Visa today is announcing a key development in its bid to build a ubiquitous digital wallet service to compete against the likes of PayPal. It has signed on Overstock.com as the lastest retailer to use V.me. That service now has 35 online merchants signed up, but Overstock, which makes some $1 billion in online sales annually across categories like furniture, rugs, bedding, electronics, jewelry and cars, and is in the top-five e-commerce sites in the U.S., is by far the biggest. Jennifer Schulz, global head of e-commerce for Visa, tells TechCrunch that there are another 132 online merchants due to go live in the coming weeks.
The deal will mean that — like existing partners 1-800-FLOWERS, LivingSocial, Newegg and others — Overstock will use a simplified process to enable payments on the site. Users that pre-register with V.me can then pay on any participating site simply by entering their username and password.
The process of entering payment information when paying has long been seen as a hurdle in e-commerce — partly because it is time-consuming, and partly because of the security concerns of entering payment details everywhere. Schulz says that the streamlining offered by V.me is a significant step in improving the “44 fields in the typical checkout process.” The idea with digital wallets like this one is to circumvent both of those challenges, and help retailers realize what Forrester estimates will be a $327 billion e-commerce opportunity by 2017.
For Overstock, it’s another step ahead to streamline its service and make it more consumer friendly, and gain more of a competitive edge over the likes of Amazon.
Here it’s about speeding up the process of payment — before people change their minds or get distracted by something else online. “V.me adds yet another quick, simple and safe method to purchase on Overstock.com,” said Dave Nielsen, co-president, Overstock.com, in a statement. “Visa is a trusted and reliable brand that reinforces our commitment to our customers.”
And Overstock is changing elsewhere to evolve the business of online transactions. To drive more engaging discovery, it has teamed up with Piqora (formerly Pinfluencer) introduce Pinterest-style galleries on its site to highlight items that are trending on social networks (initially, Pinterest and Facebook, but eventually others, too), giving people the ability to buy them right then and there.
And to make it easier to seal the deal and improve after-sales service, it’s also reportedly eyeing up a locker-style system, giving people the ability to select a secure location to deliver purchased goods when they know they may not be at home. This would compete against Amazon Prime, and for all we know could even be something it is working on with a third party such as Google (reportedly testing out Google Shopping Express for a similar service) or Shoprunner.
While 35 retailers does not a ubiquitous service make, what Visa has made sure to line up early on are participating financial institutions. Some 64, include 13 of the top 25 banks in the U.S., are now integrated. This means that consumers whose payment cards are linked up or managed by these banks can use the scheme. And while it is run by Visa, the company tells me that in fact you can be a cardholder with MasterCard, American Express and Discover and it would still work.
Schulz also points out that while the service continues to scale out in the U.S., it is also looking to expand internationally, although that can be tricky with different local regulations around online commerce. “Looking ahead, we’re also working on plans for scaling V.me in additional countries around the globe, while ensuring our digital wallet experience meets Visa’s standards for security, convenience and reliability as it becomes more broadly available,” she says. “The wide range of features and functions being developed for V.me will allow Visa to pursue a number of strategies to tailor and/or bundle services to meet local needs.”
For now, the main focus is online, but you can see how this will also eventually link up with Visa’s ambitions in mobile payments — which include a strong emphasis on NFC embedded in mobile devices and a set of APIs to take its solutions anywhere that commerce happens — as well.