#SFSNYC: PayPal’s Walt Doyle on Navigating the “Purchase Pretzel”

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SW_20130115_NY_5051During his morning keynote address at the Street Fight Summit in New York, Walt Doyle, the general manager of PayPal Media Network, took a deep dive into eBay’s $3 billion push into local, demonstrating both the opportunities and the frustrations endemic to the space.

In an interview last week with Street Fight, Doyle had talked about the challenges for the hyperlocal market in 2013, saying, “There’s one thing that nobody can predict, and that’s consumer adoption. When are consumers really going to make this mainstream?”

Doyle outlined half a dozen partnerships made by eBay over the past year, highlighting campaigns with larger brands, including Sears, Home Depot, and BestBuy. Coupons, discounts, product awareness, and messaging are all well and good, he said. But depositing real money automatically into customers’ PayPal wallets, say, makes a real impact in terms of “getting them off their couches”— one of Groupon’s original mission statements, incidentally — and bringing them to the store on foot. Syncing all the data becomes crucial to engagement: Is that item relevant? And is it actually in stock?

Doyle said it’s all about context. “Nothing trumps purchase history — who they are, where they bought, what they bought,” he said.

And when “consumers have a mall in their hands,” as they do now with multiple screens and proactive showrooming, “the purchase funnel had become the purchase pretzel.” That’s where offline payments come in.

This may all be good in theory but the limitations include, as always, the back end. Doyle said that esoteric programming languages killed many early apps that prefigured some of today’s big success stories and overlaying third-party data is still a challenge for most mobile developers. Conversely, some of the early products that Doyle worked on at Where, from pet trackers to geophotos, had the tech but not the reach or weren’t relevant to small businesses.

The eventual goal is “the democratization of payments,” Doyle said. What excites him is not just the transaction or the engagement but “going back to the merchant and saying, “This is what we did. We can participate not just in CPM but in the actual transaction.” And, he said, too many companies silo when they should be collaborating. (PayPal’s ecosystem partnerships fortunately include Apple.)

“Local is so hard; it’s not a game that I think anyone can go in and win alone,” he said. “You have to have lots and lots of partners. It doesn’t get any easier; you have to have partners.”

 Photo credit: Shana Wittenwyler