​MasterCard to leverage IBM Watson to give SMBs big data access

MasterCard will be launching a new platform, giving small to medium businesses access to big data analytics using IBM Watson's artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities.

MasterCard has partnered with IBM to give small to medium merchants access to big data analytics.

The payments giant has integrated IBM Watson Analytics into its platform, along with its own anonymised transaction data gathered through MasterCard Advisors Local Market Intelligence (LMI), to bring artificial intelligence (AI) to its payments platform.

"There is an increasing wealth of data today that merchants can leverage to better understand their market and consumers," MasterCard Advisors senior vice president Eric Schneider said. "However, smaller merchants often don't have the resources to maximise the insights. That's the value of this platform turning big data into smarter data that is easily accessible and actionable."

The product will be available via subscription for merchants who accept MasterCard in mid-2016 and according to MasterCard, this will see access to real-time, analytics-based market insights on revenue, market share, and customer demographics, in both a specific location as well as across multiple locations.

MasterCard said its Advisors' LMI focuses on business performance, customer behaviour, and competitive standing, providing SMBs with insights that help drive some of the most important decisions a business can make about operations, marketing, and personnel.

Additionally, the IBM Watson Analytics data discovery tool will provide automatic insights that MasterCard said will enable the user to discover new patterns in their data such as customer buying and behaviour trends.

"We are thrilled to be working hand in hand with MasterCard to help smaller merchants understand their business and competition better, and increase the strength and value of their customer relationships," said Yashesh Kampani, IBM ASEAN Financial Services Sector Leader.

"Through this new service, merchants will discover just how easy leveraging big data can actually be with the analytical tools that IBM and MasterCard are making available."

Citing its latest research, MasterCard said that more than seven out of 10 smaller businesses in the Asia-Pacific region are expecting higher business costs in 2016.

MasterCard said the research was based on a survey completed in December last year on 2,806 SME owners, co-owners, or key decision makers across Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, with approximately 400 survey participants per market.

"With this enhanced analytical platform powered by MasterCard Advisors and IBM, merchants will hence be better equipped to make informed decisions that lower costs based on a deeper knowledge of their business' financial strengths and pitfalls," the company said in a statement.

MasterCard said in February that consumers are embracing the next generation of payments, predicting digital payments to extend beyond the phone as the use of connected devices grows.

Its claims were based on its fourth annual MasterCard Mobile Payments Study which tracked 2 million global social media posts about mobile payments across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Forums, Google+, and YouTube

"As more choices are made available to them, the conversation has evolved and consumers seem to be fully embracing the next generation of payments," Marcy Cohen, vice president of digital communications at MasterCard, said.

The payments giant has also dipped its feet into biometrics, with Selfie Pay -- approving a payment via facial recognition -- trialled by the company last year.

MasterCard also announced a partnership with consumer ecommerce player Coin in January to enable payments via smartwatches, fitness bands, and other wearable devices, after labelling cash as unnecessary wallet real estate in December.

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas earlier this year, MasterCard launched Groceries by MasterCard, an app preloaded into Samsung's Family Hub refrigerator that allows consumers to order groceries via their fridge from FreshDirect and ShopRite in the US.

MasterCard said the capability is the first of its kind, with the fridge's shopping cart "learning" a family's shopping habits and making personalised suggestions on items and brands. Further grocers will be added as the product rollout continues, MasterCard said at the time.

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