Intuit leverages its strengths for mobile payment push

Intuit (s intu) has been competing fiercely with Square in the mobile payments market with its GoPayment app and card reader. But it hasn’t leveraged all its resources and relationships to really attack this market. That’s starting to change.
The software company is announcing Monday that it has struck a deal with AT&T (s t) that will enable automatic sign-up and pre-approval for AT&T customers signing up for GoPayment based on their existing AT&T data. Users just provide a few pieces of new information, including their bank account data, and they’re set up. That shortens the on-boarding period and builds off the existing relationship Intuit has with AT&T, which already sells GoPayment to its small business customers.

Tapping 8 million existing customers

The AT&T deal shows how Intuit is looking to push harder into the mobile payments market by building off existing business ties. Intuit already has relationships with 8 million businesses that generate $2.6 trillion in revenue and use its business software like QuickBooks to handle their finances. But it hasn’t done a great job capitalizing on those accounts and leveraging its reputation among small businesses, something it’s trying to turn around now.
“We don’t need to add a new customer to dramatically build a payments franchise,” Chris Hylen, VP and general manager of Intuit’s Payment Solutions division told me. “If we focus on our 8 million existing customers, we’ll be in a pretty good position.”
In September, Intuit enabled GoPayment to sync data with QuickBooks Online and recently began an email marketing test in which it cross-marketed GoPayment with QuickBooks Online. The company saw a 25-percent increase in unit sales of GoPayment readers with 70 percent of those customers getting a QuickBooks account. That suggests that Intuit has an opportunity to provide not just a mobile payment tool but accounting software as well. And it shows that many businesses need more than just a payment acceptance tool; they need a larger solution to help them manage their finances.

Speeding up the sign-up process

In the next four months, Intuit will integrate GoPayment payments into QuickBooks Online so users can accept credit card payments online. Existing QuickBooks users won’t have to enter any data to get GoPayments started, because Intuit will pull it automatically from their QuickBooks accounts.

In December, users will be able to get started with GoPayments without having to enter their bank account information. Intuit will automatically create an account for new customers that’s linked to a GoPayment prepaid debit card they will get a few days later in the mail. Their money can go onto this card which they can use as a debit card. Users can still link GoPayment to an existing bank account, but this new option is another way to on-board users faster.
This is all part of a larger push to make payments more frictionless and build off Intuit’s existing customer base. Earlier this year, Intuit also reduced the number of fields new users need to fill out to get aboard GoPayment from 38 to 14.

Mobile payments opportunity beckons

The mobile payments market is still quite new, and there’s plenty of room to grow for Square, Intuit and others. Hylen said there are some 28 million small businesses in the United States, but only about 7 to 8 million of them accept electronic payments. Intuit, he said, already has an edge with millions of businesses that use its financial software and trust the company for its experience and security. It’s just a matter of leveraging that more effectively.
It’s a solid move for Intuit, which seems to trail Square’s mindshare in mobile payments. With others like Google Wallet (s goog), Isis and PayPal (s ebay) all moving into this space, it has to get its act together. It’s a good realization that payments by themselves aren’t enough to sway customers. The better play is to create a fuller solution that can pick off more pain points for business customers. Intuit has different assets than Square and other rivals. But if it’s going to really compete, it needs to bring all of its resources to bear on this opportunity, something it’s figuring out now.