That familiar "Buy Now With 1-Click" button, so enticing on Amazon.com, is about to become a temptation for mobile customers everywhere. Amazon is offering its Mobile Payments Service (MPS) platform to third parties for integration into mobile apps and Web sites. That makes it easier for users to purchase goods or information on mobile devices through their existing Amazon accounts—without having to re-log into a Web site or an app each time he or she wants to buy something.
Amazon MPS lets third party developers build Amazon's payment system, complete with familiar yellow purchase buttons, directly into their apps and Web sites. Users can then enable mobile payments through their Amazon accounts and use the payment methods and information stored there to make purchases from third party apps or sites, even using Amazon's "1-Click" purchasing option, which automatically initiates a transaction without mousing through several order confirmation screens.
Kansas City-based Handmark Inc., which sells mobile games and apps through mobile storefronts, is the first to integrate the service into its apps. While the company still offers other payment options like PayPal and Google Checkout, it's notable that the only other one-click payment option it offers is one in which customers charge an item directly to their wireless bill rather than to a credit or debit card—not ideal, especially for those who charge their phone bills to corporate. And down the line, as more media companies embrace micropayment-based billing systems for content, ease of transaction is a major selling point.
By having Amazon be the mobile middleman for transactions made on the go, mobile vendors benefit because MPS lets customers pay without the hassle of logging in on a mobile device. It also eliminates a valid concern for customers who are fearful of sending sensitive information over a network they may not trust—to a site they don't know. Amazon wins because it reinforces the trust and familiarity it has fostered with consumers over more than a decade of Web retailing.
Amazon joins a bevy of other companies posturing for a foothold in the exploding mobile payments space. Boku is developing financial marketplaces with social networks and gaming sites as well, while rival Zong is managing Facebook's virtual currency. The more senior Obopay allows users to move money between individuals as well as businesses using nothing but cell phones, and as such it has been tapped by Nokia to create a mobile banking business in parts of the developing world where physical bank branches are scarce. But none of these startups yet offer the ease that Amazon brings to paying on the go, and that may be the key to bringing mobile payments from the background to the forefront of online commerce.