Tech and Brand Partnerships Point to a New Future of Mobile Shopping

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In the future, partnerships between brands, tech companies, and marketers will enable a massive shift in payments and change how shoppers access the goods they want.

So said Mike Jaconi, CEO and co-founder of deep-linking software company Button, during Ibotta’s Mobile Innovation Summit last week, maintaining that U.S. commerce is not primed for purchase – but it’s getting there. Jaconi pointed to the Chinese social platform WeChat, which has seen enormous success in linking commerce options such as buying a car or movie tickets within the WeChat app.

Jaconi founded Button in 2014 and has seen the company through three successful funding rounds.

“When we raised the first round, we had nothing,” Jaconi told Street Fight in an interview. “It was literally just an idea. When we raised the Series A, that was when we had a little more momentum, we had a partnership with Uber; that was a big deal.”

By the Series B funding round in January, when Button attracted $20 million from Norwest Venture Partners, Jaconi and the team began to see things really moving.

“I think that was real validation,” he says. “And plus the size of the platform we were building on top of, they were indicators to people that this is gonna be something big. If we didn’t screw it up.”

Screwing it up is definitely not the direction they are headed in – earlier this year, partnered with Button to enable linked services within the app, based on device location and the current weather.

“We’re powering other services based on weather signals, like whether people should ride Uber now before the weather changes,” Jaconi says. “And then we’re also taking over a local partnership for a massive local company; I can’t disclose the company yet. That’s coming in the next month.”

Natalie Gerke, Button’s head of communications, says that Button takes the local angle of commerce in full context.

“It’s a bit of a different approach when the consumer is on mobile,” she says. “Look at Foursquare – if you want to book a table at a restaurant, or get a ride from wherever you are, what we do is power all those contextual bundles.”

With linked services, the consumer’s intent to purchase is only being primed more and more, she says. Button is the invisible layer that enables that link from one app to another.

Jaconi says that deep linking in apps is hard, and that the technology to enable that option is the main roadblock for most companies.

“It’s hard for companies that are as tech-savvy as LinkedIn, all the way down to a small retailer building its first app,” he says.

Jaconi also used LinkedIn as an example during his presentation at the Summit in Denver, describing the irritation he – and one of his investors – feel often when clicking to a LinkedIn profile only to be redirected to the LinkedIn mobile site login screen instead through to the profile via the installed app.

Jaconi points out all the reasons why brands should be taking advantage of apps: they convert faster than mobile websites, they have faster native loading times, they can store credit card data, and average checkout time is faster.

“Because of those reasons, apps are where you should take the users, but linking has prohibited that,” Jaconi says. “The landscape is always shifting. There are always operating system updates that are changing things. Because of that, it’s difficult to make it easy.”

Jaconi gave examples of media companies like the New York Times and BuzzFeed adding “commercial touchpoints” to solve a number of problems. The Wirecutter from the Times and BuzzFeed’s Product Lab both indicate the move that companies are making toward collaboration.

“This is something that is important,” Jaconi says. “These guys are trying to build a model that has durability as they plan for mobile.”

Brands need the checkout experience to be handled – they want to spend their energy on whatever their brand is famous for, whether that’s coffee, finance, tires, or anything else.

“If you have to spend your energy on link routing, you’re going to lose out on innovating against your competition,” he says.

April Nowicki is a contributor at Street Fight.