Now that consumer demand for electronic wallets has proven lackluster, at least one wallet purveyor, Brodia, is trying to pull away from the product and redefine itself in other areas of Internet commerce.
Brodia has been one of the more prominent firms offering electronic wallets, which are supposed to make life easier for people who shop on the Internet. Consumers can load all their shipping and credit card information into a wallet and simply click on the wallet whenever they want to buy something on a Web site. Theoretically the wallet averts the need to retype personal information at each site. But people seem indifferent to this advantage, perhaps since many Web sites let them store information for return visits.
After months of touting the benefits of wallets, Brodia wants to shed this image. Later this month, the San Francisco-based technology company plans to introduce services peripheral to the wallet business. Though it has not provided many details, Ron Martinez, Brodia's chief executive officer, said one new service would pay people to visit certain Web sites or bring in new customers.
"Consumers don't necessarily understand what a wallet means," Mr. Martinez said. "What we're doing is evolving the payment card for the Internet world."
Brodia enjoys marquee partnerships with credit card issuers like MBNA Corp., Providian Financial Corp., and Capital One Financial Corp. Though these companies have made some moves to promote wallet use, little clamor has arisen for the products. Internet analysts say only 3% to 4% of Internet users have heard of the technology.
Mr. Martinez said Brodia wants to move forward by presenting itself as a "personal commerce manager." The company hopes people will find that concept easier to understand.
"Now people tend to think of commerce as something governments and companies do," Mr. Martinez said in a telephone interview. "We want to make an enhancement or an upgrade to your existing credit card service."
Mr. Martinez said Brodia's new services "will make it easier for the user to tell the world what they want, and get what they want from the commercial world. We want to empower consumers in the same way that the big companies are empowered."
Brodia moved in that direction with a partnership it announced last week with ClickTheButton.com Inc., a software company that lets shoppers compare prices and product-shipping costs while surfing the Internet. The service developed by ClickTheButton, a private company in New York, will initially be offered on Brodia's Web site and will eventually be phased in to the electronic commerce services of Brodia's credit card issuer and bank partners.
Brodia said it would incorporate new payment systems into its service. To do so, it has named former Visa executive Virgil Davis to the new post of chief consulting architect for payment systems.
Mr. Davis spent 17 years at Visa, most recently as vice president of technology development; he spearheaded the development of Visa Cash, the card association's smart card product. At Brodia, Mr. Davis will work part-time and will also sit on the company's advisory board.
Mr. Martinez said his goal is for Brodia payment systems to become "standard equipment" for credit cards online. He said he wants Brodia to be not an ancillary service that consumers must seek out and pay extra for but a feature that comes free with every credit card.
"We want to make it more of an activation model," he said. "That's very different from saying, 'Here's a brand new service called a wallet, go to the site and sign up for it.' "
Though Brodia hopes card issuers will spread the word about wallets' usefulness, some analysts said they doubt this will happen.
"Brodia is one of the leading wallets out there, but they're going to have to spend a lot of money on promotion for consumers to even find out what their services are even about," said Jeffrey Baxter, principal of S.J. Baxter & Associates in Forest Hill, Md.
Card issuers are "just testing the waters with these wallets," Mr. Baxter said. Though they may have formed partnerships with Brodia, he said, "I haven't seen those issuers issue a bunch of wallets."