Apple Pay arrives in the UK

Apple Pay arrived in Britain today. The new service lets people pay for things in store and in apps on the latest Apple devices, including iPhone 6 and Apple Watch.

I’ve been talking to analysts and journalists about PayPal UK’s view of the new arrival. Most people assume that Apple Pay is a competitor. The reality is different, as I explained to techradar editor in chief Patrick Goss in a meeting in London today. While people focus on PayPal as Britain’s most trusted and widely used digital wallet, behind the scenes we also help countless businesses accept other ways to pay, including Apple Pay, through Braintree, our mobile payments arm. Patrick’s article explains why Apple Pay is good news for PayPal and the other big names in mobile payments.

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I owe you: talking about friendship debt

Mrs Moneypenny and Rob Skinner from PayPal talk friendship debt

Mrs Moneypenny and PayPal’s Rob Skinner talk about the money owed by friends

I teamed up today with Channel 4’s personal finance expert Mrs Moneypenny to talk about the awkwardness caused when friends don’t pay each other back. We chatted to radio stations across the UK – who found it struck a chord with listeners.

We were talking about PayPal’s survey which showed that Britons are owed an estimated £3.2 billion by family and friends at any one time. That’s £66 per person! It’s not just the cases when you actually hand over cash; these small loans also include the times when you buy a friend a meal, a coffee or takeaway.

A fifth of us would rather go short than ask for the money back. As Mrs Moneypenny put it, money is the last taboo. Many feel more comfortable talking about sex than money, especially when it comes to confronting a friend about a debt.

Help is at hand, in the form of technology. The survey showed that one person in seven is using their mobile to remind friends to repay them. That’s typically a text alert, but apps can be an even better reminder. I explained how you can use the PayPal app to prompt your pal to send you the money with just your mobile number or email address.

PS: Mrs Moneypenny has a new book out: Mrs Moneypenny’s Financial advice for independent women. One of her best tips today was to set aside an hour a week to sort out your finances. For example, when your car insurance comes up for renewal, get  quotes from other insurance companies to see if you can save some money.

Disclosure: I am PR director for PayPal, UK & Ireland

No more queues: choose and order takeaway with PayPal

I’ve never had lunch in three restaurants on the same day before. But a ‘safari’ lunch was a great way to show journalists PayPal’s in-app services: order ahead, pay at your restaurant table and picture payment – all on your mobile phone.

Rik Henderson from Pocket-lint has posted a great account of how PayPal is saving time through the order ahead and pay at table services. Rik concluded, “We’ve never really experienced such an intuitive and speedy system of ordering and paying for lunch before.”

Pay at table at Prezzo Here’s how it worked. We started at Prezzo in Glasshouse Street, London, for a starter. We ‘checked in’ to the restaurant through the PayPal app, giving the waitress a code (above). We split the bill between us – all from within the PayPal app. I had the bruschetta, which was delicious. No waiting for a paper bill or for the waitress to bring a card machine.

Picture perfect at GBKThe pizzas looked tempting, but it was time to move on. A brisk walk through Soho took us to Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) in Frith Street.  Once again, we checked in through PayPal’s app, this time paying with our profile pictures, which appeared on GBK’s till. Being a creature of habit, I chose GBK’s Smokin’ Joe burger, with coleslaw and salad instead of a bun. 

Ordering ahead from wagamama

It was now time to show the journalists how easy it is to choose and order a takeaway on your phone. As we were finishing our GBK burgers, we opened the PayPal app again to check in to wagamama‘s Lexington Street, Soho restaurant (above). The wagamama take out menu appeared and we ordered for collection 15 minutes later. It was obvious who was still hungry – I went for peppermint tea, but others went for teriyaki, ramen and cheese cake! Next time, I’ll go for a bento box.

Everyone went away with an insight into how the mobile phone can make save us time when we use it to order and pay. At PayPal, we’re intrigued by the possibilities. And when I accidentally left my wallet at home today, I didn’t go hungry: I paid with PayPal at the excellent Cook & Garcia cafe in Richmond.

You can download the PayPal app here.

Disclosure: I am PR director for PayPal UK and Ireland.

Weejot Donate to give charities a mobile boost

The launch of Weejot Donate

Jadu CEO Suraj Kika explains Weejot Donate at today’s launch

The smartphone has changed our lives. We shop, share and pay on the go. And we’re increasingly giving to charity on our mobile and tablet – with almost 60 per cent of PayPal donations to this year’s Comic Relief Red Nose Day being made in this way.

Today’s launch of Weejot Donate will make it far easier for charities of all sizes to take mobile donations. It allows them to create ‘web apps’ – apps that are just as easy to use as apps made specially for platforms like iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) and Android, but run in the web browser on almost any device. This means a charity’s supporters don’t need to download anything. And the good cause can create a personalised app in under an hour, with no technical expertise. They can even let donors to share news of their contributions on social networks.

The service has been created by Weejot, Jadu‘s web app publishing service, with PayPal enabling its fast, secure donation payments. Alzheimer’s Society is the first charity to create apps using Weejot Donate.

