It's a New Age blue-light special that carried a whiff of science fiction as recently as just a couple of years ago-a merchant offer that arrives on a mobile phone in real time while the consumer is still shopping.
And even now, when most banks view current mobile location-based services as a find-the-nearest-ATM stop on the way to loyalty marketing in the future, U.S. Bank plans to pilot a location-based coupon service called Mobile Shopping Concierge as early as this year.
The architect of U.S. Bank's out-on-the frontier mobile payments posture is chief innovation officer of payment services Dominic Venturo, who leads a team that's made a series of aggressive and early forays into mobile technology that are already paying off in customer adoption.
"When consumers are out and about and doing things, they may be buying something or considering buying something, wouldn't it be ideal to give them an offer of relevance based on where they are and what we know about them?" says Venturo, adding that mobile is a primary channel to accomplish that. "In the physical world, it's difficult to do. You can make special offers based on historical behavior, but that's in the past, not the present."
Mobile Shopping Concierge will match the smartphone's location-based technology to coupons sent directly to the handset. The app has drawn raves because it takes full advantage of the smartphone's brain-combining GPS location with mobile commerce. "It can be very seamless, the ability of the mobile device to give you location and allow you to do location-dependent activities," says Aaron McPherson, a practice director for IDC Financial Insights. "Banks can use [location] to redefine their relationship with the merchant."
Venturo and his team locate opportunities to ply mobile technology through a mix of consumer research and an intuitiveness that comes from Venturo's 12 years of experience at U.S. Bank in a variety of positions in which he was responsible for developing, marketing and managing new payment products. "It's a case of understanding how all of these payments toolboxes work," says Venturo. "It's more than mobile. It's taking a whole bunch of assets and tying them together to solve problems."
Driven by Venturo's team, the bank-which offers mobile financial services through a mix of browser-based services that are device agnostic, along with a native iPad app and Android and Blackberry apps slated for release later this year-has proven to be ahead of the curve almost every step of the way.
The bank has used a combination of internally-developed technology, licensed solutions and partnerships to place the $300 billion-asset bank in a prime position to use mobile to gain consumer adoption, locate new avenues for transaction income and find new ways to compete in the merchant acquiring game. "We're testing a lot of things right now, and Dominic and his team are extremely innovative in terms of what they're putting in the marketplace," says Mac McCullough, chief strategy officer for U.S. Bank, who has worked with Venturo on retail mobile banking deployments. "The value is being able to establish and move quickly."
The bank was the first or near-first to offer real-time transaction text alerts and person-to-person mobile payments-two mobile services it's offered for about three years. The institution was also an early test bank for separate NFC pilots offered by both Visa and MasterCard in 2009. And in the past year, it's added myriad functions to its mobile payments suite, including a MicroSD pilot with DeviceFidelity, FIS and Monitise, as well as the launch of a full-suite mobile banking product with bill pay capabilities.