Sure, 7-Eleven’s never been particularly well-known for being on the bleeding edge — expect, perhaps, in its quest to push the boundaries of human beverage consumption. Still, the Japanese-owned convenience mega-chain has been notably slow on the uptake of mobile payment technology.
The company announced today that it will finally be bringing Apple Pay and Google Pay to “most” of its U.S. stores, starting this month. Interestingly, Samsung beat its two major competitors to the Slurpee slinger — likely the two companies reached some sort of mutually beneficial exclusivity agreement to help push the Galaxy maker’s payment system.
CEO Tim Cook announced earlier this summer that arrival at 7-Elevens was imminent, along with the CVS pharmacy chain. The addition of the payment options should go a ways toward helping mainstream this manner of mobile payment among many users. The company has more than 66,000 locations in 17 countries. The U.S. currently makes up about 14 percent of that market.
But where mobile payments have been associated with higher-scale retail outlets, the addition of a chain like 7-Eleven represents a more populous outreach among the more than three-quarters of Americans who currently own smartphones.
Move over stickers and games: Japanese messaging app firm Line has announced it’s raising around 148.1 billion yen ($1.33BN) through convertible bonds to fund aggressive expansion into the financial services business, Reuters reports.
Line said it plans to spend most of the money on promoting its Line Pay service and for other new financial services by the end of 2021.
The messaging platform has been involved in payment offerings for some years, launching Line Pay at the end of 2014 — to let users make payments through the app at affiliated online and offline stores by registering their credit cards.
Line Pay also supports p2p payments between users of the platform, which has some 164M monthly active users in Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia.
While popular in parts of Asia, the messaging platform has failed to grow usage beyond its core regions — unsurprisingly given how fiercely competitive the space is — with the likes of China’s WeChat and Facebook owned WhatsApp standing in its way. But while user growth has stalled, Line has managed to grow revenue from its existing user base. And doubling down on financial services looks to be its growth strategy going forward.
It has recently started experimenting with crypto — announcing the forthcoming launch of a cryptocurrency token (called Link) late last month, and developing its own blockchain to power it, in what looks to be a bid to drive user engagement on its platform. Though it has long used a digital currency (Line Coins) on its platform.
Earlier this year Line also announced the launch of a Singapore-based crypto exchange, called BitBox.
It’s not doing an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) for the Link token launch, presumably to side-step the legal questions around token sales. So the convertible bond sale looks to be its alternative (traditional) route for raise funds for the push to grow its financial services business.
In a statement today Line said it would issue zero coupon convertible bonds maturing in 2023 and 2025.
Reuters reports that a portion of the bonds will be issued to its South Korea-based parent Naver Corp to maintain its ownership above a certain level.
It added that Naver’s stake would fall to 70.42 percent from the current 72.86 percent when all the bonds are converted into stock.
The app itself is being rebranded to Google Pay — bringing it in line with Google’s global payment service, which is available in 20 countries — but there are more tangible updates on their way. Most notably, Google is plotting to turn Tez Google Pay into an all-encompassing payment app for India.
The service already supports payments with some 2,000 apps and websites, including Goibibo and RedBus, but it is adding to that number and planning ‘deep’ integration with partners such as Uber and ticketing service BookMyshow. Google is also focusing on offline, and it said it is in the process of adding in-store payment support with a range of retail brands that will include Big Bazaar, e-Zone, and FBB.
Tez competes with dedicated payment services like Paytm and Mobikwik, and also WhatsApp — the Facebook-owned service that is India’s top messaging app but has struggled to win approval to launch an upcoming payment service due to concerns around its lack of a local office.
Already, Google’s service has made progress. The Tez app has pulled in 55 million downloads, and Google said it has racked up 750 million transactions with an annual run rate of over $30 billion. That, it said, has motivated it to look at overseas expansion opportunities.
Google’s India-based Tez service has been rebranded to Google Pay
Beyond the retail push, the service formerly known as Tez will also expand to cover micro-loans, bringing it into direct competition with startups like ZestMoney — which just closed an investment from Xiaomi this week.
Google said it has partnered with a number of India-based banks — including HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Federal Bank, and Kotak Mahindra Bank — to offer “pre-approved” loans to customers “in a matter of seconds” through the Google app.
These will be smaller than typical loans, especially those in the West, and would rely on Tez customer data to help develop a picture of creditworthiness. Loans on services like ZestMoney typically cover purchases like electronics, education fees and more, CEO Lizzie Chapman told TechCrunch in a recent interview.
Finally, Google also plans to expand Tez Google Pay overseas. That means both adding Tez features to the Google Pay service worldwide, and taking the India-based service into new parts of Asia. That’ll require plenty of localization since the Indian version is heavily based around the country’s UPI payment system — which doesn’t translate overseas — but it’s a step in the right direction.
Google isn’t saying too much about which markets it has in mind but you’d imagine Southeast Asia, which as plenty of similarities with India, will be top of mind.
Apple has landed a big new partner for Apple Pay in the U.S. after Costco began accepting the mobile payment service across 750 stores. The retailer plans to include support at its gas stations, but that isn’t yet complete.
