EBay Inc. hopes that combining the risk management strengths of its PayPal Inc. unit with new features designed to attract new types of users will help it become a global leader in online payments.
The San Jose e-commerce company shared its plans for PayPal during an analyst presentation Wednesday, including details on how it will incorporate Bill Me Later Inc., the instant credit provider it purchased in November, and an open development platform it expects to roll out this year.
John Donahoe, eBay's president and chief executive, described online payments as a winner-take-all market and said he expects PayPal to become one of the top global brands, in contrast to the online retail market, where he expects his company's auction service to be one merchant among many.
"In e-commerce or shopping, we believe there are going to be multiple winners, just like there are multiple winners in offline retail," he said. "Payments, on the other hand, is also going toward its offline equivalent, where there are very few winners.
"In the offline world there are only really three global payment networks: Visa, American Express, and MasterCard," Donahoe said. "And in the online world we think the same thing is going to happen, where we believe there will be only one winner. And that will be PayPal."
Scott Thompson, PayPal's president, said its key advantages over rival payment systems are its fraud management capabilities and its global reach.
Because PayPal has years of experience in screening transactions for fraud, "we can let more sales through to the merchant" than systems that might hold up some valid transactions, he said.
Thompson said that PayPal's ability to fund transactions from multiple currencies and payment types can make it more effective for cross-border payments than other online payment systems.
PayPal plans to integrate the Bill Me Later system with its own online payment service this year. Several merchants support both systems as separate payment options; PayPal wants to combine them into a single payment option to spur usage.
PayPal is also taking steps to let merchants experiment with the ways they offer its services by letting other companies create applications to accept PayPal payments. "Later this year we're going to open up our development platform," Thompson said. "We can decrease our own development costs and the best part is we can enable millions of developers around the world to build profitable and sustaining businesses with PayPal."
PayPal's technology has long been focused on traditional retailers that sell on and off eBay, but there is increasing demand for payment tools that can function outside those constraints. Thompson said an open development platform could prompt a wide variety of new users in new markets creating custom tools to accept transactions through PayPal.
PayPal had revenue of $2.4 billion last year, and Thompson said that could increase to $4 billion to $5 billion in 2011. Overall, eBay expects 2011 revenue of $10 billion to $12 billion, though executives said these figures are based on the assumption that the economy will have recovered by then.
Nick Holland, a senior analyst at Aite Group LLC of Boston, said eBay has set realistic goals for PayPal. "They are quite clearly becoming the de facto brand for online payments … considering how short they've been around, in fact, the reputation they've established is pretty astounding."
The acquisition of Bill Me Later will prove crucial to PayPal's ability to compete with the entrenched payment brands, Holland said. Bill Me Later "sets them up as a direct threat to credit cards, because they're offering credit with that, essentially … it's become a much more viable alternative."