You can find out more at And Jadu’s chief executive Suraj Kika has blogged about it here. (Suraj created an app in three minutes at today’s launch in Westminster.)

PS: I was intrigued to learn from Alzheimer’s Society’s Liz Monks that many people with Alzheimer’s use Facebook to keep track of family and friends. As Liz observed, it’s remarkable that a social network created for students is now helping alleviate some of the effects of dementia.

Disclosure: I am head of PR for PayPal UK.

Social Brands: Lego and Chiltern Railways

I love Lego. So it’s no surprise that Lego’s Lars Silberbauer was the star of today’s Brand Republic Social Brands event in London.

Lars started on a high: his business card is a Lego character. But his most compelling message was the way the brand has inspired its fans to share their creations and suggest new products.

Lars showed this brilliant video telling the story of Lego. It’s 17 minutes long, yet it’s been viewed by almost four million people. Over half have watched over 15 minutes, showing its appeal. I watched it with my four year old son Owen tonight, and he was enthralled. It shows the timeless truth: great content is compelling. It’s not a corporate video, but a magical story, beautifully told and animated.

I also enjoyed the story of how Lego rode to the rescue when an 11 year old American boy, James Groccia, found the Lego Emerald Night train set he had saved up for had been withdrawn. Lego sent James the precious set. It’s a great example of how delighting a customer can spread goodwill. (The home video showing his delight has been viewed over 1.6 million times.)

The other highlight of the day for me was meeting Nicola Clark, head of marketing and communications at Chiltern Railways. I’ve blogged many times about Chiltern’s excellent use of social media, so it was nice to hear more at first hand. Nicola said that social allowed Chiltern to become the brand it always wanted to be: human, caring about the customer, with real personality. She explained how the company started its social presence after seeing it as a great way to keep customers informed after the snows of 2009.

As Nicola said, passengers often just want an explanation when things go wrong. Tweeting photos of a line blocked by a tree shows us that there’s a good reason why the 0721 is late. By coincidence, Will McInness from Nixon McInnes made the same point, citing client First Capital Connect getting drivers to take photos of flooded tracks.

I took part in a panel discussion with Simon Nicholson from Honda and event chair Andrew Smith, co-author of Share This. I explained how PayPal is growing its social presence and how the company’s president, David Marcus, instinctively understands social as a way of engaging with customers and learning from their feedback. I added that the debate about who ‘owns’ social – PR, marketing or customer service – is meaningless. It should be a partnership with the needs of the audience centre stage. ‘Don’t ask what the customer can do for you. Ask what you can do for the customer.”

I’ll end with a personal story about Chiltern Railways. On Tuesday morning, I told Owen about the famous Pontcysyllte canal aqueduct in North Wales. I added that there was a railway locomotive named after it. I showed him photos from the internet of the aqueduct and the engine. That morning, I saw the engine racing through Gerrards Cross as I waited for my train. When I got to Marylebone, I took a photo (below) to show Owen later. We agreed we’d go on a train pulled by the engine one day…

Pont Cysyllte at Marylebone

Dyfrbont Pontcysyllte at Marylebone

Disclosure: I am Head of PR & Social Media for PayPal UK

Why NFC isn’t the future of mobile payments

You may never have heard of NFC – near field communication. It’s the technology that enables contactless communication between devices such as phones and tablets. Yet many in the technology and financial services industries regard it as the holy grail. They see it as a sure way to make paying by mobile phone as commonplace as using a credit card. They whisper the magic letters with reverence.

But this belief in the potential of NFC is almost certainly misplaced. It’s a classic case in focusing on the technology, rather than what it does, and what consumers and businesses want. Or, putting it another way, the classic mistake of assuming that if you ‘build it, they will use it’.

Not everyone thinks that NFC is so compelling. Contrary to speculation, Apple chose not to add NFC to the iPhone 4S. It may, or may not, be a feature of the next generation iPhone.

Another sceptic is PayPal. I explained why in an interview with TechRadar editor Patrick Goss. My point was simple: very few consumers have NFC phones. Retailers have to spend a lot of money on new in-store systems to take NFC payments. They need convincing that consumers are going to use NFC before making the commitment.

Just creating the technology isn’t enough. Tablet computers were invented years before Apple launched the iPad – yet it took Apple’s genius for making things easy and enjoyable to use to turn tablets into a mass market product. I sensed I was regarded as speaking out of turn when I expressed doubt about NFC at a London discussion about mobile payments this week – yet the enthusiasts seemed to assume that NFC was bound to succeed.

As I told TechRadar, “NFC may well be interesting and transformational in a few years time but the reality is that the world may well have moved on by then”.

Sometimes, simple, existing technology proves the answer. It’s already possible to shop and pay on your mobile, with apps, mobile websites and more. I showed Patrick how simple it is to pay for a meal at your table in PizzaExpress with a smartphone: NFC not required. PayPal handled $4 billion in mobile payments globally last year and expects this to rise to $7 billion in 2012. NFC barely features in this story.

Disclosure: I am head of PR for PayPal UK.