Global Observer

In major cities, PayPal vs. the wallet

In major cities, PayPal vs. the wallet

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PARIS -- In London, Paris and New York, PayPal seeks to replace your wallet full of cards and gift certificates.

PARIS – PayPal is looking to extend its reach in by turning smartphones into credit cards, revolutionizing the way consumers purchase goods.  With presentations at conferences in Paris this December, like TOTEC and LeWeb, the e-commerce giant could become a more integral part of daily shopping and dining experiences in the coming years, if not months.

Born conceptually in 1998 in the US, PayPal became a premiere way to purchase online, drawing so much attention that eBay purchased it in 2002.  Since then, the online payment system has grown and evolved, offering a wide set of services resulting in 92 billion dollars in transactions in 2011.  In France, over 22,000 vendors use PayPal. Already 24% of the French purchase products online with 47% checking Internet sites before purchasing an item.

Though according to Olivier Binet, head of PayPal innovation in France, PayPal will very shortly step away from exclusive online purchases.  Instead, the company is using smartphone technology to turn iPhones and androids into e-wallets, revolutionizing shopping experiences worldwide.

Binet said that currently in London, New York, and Paris among other places, PayPal is working to integrate smartphone payment in two ways to help stores keep business from being siphoned away by online sellers.  “Retailers can’t stop the internet from coming into the stores.  They will need to reinvent their buying experiences for shoppers and we are there to help,” Binet said.

He explained that PayPal is working with other innovators to create a system to pay restaurant checks using PayPal on smartphones.  English food chain PizzaExpress has already integrated the system in London, allowing customers to pay their bill and even leave a tip with their iPhones.

Even more innovative are the interactive store windows exhibited at LeWeb in Paris that redefine “window shopping.”  Imagine walking past a department store  on the way home late at night and falling in love with a scarf in the window.  Binet said that instead of coming back or searching for it online, why not purchase it right there at the store window?

These “smart windows” are covered with a film that allows shoppers to interact with them using their iPhones or androids.  “The idea is to give anyone a smartphone and let them take control of the window,” Binet said.  Spontaneous shoppers can purchase the item from the store even when its closed by scanning the window and completing the purchase on the smartphone.  The item will be delivered to their home.

With stores losing business to online retailers, there is more at stake than customer satisfaction.  “The big question is what can be done so that clients that come to store use the Internet to use our applications in the store?” Binet said.

Far from futuristic, such technology is already on display at a New York City PayPal showroom.  The smart windows could even be in place in some London boutiques by Fashion Week at the end of February.

“We are not here to reinvent the shopping experience.  We are integrating new experiences,” Binet said.  He is confident that PayPal and stores worldwide have a future together.  “A physical presence is important to complement the presence online,” he said.  It remains to be seen how much consumers agree with him.

Photo: Createdigitalmusic.com

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Bryan Pirolli

Correspondent (Paris)

Bryan Pirolli has worked for Conde Nast and Travel+Leisure and has written for EuroCheapo.com and Concierge.com. He holds a degree from New York University and is currently studying at the Sorbonne. He is based in Paris, France. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure