Mobile payment apps today are not limiting their offering on one single channel. There is a high demand of multi-channel platforms that go far beyond the online versus offline payment experience. Apps like PowaTag and Znap have raised the bar in what we can expect from a mobile wallet. Valentina Romeo investigates

For mobile payments providers and e-commerce start-ups the promise of wide spread acceptance and a more consistent level of security is for the first time getting merchants and customers excited about paying on mobile.

Most recently, products like Znap and PowaTag seem to be walking on the same path in terms of channels proliferation and experimentation. They both offer cross-platform and multi-channel mobile payment apps aiming at simplifying transactions and creating a complete user experience.

There are though some key differentiators between the two. Znap has many in-app features such as geo-location, loyalty integration, coupons and consumer information across various physical, online, and billing channels. PowaTag shares many of the same features, but claims to be able to be used ubiquitously for whatever the customer wants to buy.

PowaTag combines elements of mobile payments, QR Codes and audio recognition, which would make it stand out from other e-commerce apps.

"We have developed this platform to allow people to buy things that they see in their magazines or TV commercials or through a shop window or when they are online on their mobile phone so they can easily buy something," Dan Wagner, CEO at Powa Technology tells EPI.

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"The combination of technologies, that are put together very elegantly, also provide the ability for merchants to engage with customers providing interactive low-energy Bluetooth beacons in retail stores. So it is a complete solution," he adds.

According to Wagner, beacon technology, such as Apple’s iBeacon, can support any physical environment for museums, open air stadiums, parks, restaurants, and hospitals.

Wagner adds: "We are focused on helping merchants and brands and retailer convert customers better."

PowaTag is aimed directly at the retail space, intending to bring the entire shopping experience under one roof. Znap, instead, wants to make sure users can benefit from the app also in other payment environments and business areas.

"Znap has helped US organisations save over $20m a year in infrastructure through our billing payments channels," David Pipe, global CMO at MPayMe, the Hong Kong business technology company behind Znap, tells EPI.

A global reach

As well as receiving "substantial investments", Znap, unlike the UK focused PowaTag, is expanding internationally, reaching a wider market through many strategic partnerships, namely in Japan (catering), Canada (online shopping), and Australia (utilities and tech).

"We are signing people up through the year," Pipe says. "We have Hypermart in Indonesia and Diamond Dining in Japan, which is rolling out Znap across its 219 restaurants, along with others in Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand, Australia and China, and that’s just Asia Pacific."

In the UK, Znap will be available at the upcoming RBS 6 Nations games in Twickenham stadium following a successful trial at the 2013 QBE Internationals.

At the stadium trial a small group were given the opportunity to download the app, and pre-order food and drinks, also receiving special offers prior to the games. According to the company, the trial was a success with 67% of those who downloaded the app registering for future use.

Supporting the widely espoused theory that mobile wallets inspire better loyalty, 40% of the money saving vouchers downloaded were then used, against an industry average of 3%, Znap reports.

Early this year, Znap has also expanded in Italy (Milan and Rome) signing up merchants to add the QR codes into their stores.

In no doubt over PowaTag’s potential, Wagner managed to secure $96.7m from tech-savvy investors. One of the largest Series A funding rounds achieved by a technology start-up during 2013.

Similarly, the reaction from the more than 240 market-leading retail brands, who have signed up for the service (most recently Carrefour and Universal Music), has been more than positive. PowaTag has already opened offices in 14 different countries to meet demand.

Wagner, who has been in the e-commerce business before the World Wide Web had spread out, believes PowaTag is the ultimate app.

"Everybody out there has a solution for a little piece of what we are trying to do.

"You look at what’s out there, and you have people who wanted to do something like this. Google wallet, nobody is using it. Visa wallet, nobody is using it," Wagner claims with confidence.

"The bottom line is: we have a better solution that covers everything. We have customers enthusiastic about using it and from that prospective it’s unique and that’s why we already think we won all these wallet wars, because nobody can catch us. We are already too far ahead," he proudly concludes.

On top of security

Like for many other mobile payment providers, maintaining a high level of trust from customers remains essential, especially after the high number of fraud and data breach cases that hit this market in the last months.

If PowaTag and Znap might differ for some of their technical features, they find common traits when it comes to security matters.

Wagner says: "We have the higher level of infrastructure already built in. The credentials are all held in the cloud securely, so if you lose your phone you don’t lose all the credit card and payment information. As we already have the highest security infrastructure; we are not concerned about any possible dysfunctions at the moment."

Pipe says the cloud storage of customer’s data can help cut the opportunity for fraud. Furthermore, the user’s personal details are never disclosed to the merchant, and there is no danger of card skimming at the POS.