Digital Conference

Retail Browsing Is Rapidly Shifting to Mobile, So Why Isn't Buying?

Ad Age Digital Conference Speaker John Collison of Online Commerce Company Stripe Talks About the Digital Shopping Experience

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John Collison
John Collison Credit: Stripe
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Consumers want mobile buying to be simple, however it's often anything but for most retailers. John Collison, president and co-founder of online commerce company Stripe, aims to ease the pain for businesses. His company helps power up the buying experiences of fast-growing brands such as Warby Parker and Kickstarter.

Here, he offers a preview of what he'll be discussing when he takes the stage in April at the 10th annual Ad Age Digital Conference in New York. (This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

Ad Age: Tell me about the new product, Relay, that Stripe introduced late last year. What does it do for retailers?

John Collison: You can talk to any retailer and they'll tell you that browsing is shifting to mobile at a fast rate, but buying isn't following. It makes sense, because it's a huge pain in the neck if you're going through 17 different screens clicking through offers.

What Relay was about was two things: making it easier for retailers to make their products available for purchase in other apps, and for app developers to make it easy to develop commerce experiences. An app developer like Twitter can make a nice buying experience where the whole experience takes place within the app.

Ad Age: What has the reaction been since you launched?

Mr. Collison: Since launch, we've added retailers like Adidas, Best Buy and Pacific Sunwear, and on the app development side, it's really people who consumers have shown they want to buy things from. It's not just social networks.

Another example is ShopStyle. It's a shopping app that's successful on desktop, but they noticed on mobile people weren't buying. They developed, using Stripe Relay to let anyone buy within the ShopStyle app.

We're on the lookout for new app partners. We're in discussions all the time. Whatever the future of mobile commerce looks like, it's not going to look like the web checkout that we see today -- which is clearly not working.

Ad Age: Who do you count as your competitors?

Mr. Collison: With Relay in particular, there is not a comparable product. With Stripe overall, we handle the payments and business logistics for tens of thousands of fast-growing internet companies.

Before Stripe, those companies would send to PayPal or sign up for a merchant account and spend weeks, or months, building infrastructure. We're generally competing with PayPal or merchants, traditional banks or oftentimes a lot of work is being done internally as well.

Ad Age: Are you finding that Relay competes with many brands who want to launch their own buy buttons in-house, rather than use your platform?

Mr. Collison: Buy buttons are generally in apps rather than developed directly by the brands, and one of the challenges with mobile is that people have very few apps on their home screen.

The challenge is for retailers to get consumers to install retail-specific apps. It's much more likely that a consumer would have one app installed where they spend a lot of time -- like Spring, Shopstyle or Twitter -- and that app has a whole lot of brands in it.

Our idea is to let retailers enable buying in the apps consumers already have installed, rather than going on a quest to get consumers to install their single purpose app.

Ad Age: Are retailers adapting their technology fast enough?

Mr. Collison: Retailers are used to a two- or three-year time horizon, and back in the '90s or 2000s, when things were trucking along slowly, that was OK. But now in 2016, if your technology cycle is three years and a new version of the iPhone comes out every single year, and behavior is changing, there's a real mis-notch between the time horizons that people are used to operating on and how fast the world is changing around them.

Ad Age: How is Stripe's latest product, Atlas, helping entrepreneurs outside the U.S.?

Mr. Collison: Atlas is a product to help enable and further global entrepreneurship. While Stripe is available to businesses in 24 countries, there are 170 countries that we're not in yet and there are a very large number of talented entrepreneurs in those countries. They're developers or entrepreneurs -- people looking to launch online businesses to a global audience.

What Atlas does is let entrepreneurs anywhere in the world incorporate a U.S. company, get access to a U.S. bank account and U.S. tax and legal advice, and get a Stripe account for payments. We're already seeing these kinds of businesses appearing.

We launched with Coterique. They sell clothes and are based in Egypt. They wanted to focus on the fashion business, but the mechanics of collecting money was a big pain. Atlas gives them everything to do that, and they can get back to focusing on the business.

Editor's note: Hear more from John Collison in person during the Ad Age Digital Conference, April 5-6 in New York City. Details here.