The e-commerce payments giant PayPal has announced what it calls its "most significant contribution to date in reinventing the in-store experience" — and it is calling it Beacon.
A post on the PayPal blog detailed the new technology as a tool for merchants to enable completely hands-free payments. Beacon makes use of the Low Energy Bluetooth standard to facilitate wireless communications between the POS system at a retail store and the customer's smartphone.
Customers opt-in for the service, having full control over a list of stores they are interested in checking in to, those they wish to first be prompted to confirm a payment, and those that they want to enable for a hands-free payment experience.
In the case of the hands-free option, customers are notified through a vibration or sound to confirm that they were successfully checked in to the store. That process triggers a communication with the retailer's POS system and the customer's photo appears on the system's screen — allowing a store associate to issue a personalized greeting to that customer, by name.
When it comes time to pay the only action required is a verbal confirmation. That's it. No wallet, no card, not even a touch on the phone.
According to PayPal, any store running POS systems compatible with its service, including Micros, NCR, PayPal Here, Revel, ShopKeep, TouchBistro and Vend, can integrate the hands-free payment technology by simply plugging in a Beacon device within the store.
The Beacon announcement follows last week's news of PayPal's "reimagined" app for iPhone and Andriod devices. The company explained the new features in another blog post:
With the new design of the app, we've made it easier than ever for our customers to pay when they're in-store and send money to friends (that reminds me, I owe David $3 for that latte). Of course, because we're PayPal, paying with your phone doesn't mean you have to give up choice. We have made it even easier to pay using your bank account in one store and your credit card at the next place. In this release, you can even open a line of credit in the app using Bill Me Later.
We've also vastly improved the in-store shopping experience. The PayPal app has a new tab called 'Shop', which you can use to find shops or restaurants nearby that accept PayPal payments. You can then 'check in' and open a tab with just a swipe. You can change how you want to pay right on the "check in" screen, meaning you've really got access to your entire wallet in the app. After you've paid, you'll see a confirmation alert and our usual PayPal email receipt.
As for Beacon, PayPal said it will start piloting the service in Q4, with the full rollout planned for early next year.
"I, for one, can't wait to see what developers do with PayPal Beacon once they get their hands on it," David Marcus, president of PayPal, said in the blog post. "The future of in-store payments is finally here. Now it's time to start rolling it out and delighting millions of customers around the world."
The videos below offer a look at PayPal's vision for the technology: