamlined. So that’s part of it – just refining the actual experience.

Another part is the merchant integration. So what merchants told us is that V.Me took too long to integrate. We’ve dramatically shortened and simplified that merchant integration process, so if they want to put Visa Checkout on their websites or in their apps, we’re talking hours or days as opposed to, in some cases, what was many weeks.

And the third thing is the name. You might think, a name change, not that big of a deal. But again, what merchants and consumers told us is, we love the Visa name, it’s globally recognized, it’s universally trusted … The second word, “checkout,” really gets to the essence of what this thing is supposed to do. Again, in conversations we’ve had with merchants, they’re just delighted with the new name. They think it ties back to who we are, and what we’ve done in commerce for the past 40-plus years in the physical world, and then it’s extremely intuitive and explains, oh OK, this is what this will enable me to do – check out fast.

 

ITBusiness.ca: Is there a loyalty and marketing aspect to Visa Checkout? Can you speak to ways brands can use Visa Checkout for digital marketing purposes?

Greene: What I would say is, what we’re trying to do with Visa Checkout is not get in the way of a merchant’s relationship with their customer. And so for us, it’s about streamlining the payment as much as we can so they continue to interact with the consumer in the way they have been doing and the way they want to.

So they can still present the ability to allow the consumer to redeem an offer or a coupon code or whatever it is, because we’re not fundamentally altering their checkout flow, we’re not taking them away from the merchant’s site. So I’d say sometimes you can think of it as addition by subtraction – much of what we’re not doing is what we are doing.

 

ITBusiness.ca: How do you see Visa shifting from just financial services to more of a digital play?

Greene: It is a mindset of, how do we collaborate with [our] partners? It could be big technology companies, it could be pure startups, it could be the venture capital community. And it’s really an innovation function that we’ve strengthened and expanded so we can engage and we can basically expose the power of our network to all these innovators that want to take advantage of it.

And quite frankly, Visa traditionally was very easy to engage with if you were part of the payments ecosystem. So if you were a financial institution, a processor, a plastic payment card manufacturer, you knew how to get ahold of us, you knew how to work with us. You knew our rules, you had access to our specifications and licenses and technology. But again, quite candidly, the non-traditional participants, the newer participants to commerce, were these innovative technology companies. We weren’t as open and as easy to access … that’s what’s changed.

And what I get most excited about is merchants’ apps. With lots of merchants big and small out there, they have really jumped on the mobile bandwagon as a way to interact with customers.

When you look at our new executive leadership, and you look at our renewed emphasis on merchants, this is a tool that really allows us to extend ourselves to the merchant community, and quite frankly, think of Visa in a different way.

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