Vancouver-based startup nTrust is the first company in Canada to offer a mobile payments solution that works with iBeacon, an Apple iOS app technology that enables iPhones and iPads to push notifications to one another, even when the apps are turned off.
NTrust gives consumers a way to store and transfer money within the cloud, but now using the iBeacon and in partnership with hardware manufacturer Estimote, it has extended its money-transfer capabilities to brick-and-mortar stores by providing free beacons to merchants who want to participate.
IBeacon’s implications are potentially huge for retailers, who can use the technology to send mobile messages to any user that enters a store. IBeacon could be used to tell shoppers about in-store sales, send them personalized offers or accept payments from their mobile devices.
With nTrust’s app, mobile-assisted shoppers receive iBeacon notifications whenever they pass by a store where they can pay with their phone. When they get to the cash register, the merchant can send them a purchase request and consumers tap “OK” in the nTrust app to make the payment.
NTrust chief experience officer Rod Hsu said that for the consumer, the convenience of a mobile payments app like nTrust is all about consolidation — using a single payment method for everything, rather than trying to keep track of a wad of credit cards, gift cards and loyalty cards. “You’re really going to one place to select and use a payment choice,” he says.
The technology is young, and it has a few hurdles to overcome. For one, payments currently have to be made from nTrust’s proprietary prepaid wallet, where users upload funds from a credit or debit card. Using securely stored credit card credentials to pay directly (the method used by Amazon or Paypal-enabled websites) isn’t supported at the moment. The company says it’s on the way.
The other big obstacle is merchant adoption. Unlike mobile payment systems that use near-field communications (NFC) technology such as Google Wallet, nTrust isn’t set up to work with legacy point-of-sale systems. The merchant has to have an nTrust account and a mobile device to receive payments. That means the company’s success relies much more on convincing merchants to get on board with a new technology.
To try and sweeten the deal for merchants, nTrust is offering free Estimote beacons and transaction fees at a reduced rate of 1%. The beacons work with any iBeacon-based technology, so merchants can also use them to push promotions and loyalty rewards to consumers using their own apps, or store management apps like Shopify. It’s billed as a way to get in on the ground floor of the coming iBeacon revolution.
Check out the rundown of mobile payment tech in the June 2014 issue of Marketing.