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5 Unprecedented Threats Force Change With eBay's PayPal

Source: wikimedia

eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY  ) is stepping up its game to have a broader appeal with PayPal. The company has launched multiple new products in recent months in an attempt to grab market share and grow its presence before the launch of competing services among technology and social media juggernauts. As the line between e-commerce and social media continues to grow hazy, eBay has real problems on its hands, specifically from five companies.

eBay makes changes quickly
eBay's newest change with PayPal includes the launch of One Touch, a service that will allow users to make payments quickly across all participating applications. With mobile being a growth industry in commerce, this new service appears to be an attempt to grow the company's $27 billion mobile transaction business (the number last year) while keeping consumers and merchants loyal to its easy-to-use approach.

Last year, eBay added new functions to its mobile applications, allowing consumers to pay for goods while waiting in the line of a store, or pay a bill at a restaurant before the check arrives. All of these changes come amid a wide array of new payment processing services expected to launch in the near future.

Obviously, eBay doesn't want consumers trying new platforms, but of course, competition in the marketplace greatly benefits consumers. Already, eBay has stepped out its comfort zone with recent updates and product launches. In the past, eBay has been unwilling to disconnect PayPal from its e-commerce platform, wanting to keep the two segments deeply reliant on each other.

However, after years of insisting that a PayPal plus eBay business model is in the best interest of consumers and investors, The Information reported that eBay is in fact considering a spinoff as early as next year. This would mean a separate CEO, board, and an independent thinking business. So, why the sudden change of heart?

The biggest incentive to embrace change
For investors and consumers who have followed the PayPal story closely, it's no surprise eBay is making such drastic changes, perhaps realizing that an independent PayPal gives the asset its best shot at staying competitive against much larger networks.

For example, PayPal has 152 million active accounts. However, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) and Facebook (NASDAQ: FB  ) have 800 million users with credit card information stored on iTunes, and 1.3 billion global users, respectively. Both Facebook and Apple have been linked to payment processing services over the last year with talks heating up in recent months.

Specifically, Apple is believed to be developing a payment processing system right now, and it is acquiring patents related to such a service. Reportedly, Apple is already interviewing senior level management to head the program. While we don't know how Apple's service will work, consumers can assume that Apple wants to offer users a way to pay for services and goods via applications, which ironically is the same market PayPal has targeted with new products.

Then, there's Facebook, a company whose payment processing excitement was created when it sought the Bank of Ireland for a license to store, pay, and exchange currency through its platform. Since then, Facebook has hired former PayPal Chief David Marcus to head its messaging business.

Furthermore, the implications of this hire begun to make sense after BlackBerry (NASDAQ: BBRY  ) CEO John Chen called mobile payments "the next big thing," saying it would use its own Messenger application as a tool for a per-transaction business model.

With Facebook, it not only has over 200 million messaging users on its core application, but also more than 500 million on WhatsApp, most of which is global.

Source: Facebook.

Therefore, with a PayPal competing service, