Posted by StreetWise in Latest News
With credit and debit cards being widely accepted, more and more people are finding it unnecessary to carry cash. As a result, many StreetWise vendors lose valuable business to the phrase, “Sorry… I don’t have any cash on me.”
In order to address this problem and tap into the trends of the digital age, StreetWise sought the knowledge of the digital payment experts at PayPal to find a way for customers to purchase StreetWise magazine by using their Smartphone.
As a non-profit that has worked to keep up with the ever-changing digital world, StreetWise Executive Director Jim LoBianco feels that mobile payments are necessary for the growth of not only StreetWise magazine, but also the entire organization.
“In any industry, innovation is a must. For 20 years the sale of StreetWise magazine has been a critical source of income for homeless men and women motivated to work. Because of this, it is even more critical that StreetWise implement improvements to increase magazine sales and keep our product attractive to customers,” LoBianco said.
The idea for StreetWise mobile payments was sparked after advertising agency BBH New York unveiled its Homeless Hotspots initiative at last year’s 2012 South by Southwest Interactive Festival. The project gained national attention, thus prompting LoBianco to contact the company and discuss options for getting StreetWise on the mobile radar.
“As digital payment options have exploded over the last few years, it’s especially important to StreetWise to evolve their product to best accommodate their customers and help the vendors earn money,” said Saneel Radia, head of innovation for BBH NY & BBY Labs. “We were just happy to help StreetWise in their ongoing efforts to modernize.”
Next, BBH helped to foster a relationship between StreetWise and PayPal in order to begin the digitization of the payment process, a key component in using technology and innovation to pilot a modern street newspaper model that can be scaled in Chicago and beyond.
“PayPal is committed to helping causes find new ways to fund their initiatives and make giving more accessible,” said Oktay Dogramaci, PayPal’s director of product management of cause-related solutions.
“We are excited to partner with StreetWise to provide a technology that allows them to reach new audiences and realize their mission to alleviate those living in poverty.”
Both BBH and PayPal Labs donated time and resources to make this project possible and to create a custom offering that ensures mobile payments are seamless, secure and free to the vendors to use.
“Homelessness is an issue that’s important to BBH. We like to think ourselves as a creative and innovative organization. So the idea that we can apply those skills to help address an issue we care about was an opportunity we jumped on,” Radia said. “Given that StreetWise is a leading street paper, we hope to see how mobile payments work in Chicago before they’re potentially rolled out to papers around the rest of the country.”
StreetWise approached three of its most dedicated magazine vendors to test pilot the new technology – Chorise Stewart, Vince Collaso and John Patton. As they attest, customer reviews have been excellent so far.
“Because we live in a society where people do so many things electronically, mobile payment has offered me the opportunity to expand my customers and reach out to those who don’t carry cash,” said Stewart. “I’ve been a StreetWise vendor for a year and a half and, within that time span, a lot of potential customers have asked if there was a way if they could pay without cash via mobile application. That time is finally here.”
Although the mobile payment program has worked great for those customers who have tried it so far, some are still hesitant for fear of giving out their bank information. However, StreetWise would like our supporters to know that no banking information is disclosed by the transaction and that StreetWise vendors will never see any information from PayPal.
“[My customers are sometimes] skeptical because they think that we have access to their bank account. But I put them at ease when I let them know that we don’t have access to their account at all. I try to educate them about that,” said Patton.
“I tell [my customers] that the only information that you’re using is your PayPal and your email. You’re not putting in any bank account information, so it’s very safe,” added Collaso. “We have to realize that eBay owns PayPal and does millions of transactions per year. A vast majority of those transactions are safe, because they use PayPal. So if people have any trepidation, just think about eBay. If it was so unsafe, eBay would be out of business.”
By February 18, StreetWise hopes to fully launch StreetWise magazine mobile payments to include all vendors.
How to make a mobile payment:
• Each StreetWise vendor has a unique 4-digit code on his or her StreetWise badge. Go to stwise.org/vendorcode, enter this 4-digit number and then enter the amount you would like to pay (tip is optional).
• After clicking the yellow “Pay with PayPal” icon, you will then be prompted to sign into your PayPal account.
• After logging in, a screen appears that says, “You are about to pay.” Note, some fees may apply.
• Click the yellow “pay” icon to complete the order.
• When your payment has been confirmed, you will then see the “Thank you for using PayPal” icon.
In order for a vendor to collect their earnings from mobile payments, they visit the StreetWise office at the end of each month to receive their money.
Not only are mobile payments more convenient, but the mobile payment initiative also allows StreetWise customers to learn more about their particular vendor. When visiting stwise.org/vendorcode, customers will be able to read a short biography of their StreetWise vendor on the left-hand side of the webpage. As the pilot is so new and the StreetWise vendor population is so large, many vendor profiles have not been written yet. Note: If you use our mobile payment system and discover that your particular vendor does not have a biography yet, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and request a feature be written.
StreetWise mobile payments are just one more way that the organization has found to press its digital footprint even deeper. The nonprofit has a highly active and formidable presence on social media, with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Foursquare and Instagram accounts. We encourage our friends and supporters to engage with us online in order to not only foster a digital conversation surrounding poverty and homelessness, but to get to know the many personalities of our StreetWise vendor force. And coming mid-2013, customers may also read StreetWise on their iPad, eTablet or Smartphone.
While the mobile payment initiative is still very young, StreetWise hopes to engage the modern day consumer with this exciting new program in order to keep StreetWise on the map of modern technology. LoBianco concluded in saying, “The use of PayPal technology is a huge step forward. It makes it even easier for our readers to buy the magazine, which in turn helps assure that StreetWise magazine will continue to be a viable source of income for at-risk men and women for years to come.”
Written by Brittany Langmeyer,