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PayPal embraces mobile for Valentine’s Day effort in Singapore train stations

February 13, 2012

Singapore commuters can scan QR codes to purchase a gift

PayPal is piloting a program in Singapore’s subway stations to enable commuters to shop and pay for Valentine’s Day gifts on the go.

The pilot is live in 15 subway stations on the island. Exclusive deals for Valentine’s Day gifts appear on billboards or posters in the stations next to QR codes that can be scanned to make a purchase using PayPal.

“Consumers are basically looking to shop any time and any place that they want on their terms,” said Anuj Nayar, director of communications for PayPal, San Jose, CA.

“To snap a QR code and go straight to a payment page and finish the transaction in two clicks is an interesting example of how to ease the friction points between retailers and consumers,” he said.

Closing the loop
The posters and billboards in the train stations are there to remind commuters who are standing around waiting for a train to remember a loved one on Valentine’s Day. The QR codes enable smartphone owners to take immediate action instead of waiting until they have left the train station, when they have already forgotten.

“This closes the loop on intent and purchase,” Mr. Nayar said.

Eight retailers are participating in the pilot by offering gifts such as flowers, chocolates, spa massages and tickets to a show at special prices. The merchants involved include Ban Choon Marketing, Charles & Keith, City Tours, EpiCentre, FarEastFlora, Phillip Wain, Resorts World Sentosa and Showbiz.

Singapore is an ideal market to test the strategy because smartphone penetration in the country reached 70 percent last year.

Residents are also open to shop via mobile, with nearly 7 out of 10 Singapore consumers saying they are likely to make a transaction on their mobile phone in a recent PayPal survey.

Recently, two others companies have tried a similar strategy.

Last week, online grocery retailer Peapod said it was teaming up with Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble and other brands to let commuters in Philadelphia shop for commonly purchased grocery items off of posters and billboards in the stations.

Users can scan a QR code to order the items and have them delivered to their homes.

Additionally, international retailer Tesco appears to have been one of the first to experiment with this strategy by placing signs in the Seoul subway system that also featured frequently purchased grocery items and QR codes for purchasing.

Connecting customers, retailers
The Singapore program is just one of several ways that PayPal and its parent company eBay are testing how to connect retailers to customers through mobile shopping experiences.

Over the holidays, eBay launched its Inspiration Shop, which opened in New York. The shop windows were filled with merchandise and QR codes that enabled smartphone owners to use the eBay app to scan a QR code to be linked to a product page and purchase an item.

In addition, PayPal recently brought its cloud-based point of sale solution to retailers Office Depot and Home Depot, enabling users to pay for a purchase by typing in their mobile phone number and a PIN.

The alternative payments solution provider is also testing an NFC mobile payments application at two stores in Sweden while it continues to look for ways to expand access to its payments services.

“We do not believe that any one technology solution is going to win out in all environments,” Mr. Nayar said. “We are always using these examples to test and learn to make it easier for our retail partners.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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