Walking through the Santa Monica farmers market on Wednesday just a block away from the promenade is quite an experience. The streets are packed in all directions, customers are lined up at every booth several deep, and the market vendors are selling everything from vegetable baskets and almond butter to prepared food. Without question, business is happening.
It’s not much different than what you see in a busy neighborhood in New York City, where it may be a bit more spread out, but is nonetheless a concentrated mix of gourmet products and delicious food ready to eat. On the weekends, you can expect longer waits and fewer open seats because the hungry crowds arrive in great numbers.
A farmers market like a busy block in NYC, have something in common. They both have a concentration of merchants and customers enjoying and socializing over great food. There's both commercial and social commerce happening simultaneously which is key to sustaining business.
Mobile payment's widespread success depends on tapping into this busy marketplace dynamic and creating a hub of businesses within the mobile payment ecosystem that's convenient and where customers will want to shop willingly and routinely en masse. Karen Webster of PYMNTS.com describes this as 'certainty' for mobile users.
She says, “The certainty…comes with creating a thick market of merchants and consumers and accounts that work across any mobile device that they happen to own, and can use at the places they routinely shop. A thick market is simply where there are lots of willing participants who know they can interact with each other, eliminating the uncertainty about whether they can or should.”
Further, for users to adopt a mobile payments platform, they want a frictionless experience. They want “an intelligent method of payment that they know, for sure, will be accepted at the places they like to shop and makes checking out a non-event,” she continues.
This includes integrating and applying loyalty points and rewards, promo codes, volume price discounts, and storage receipts instantaneously at checkout, without having to think about. It all should happen automatically and minimize or eliminate all traditional check-out interactions. The payment non-event lets customers focus on other aspects of the in-store experience.
But every market or payment technique needs lift off. Because in-store mobile payments has been slow to catch on, even when customers have the tools to do it, Karen Webster maintains that the marketplace for mobile pay must include a combination of online shopping and in-store purchasing. This way, users get familiar using their phones for all types of purchases and it becomes a habit.
Karen goes on to say, “Where consumers have responded favorably is where they are given digital account credentials that are characteristic of thriving thick markets – online and in-store.”
Treatmo’s approach to mobile payments is based, in part, on this framework and has had unique success. The natural and organic food marketplace in Treatmo app combines merchants who sell only online and ship with merchants who also have physical storefronts (such as cafe, juice bars, or tea shops), those who only deliver locally, and those who sell at pop-ups and farmers markets.
Its mobile payments technology allows users to pay regardless of how the merchant sells and acquire the purchase at their convenience. It's a software based universal payments tool that doesn’t require POS hardware and is done all with voucher codes which the merchant validates upon notification.
Even more powerful, Treatmo has a social network embedded in the app so users can friend other users, pay for them as a gift or treat, and discover food through friends. This feature creates the feel of a busy and active marketplace like you would find in Santa Monica or NYC. It gives people more reason to shop in the app since it's social and reduces the need to post elsewhere to get feedback.
Treatmo makes it easy for users to find businesses within the app, shop their products or menus, and complete the rest of the transaction -- from selection to payment. Merchants can even interact post purchase with customers through the app's one-to-one messaging.
According to Brian Fung of the Washington Post, apps like these, which have gained serious traction in Asia are “…not just another way to check out; it opens up deep, novel ways for customers to interact with stores, while businesses get to take advantage of scale…and lower infrastructure costs. Unlike attempts by Apple and Samsung to create demand for their mobile payments platform, what we're seeing here is the organic development of a mobile payments ecosystem that's more user-focused, more accessible and more self-sustaining.”
Brian continues that the next step is logical -- retailers will want to sell everything from clothes to plane tickets. For the consumer, it's ultimate convenience because you never have to leave the app to pay or communicate. In fact, retailers in Treatmo have already started this progression, by selling not only food items, but also physical goods. Most recently, Treatmo is being used by a mission based business to receive donations for it's charitable arm.
"But it's also favorable for businesses' adoption, too, because it costs them hardly anything to sign up for an account on third-party software. If anything, retailers may already be there for branding purposes...," Brian explains.
What’s great about the ‘thick’ or busy marketplace that Karen Webster describes is that “thick markets get thicker.” As more transactions occur and people start to interact with each other, it drives a positive effect -- more merchants want to join, which attracts more customers and, eventually, more merchants. This leads to the development of new features in the app to make selling even more efficient, safe and productive.
Treatmo is launching verision 1.7 of its marketplace and mobile payments app in June and has iterated several times as it grows to make its market thicker and more useful for merchants and customers alike. The growth of this marketplace is increasing the pace of mobile payment activity and becoming indispensable for merchants.
With the upcoming releases of 1.7 / 1.8 this summer, the app will become even more frictionless and useful for businesses and users, helping users pay and connect in a more meaningful way.