The rollout — first reported by MacRumors — follows limited trials at selected Costco outlets, including a warehouse near its corporate headquarters in Washington.
The market for such services — which includes Samsung Pay, Google Pay and others — is tipped to reach 450 million consumers. Apple, though, is already seeing the benefits. Apple Pay is part of the company’s ‘services’ division which recorded revenue of $9.6 billion in the last quarter, that’s up 31 percent year-over-year.
If you’ve made any payments with a chip card, you’ve probably had awkward moments — those long seconds after you’ve inserted the card and everyone behind you is (literally or metaphorically) tapping their foot, waiting for the card to be processed.
Well, Square has been working on this problem for a while now. Last fall, for example, CEO Jack Dorsey said the company had gotten the processing time down to under three seconds.
Today, the company is announcing that it’s shaved even more time off, and that Square Readers can now process chip cards in two seconds. To achieve this, it says it’s worked closely with payment partners — and it’s also streamlined the process so that you can remove your card as soon as it’s read, without waiting for the response from the card issuer.
In contrast, when the Wall Street Journal timed chip cards in over 50 transactions a couple years ago, it found that the average processing time was 13 seconds. Those extra seconds might not sound like much in theory, but again, if you’re in a hurry or you’ve got a line of people behind you, the wait can be painful.
Plus, it sounds like this can make a real difference for businesses. In the announcement, Regan Long, co-founder and brewmaster at Local Brewing Co., said that with his brewery’s location near the Giants’ AT&T Park in San Francisco, there’s usually “a rush of customers all ready to close out their open beer tabs at the same time.”
“With Square’s chip card reader update, we’ve cut processing time in half — helping us keep customers happy and on their way to catch the first pitch,” he added.
In addition to faster chip card processing, Square is making another speed-related announcement: With the latest update, Square’s free point-of-sale app will allow sellers to skip collecting signatures if they choose.
Longtime Apple Pay holdout CVS will finally be adding support for Apple’s mobile payments platform this fall, along with 7-Eleven, Apple CEO Tim Cook said this afternoon on the company’s earnings call. The news is particularly notable because CVS was one of the first major retailers to snub Apple Pay, choosing instead to launch its own barcode-based mobile payments solution “CVS Pay” back in 2016, following the failure of the retailer-backed Apple Pay rival CurrentC.
CVS Pay had become the first mobile payments solution the pharmacy chain adopted, after having purposefully avoided support for Apple Pay or any other rival NFC (tap to pay) technologies at its register. The company believed there was value in offering its own end-to-end solution to customers that combined both payments and loyalty, it had said.
In addition, CVS had earlier backed an Apple Pay alternative called CurrentC, which was developed by the merchant consortium MCX, led by major retailers like Walmart, Best Buy, Rite Aid and others. The QR code-based payments solution was designed to challenge Apple’s potential dominance in mobile payments. Many of the retailers even blocked Apple Pay at their stores in advance of bringing CurrentC to market.
However, CurrentC eventually failed and the technology was sold off to JPMorgan Chase in 2017. Some of its backers — like Best Buy and Rite Aid — had also relented, by allowing Apple Pay into their stores. But CVS did not. It instead moved forward with its own solution.
That it has now decided to also support Apple Pay is a major win for Apple, as is the addition of 7-Eleven to the list of retailers that will soon offer Apple Pay at checkout.
The retail expansions weren’t the only big Apple Pay news announced on the call.
Cook also said that Apple Pay would launch in Germany — but didn’t offer a timeframe for this launch beyond “later this year.” And he noted that Apple Pay saw more than 1 billion transactions in the third quarter of 2018. That’s triple the number from a year ago, and more mobile transactions than Square and PayPal, he noted.
The news follows a new forecast released by Juniper Research which now estimates Apple’s Pay will account for 1 in 2 contactless mobile wallet users (in OEM-provided wallets) by 2020.
With its expansions, Apple Pay’s global traction is growing. The service is now live in 24 markets worldwide, with more than 4,900 bank partners. Apple Pay will also go live on eBay in the U.S., Cook said, as previously announced by eBay last week.
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Line, the company best-known for its popular Asian messaging app, is doubling down on games after it acquired a controlling stake in Korean studio NextFloor for an undisclosed amount.
NextFloor, which has produced titles like Dragon Flight and Destiny Child, will be merged with Line’s games division to form the Line Games subsidiary. Dragon Flight has racked up 14 million users since its 2012 launch — it clocked $1 million in daily revenue at peak. Destiny Child, a newer release in 2016, topped the charts in Korea and has been popular in Japan, North America and beyond.
But, despite revenue success, Line has struggled to become a global messaging giant. The big guns WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger have in excess of one billion monthly users each, while Line has been stuck around the 200 million mark for some time. Most of its numbers are from just four countries: Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia. While it has been able to tap those markets with additional services like ride-hailing and payments, it is certainly under pressure from those more internationally successful competitors.
With that in mind, doubling down on games makes sense and Line said it plans to focus on non-mobile platforms, which will include the Nintendo Switch among others consoles, from the second half of this year.