Origami launches payment service

Origami, a social eCommerce startup for fashion and lifestyle products, is entering the offline payments fold.

The startup, one of Japan’s most-funded, has announced the beta release of ‘Pay with Origami’ and ‘Shop Reward Program’. The new services allow existing users to pay for items at bricks-and-mortar retailers with credentials stored in the Origami app. They will also help retailers connect the dots between their customer’s online and offline purchases, data that can be used to provide special perks and incentives for repeat shoppers.

Founded in February 2012, Origami unveiled its online-to-offline (O2O) mobile shopping app in April 2013. Users can follow their favorite brands within the app and receive updates when new items are introduced. It also recommends lesser-known brands and boutiques based on existing likes and purchase history. Users can share their likes and follows on social media, creating free advertising for the startup’s partner merchants.

Approximately 100 influential brands – including Hankyu Men’s Tokyo, Urban Research, Head Porter, Toms, and MoMA Design Store – are scheduled to join Origami’s payments beta.

“I created Origami to become a fintech company, but we decided to start with fashion- and lifestyle-focused mobile commerce” Origami founder and CEO Yoshiki Yasui told Tech in Asia.

“They already have the followers on Facebook and Twitter, they have the best retail locations, and they set the benchmarks for other brands to look up to.”

With its focus on O2O from the outset, it makes sense for Origami to offer an offline payments solution that keeps users and merchants within a single ecosystem. But becoming a force in Japan’s crowded offline payments space will be easier said than done.

When you step up to a cash register in Japan, you’re often met by one or more contactless payment terminals for a seemingly endless variety of RFID-compatible cards and mobile phones (though NFC options remain slim to none). You can use your subway pass to buy a bottled water or your flip phone to buy a Big Mac, for example, but these options are largely limited to convenience stores and fast-food chains.

Fashion retail is almost entirely cash or credit, and nearly 40 per cent of all consumer transactions in Japan are done with cash.

‘Origami for Business’ will use an iPad-based payment terminal without replacing the merchant’s existing POS systems. When an Origami user wants to make an in-store purchase, they simply scan a QR code with their smartphone or enter a six-digit pin code. Since Origami was born as an eCommerce platform, Yoshiki says that many users’ credit card details are already registered with the app.

Pay with Origami and the startup’s new reward program are currently available in beta for iOS, with an Android version in the works. Origami accepts Visa and MasterCard for in-store payments, with more credit card options coming soon. They charge partner shops 3.25 per cent per transaction.


The startup’s two biggest advantages over existing offline payment options will be that captive app audience and its founder’s connections in the financial world – Yoshiki was an investment banker and venture capitalist before becoming an entrepreneur.

“Payments and eCommerce are the same, the only difference is online versus offline,” Yoshiki said.

“If you buy three items from a retailer’s online store, then the fourth purchase is made in-store, you get treated like a first-time customer. That’s just wrong.”

According to Techlist data, Origami is among Japan’s top-10 most highly-funded startups.

 

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