The mobile payments space is a little like the local market: lots of promise, lots of money but very hard to crack. Yesterday a young entrepreneur and his payments startup Clinkle received a $25 million vote of confidence from a group of celebrity investors.
This was reported to be the "largest seed round ever." Whether it is or not $25 million is a lot of money for yet another mobile payments app. While it's true that nobody in mobile payments has "broken through," Clinkle will have a tough slog as it tries to build both merchant adoption and consumer usage.
Once again it's the "cold start" or "chicken and egg" problem.
However, according to the NY Times, there's no merchant hardware requirement for Clinkle and the go to market strategy involves a Facebook-like focus on college campuses and surrounding businesses. That may be a key decision and help the startup gain some quasi-critical mass in selected markets among students.
Beyond the hardware issues surrounding NFC adoption, the central issue with mobile payments has been a lack of perceived need among consumers. Mobile payments are being used in selected contexts and commerce situations (e.g., Starbucks) but the public at large hasn't seen the need to replace plastic payment with app-based payment that relies on stored credit cards or bank accounts.
That brings me to indoor location and marketing. When discussing these topics, and the absence of technology standards, I often use mobile payments as an analogy. Yet there is a critical distinction. The difference between the two segments is that while mobile payments still largely requires a shift in consumer behavior, indoor marketing does not.
Large majorities of consumers are already using their smartphones in stores to look for price information, product reviews and coupons. The idea of brands and retailers communicating with them in stores will be built on this existing behavioral foundation. Accordingly indoor marketing won't require consumers to adopt new technology or approaches to shopping -- unlike mobile payments.
The "heavy lifting" in indoor marketing is on the merchant side, where WiFi or other sensor infrastructure needs to be in place. Fortunately in most major retail environments the rudimentary infrastructure already exists.
But don't take my word for it. We'll be discussing the competing indoor location technologies and hardware requirements for indoor marketing (as well as their accuracy) at Place: The Indoor Marketing Summit this fall in San Francisco. It will be an event anyone in the mobile or location-based marketing space won't want to miss.