Smartphone-based payments for even simple purchases

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If Aaron Greenspan has his way, wallets will become a thing of the past. The founder of FaceCash, a mobile payment system that lets consumers pay by using a scanned barcode on their smartphones, has pounded the pavement in the Bay Area to get merchants to sign on to the service. On November 11, the company signed its first national restaurant client, as Subway joined the program for select locations in the Bay Area. Direct Connect spoke with Greenspan about the service and its potential for direct marketing and mobile e-commerce.

Direct Connect: Getting Subway to use FaceCash is big news. Do you expect the service to get wider use?
Aaron Greenspan: Yes, it is our first national retailer. We had been working with smaller restaurants in the area and are expanding now. It's actually a fairly new product — we just launched in April — and our sense is people are getting more comfortable with the idea of mobile payments. It's in the news more, so we see a lot of potential.

We do have some competition in the Bay Area, but we set ourselves apart by being the only payment system with face recognition. When you pay, a picture of yourself that you uploaded to our site appears on the cashier's screen.

Direct Connect: What is the advertising potential for this kind of program?
Greenspan: One of the things we have in the pipeline for next month is a way to advertise that I don't believe anyone has ever done. When a company advertises, they do it on a per-impression basis, or print 10,000 coupons and hope some number gets redeemed, but they are still paying that upfront cost. Because we have knowledge of the payment side and can deliver directly to the phone, merchants appear right on the phone. As an advertiser, you never have to pay for an ad that doesn't work. An infinite number of people may have access to the coupon the advertiser is putting out, but they will only be paying for those that are redeemed.

Direct Connect: This type of technology seems to lend itself to very targeted marketing.
Greenspan: Absolutely — not necessarily everyone who walks into Subway will have the same coupon. You can give the vendor the option to target by age, gender or whether they've been a customer before. All merchants will have the ability to make special offers, and it will be up to them what that is, whether buy-one-get-one-free or a 10% discount. We have reward programs where you earn points every time you buy something with FaceCash to encourage them to redeem anytime. There is enormous marketing potential with this kind of payment system.

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