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  • Empowering payments is all about empowering consumer choice.

    That means enabling people to pay in-store or online via the payment method that is most convenient for them at any given moment.

    While some may find it surprising, cash is still holding strong to its reign as one of those preferred payment methods. It hasn’t taken long to figure out that cash isn’t dying; in fact, it’s thriving in many economies and remains a go-to payment, depending on the market or purchase being made.

    According to the Global Cash Index™, a Cardtronics collaboration, Americans spent a total of $2,359 billion in cash in 2015, and cash usage in the U.S. remains higher than in Western European countries.

    In 2015, cash usage in the U.S. represented 13.1 percent of its GDP, and PYMNTS research estimates that cash share will represent 11.7 percent of the U.S. GDP in 2020.

    Now what matters most is providing consumers with choice in how they access cash.

    Through a new partnership, FIS Mobile and Cardtronics are addressing one of the most vulnerable touch points when it comes to accessing cash — non-bank ATMs.

    Doug Brown, SVP and group executive for FIS Mobile, announced exclusively to PYMNTS that it will expand its cardless cash ecosystem to now include Cardtronics non-bank ATMs.

    “We are expanding the value propositions from our product — the speed, convenience and security that avoid skimming risks for users at the largest operator of non-bank ATMs in the U.S.,” Brown explained.

    Many non-bank ATMs are located in places that may not be well monitored, making them an easy target for bad guys to perpetrate skimming scams and drive up ATM fraud. But the new partnership will enable the ATMs to still provide a great experience while improving security from both the user side and the operator side.

    Cash’s New Digital Utility

    The best part is that this is being done in a form factor that people really enjoy using — their mobile devices.

    “Digital has become the primary means by which consumers interact with their banks. This revolution will carry over to a change in how customers transact over the next several years (checks to cards, cards to mobile). One thing that’s clear, however, is the continuing need for cash in the payments ecosystem,” Brad Nolan, EVP of global product and marketing at Cardtronics, explained.

    For this reason, Cardtronics is investing in connecting the mobile banking platform with physical access to cash — making it simple and convenient for consumers to convert digital to cash — and, soon to come, cash to digital, Nolan added.

    After almost four years of researching cash usage around the globe, PYMNTS noted that what people continue to underestimate is the crucial role cash still plays in the spending behaviors of so many consumers. Though the usage of cash may not be as popular as digital payment methods in some parts of the world, as overall spending increases, so does the size of the pie when it comes to cash usage.

    Even if people are using less cash, it’s still being used, and the growth of usage in every economy in the world, specifically the U.S., is increasing.

    This is why giving consumers easy and safe access to cash is important.

    “There’s always going to be merchants out there who will need, prefer and even steer toward cash for a variety of reasons in our estimations, so we do think it’s relevant and useful for consumers to have it,” Brown said.

    Keeping Cash Relevant

    Just because cash has been around for thousands of years, doesn’t mean it can’t benefit from digital advancements.

    Innovators are giving cash a new utility in order to make it easier for people to access cash and even use it for things they may want to buy online.

    Brown confirmed that the cardless cash ecosystem of FIS Mobile won’t just stop with cash withdrawals.

    It’s a two-way street, he explained, noting that the model expands to allow for cash access out as well as cash access in, which will essentially solve a two-way issue with cash.

    Integrations are now kicking off for the cardless cash product that will be available at Cardtronics’ ATMs. Nolan said that the expectation is for a 24-month, phased rollout across the Cardtronics ATM footprint.

    “This is an investment in innovation for Cardtronics that we anticipate will pay long-term benefits of increased traffic at our retail ATM locations and increased transactions at the ATMs,” Nolan added.

  • Photo credit: Pixabay.

    The US$1.4 billion funding of Flipkart, announced today, includes an investment from eBay as well as a merger of eBay India’s business with Flipkart in exchange for equity. This marks an exit of sorts for eBay from India, although will continue to function as a part of Flipkart. It also brings the curtain down on a journey that began 13 years ago.

    Long before the arrival of Amazon and Alibaba, or even the launch of Flipkart and Snapdeal, it was eBay that made a foray into Indian ecommerce with the acquisition of Bazee for US$50 million in 2004. “This agreement will allow eBay to expand its global footprint into the nascent but growing Indian market,” an eBay vice-president had then said.

    A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then. Flipkart launched in 2007 and Snapdeal in 2010. Backing from large hedge funds Tiger Global and SoftBank sucked them into a race to grab market share with discounts. The entry of Amazon in 2013 ushered in an era of broad-based horizontal marketplaces.

    The eBay model, which originally connected buyers and sellers in auctions, got pushed to the periphery with the broader range of categories on Amazon and Flipkart as well as the discounts. eBay India’s revenue growth actually slowed down in the boom years of 2014 and 2015, even as the main ecommerce players had their revenues rocketing, along with mounting losses bankrolled by hedge funds.

    In an effort to remain a significant player in Indian ecommerce, after the entry of Amazon, eBay chose to invest substantially in Snapdeal. But a US$5 billion infusion by Amazon into its Indian arm put paid to that bet. Last year, Snapdeal saw its market share sinking and now it is under pressure from its main investor SoftBank to merge with Flipkart at a fifth of its peak valuation.

    See: Snapdeal sale to Flipkart closer, but not a done deal yet: the real story

    eBay HQ

    Photo credit: Wikipedia.

    Too little, too late

    Late last year, eBay fired its product and tech team at its development center in Bangalore, in a sign it was winding down its India operations. “We are shifting work to other global centers around the world,” eBay’s official spokesperson said, claiming that it remains committed to India.

    It was part of a restructuring of eBay’s business after a split from PayPal which it had acquired for US$1.5 billion in 2002. This led to layoffs of 350 people in 2015 across eBay India’s marketplace and PayPal, which has development centers in Bangalore and Chennai. Last year’s layoffs were a continuation of that process.

    eBay has been trying to rethink its ecommerce model to serve small retailers and millennial shoppers, but the Indian market already has three huge players in Flipkart-Snapdeal, Amazon, and Alibaba-Paytm. The cash-rich Alibaba’s US$200 million investment to take the lead position in Paytm’s ecommerce arm makes it a hands-on player this year, after biding its time studying the market through its investments in Paytm and Snapdeal earlier. That put eBay in a distant spot in the pecking order.

    See: How the latest $1.4b Flipkart funding changes the ecommerce game in India

    It’s too late in the day for eBay to adapt its model to India even if it wished to emulate Amazon. Jeff Bezos made no secret of his commitment to the long-term potential of the Indian market, and made several visits to India to get Amazon India’s act together. He had no hesitation in getting into a bruising war of discounts, even if it impacted Amazon’s bottomline in the short term.

    eBay’s commitment to India was modest in comparison, and its platform model of connecting buyers and sellers was no match for the various initiatives Amazon and Flipkart took to onboard sellers and shift customers to online retail. Parking in Flipkart was the only face-saver left for the first global ecommerce player to set foot in India.

    This post Opinion: It’s curtains for India’s oldest ecommerce player, eBay appeared first on Tech in Asia.

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