Another year has flown by and here I am at the 2010 ETA Annual Meeting. I love to walk through the exhibit hall and see “what’s hot,” what’s changed, and what never changes at this ISO conference. So here goes…
Before I arrived I tried to predict what the hot areas would be; I predicted two and pretty much missed another. The two that were no brainers were:
1) iPhone mag-stripe readers and related services (think fee-based gateways tied to the hardware, like VeriFone and Hypercom’s offerings – buy the device, pay a 15 or 17 cent per transaction fee + $15/month to use it to connect to your acquirer). In addition to the much talked about VeriFone and Hypercom offerings, there were others from Macally Peripherals and others.
I have to say that in a way, seeing all these devices was a “back to the future” experience. I can remember 5 years or so ago writing about the plethora of booths exhibiting “sleds” for Palm Pilots (remember those?) and the early Blackberry devices. They had integrated mag-stripe readers and connected to tiny thermal printers with belt loops via Bluetooth. Let’s see if the new iPhone/smartphone devices do better…
2) Not too hard to predict the myriad of PCI-centric vendors and offerings – assessors, “end-to-end” (really “point to point”) encrypted POS devices, and such. Not exactly front page news that PCI is a huge burden for smaller merchants and there are a plethora of companies happy to help. Enough said. Really.
3) eCommerce gateways – OK, this is the one that I missed. Shame on me since Glenbrook is well immersed in the gateway business. What I missed was the sheer explosion of small gateway providers courting the ISO business so aggressively (e.g., Plug’n Pay, Paysentinal, YesPay, TGate, and others). We’re quite aware of all the small software developers who have written gateways – scores and scores of them have hit our radar screens and visited our conference room over the years. What I hadn’t seen in past years was such aggressive marketing to the ISOs.
So what to make of all this? Well, one impact could be some price compression, but to be honest with you, I don’t think it’ll be as pronounced as some are predicting (I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on that: email me)
4) Where are all the ISOs? The number of “mom and pop” and smaller ISOs at the annual convention appears to be getting thinner. It was amazing to see the density of formal business suits vs. the more casual Vegas-wear at previous years’ shows. Some exhibitors I mentioned this to agreed, suggesting that the smaller ISOs were focusing on the regional ETA gatherings. In lieu of that, the ETA has become (or remained) a great place for large companies with booths to talk to their large customers/partners/mega-ISOs in other booths in the exhibit hall. Makes sense to me.
5) POS hardware. And of course, it wouldn’t be ETA without having 4 or 5 terminal manufacturers from the Far East showing their low-cost (but still impressive!) terminals, trying to break into the US market. Some nice stuff from Dejavoo, Spectra Technologies, and others. Marketing to mega-ISOs is certainly a great way to try. But alas, so few make it back from year to year.
So off to make another lap around the exhibit hall and catch up with old friends! Please feel free to post comments below or reach out via email!