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Mobile World Congress: eBay is moving into the offline retail sector by using mobile to drive footfall into bricks-and-mortar outlets, yet its payments chief has cast doubt on the role of NFC in mobile payments.

The retail giant is also looking to offer incentives to purchase, such as click and collect and mobile payments, particularly at large events, in a bid to expand its business model.

For instance, at Mobile World Congress, eBay is encouraging attendees to scan a QR code using its Red Laser app, which lets users “skip the queue” to purchase paella at a food stand and pay for the dish either with their PayPal account or credit card.

Steve Yankovich, eBay’s head of mobile, described such services as “removing the friction” from a transaction and said that they can help merchants with no online presence to drive footfall into their physical outlets.

“We can know when someone is in or near a store and offer them a deal via our relationship with a bricks-and-mortar retailer,” he said. “By doing this, we go from a multimillion-dollar business to a multitrillion-dollar one.”

Yesterday, the retail giant announced that Three UK would pre-load eBay apps on some of the devices it sells to its subscribers. Yankovich explained that deals such as this, of which it already has a similar agreement with O2, were directed towards increasing its profile among consumers.

“It’s important for us to help people realise there is an eBay experience on the phone,” he said, adding that the deal is centred on embedding the app on Android devices, while Apple’s terms and conditions prohibited the app from being pre-embedded on iPhones.

Speaking separately with new media age, David Marcus, VP and general manager of eBay’s payment arm PayPal, said he had more faith in cloud-based services than NFC technology when it came to rolling out mobile payments. “A lot of people think [handsets using] NFC is the holy grail [for purchases], but it’s not,” he said. “We don’t need NFC to succeed.”

While eBay and PayPal are experimenting with NFC technology, Marcus said that having it on the majority of smartphones and point-of-sale terminals was a long way off.

He said high-volume retailers should focus on cloud-based services, such as location-based services, to further drive footfall and provide extra convenience, “I’m not saying NFC won’t happen but lot of people think it is tap and you’re gone, when it’s not,” he said.

Marcus argued that retailers should focus on offering location-based listings alongside mobile payments and that click-and-collect services would better match consumer habits. “When you decentralise the checkout experience, it can increase your reach,” he said. “Cloud experiences are more exciting [than NFC].”

Marcus also stressed the need for retailers to have a mobile-optimised site. Quoting eBay’s own research, he said that 17% of mobile users visiting a non-mobile-optimised retail site log off and change their purchase decision.

“We want to help businesses, small and large, compete online by using eBay tools to provide a real multichannel experience and mobile is a massive part of that,” he said.

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Published 28 February, 2012 by NMA Staff

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