Less than a year after launching its SAIL m.payment solution, payment terminal giant VeriFone has essentially pulled the plug on the product, which is its version of a Square-style card reader dongle. Citing a number of major challenges, including fierce competition in this nascent, but rapidly-growing market and the razor-thin margins on SAIL-based payments, the Company’s CEO officially disclosed SAIL would cease operations (save for continuing to service current users) in its recent Q4 earnings call.
While it is somewhat surprising that a well-established company like VeriFone is bailing out on a new product so quickly, the closure of SAIL clearly demonstrates the cutthroat competition in this market and could portend further consolidation or business failures of other similar ventures in the near-term. Certainly there is no shortage of Square-like solutions, with numerous hardware- and software-based competitors in the consumer-grade device mobile payment market (including Intuit, Paypal, Dwolla, iZettle and Groupon, just to name some high-profile players). Perhaps even more problematic for these m.payment service providers is that the business model on which they are founded is generally a race-to-the-bottom in regards to profit margins, with the major differentiator between each competitor often being the percentage fee charged for processing payments.
Looking ahead to the future, we believe the mobile payment competitors that will be viable for the long-term will be those that successfully layer value-added applications/services such as loyalty, coupons/offers and other mobile commerce functionality on top of their basic payment processing service. To the extent that these adjacent applications drive stronger customer loyalty, larger average ticket sizes and increased footfall for merchants, m.payment service providers can leverage them to generate additional revenue streams, differentiate their offering and attract new merchant partners. Conversely, we expect m.payment providers that remain reliant on processing fees for the majority of their revenues will see fiercer competition, shrinking margins and increasingly stronger chances of failure as payment processing service becomes more commoditized.