Alibaba’s Ant Financial recently demonstrated a payment service developed by its incubator F Lab that allows shoppers to confirm their purchases in virtual reality simply by nodding their heads. Dubbed VR Pay, the new payment system is Alibaba’s latest effort to explore the ecommerce potential of virtual reality. The VR payment system also uses a “voice print” technology for verifying user identity by recognizing each person’s unique voice. Alibaba says VR Pay is set for commercial launch by the end of this year.
Why Brands Should Care
This is not the first time Alibaba has experimented with new forms of digital payments. Last year, it rolled out a facial recognition feature in its Alipay service that allows users to authenticate their payments with a selfie. As VR devices continue to inch closer to mainstream consumer adoption, brands would be smart to keep abreast of the development of virtual ecommerce and start exploring emerging sales channels.
Earlier today, PayPal announced its acquisition of mobile commerce platform Modest for an undisclosed amount. This marks PayPal’s first acquisition since its split from eBay and signals the digital payment company’s ambition in diving deeper into ecommerce. Modest’s team and capabilities, which includes helping online businesses create their own app or integrate their stores within existing apps, and helping merchants add “buy buttons” into their social channels, will be integrated within PayPal’s Braintree platform, a move which the team described as a “cheat code” to get huge scale.
What Brands Should Do
As more and more consumers warm up to mobile commerce, especially on social channels, brands have to be quick to respond to shifting online shopping behaviors. For example, Pinterest’s newly introduced “Buyable Pins” feature, which uses the Braintree platform, allows users to easily buy products pinned from retailers such as Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus with just a few taps. For brands that aim to create better experiences for their customers on digital platforms, this kind of “contextual commerce” powered by the likes of Modest would be an interesting and potentially rewarding option to explore.
EBay’s decision to spin PayPal off next year could give it renewed life: as a public company, PayPal would be able to issue its own stock to help attract talent and retain its growth, which is crucial considering the fierce competition it faces. Aside from its old nemesis Square, newcomer Apple Pay is a serious threat to PayPal in mobile apps, while Stripe has recently signed major partnerships with Twitter and Facebook, not to mention Amazon’s low-key entry into mobile payment.
Moreover, this move could make PayPal a takeover target, with Google often brought up as a possible buyer as it is eager to compete with Apple in mobile payment. Either way, it seems like the digital payment industry is due for a shake-up.