April 5, 2012, 4:11 PM

PayPal aims for the suite spot with smaller retailers

It has debuted a mobile, online and offline bundle called PayPal Payments.

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PayPal, the payments unit of eBay Inc., is seeking to extend its reach with smaller merchants beyond its traditional online channel to include offline and mobile payments, consolidating a variety of payment offerings under one umbrella called PayPal Payments.

There are three tiers to the suite of payment tools; the first is free, the second costs $5 a month and the third costs $30 a month. PayPal Payments includes:

  • Online payments. Checkout options that allow a merchant to accept PayPal online.
  • Offline payments. A system that enables smaller merchants to accept credit cards, PayPal and checks using a smartphone equipped with a free thumb-sized card reader and a mobile app.
  • Mobile payments. Checkout optimized for mobile transactions on m-commerce sites and apps.
  • Invoicing. Customizable invoicing functionality.

In March the company introduced PayPal Here, the smartphone-based system for offline purchases. It hinted then that a revamp of its products was on the way.

“Technology is changing the way people shop and pay more than any time in history,” writes Ed Eger, senior vice president and general manager of PayPal Americas, in an April 4 official blog post. “Small businesses should be focused on making their customers happy, not spending time worrying about handling the complex task of online, offline and multichannel payments in this new shopping environment.”

As part of this small business move, PayPal has dropped the words “web site” from its U.S. product names. It says this change heralds its move away from its online heritage to what it describes as multichannel payments in “the new retail environment.”

“Helping small businesses get paid is PayPal’s sweet spot,” Eger writes. “We’ve been revolutionizing the payments industry for the past 14 years—first with online payments in 1998 and then with mobile payments in 2006. Last year, PayPal processed $118 billion from more than 100 million users in 190 countries, including $4 billion in mobile payments alone. We are now extending PayPal’s capabilities offline, creating innovative payment solutions for retailers, service providers and consumers.”

The real story behind PayPal Payments is PayPal’s move to make headway in the offline payments space, says Todd Ablowitz, president of online and mobile payments research at consulting firm Double Diamond Group.

PayPal has tremendous brand credibility in online auction, merchant and person-to-person payments, but they have yet to make significant inroads at the retail point of sale,” Ablowitz says. “Many offline merchants and businesses are not necessarily aware that PayPal’s entire suite of payment services are available to them. This new positioning can help drive greater awareness.”

He adds that the move makes sense for branding and business positioning. “PayPal can be seen as a one-stop, seamless shop,” he says, “that can meet the payments services needs of businesses, that are, more and more, using online, offline and mobile channels to reach and sell to their customers.  This announcement makes it clear that PayPal intends to be a comprehensive payments company.”

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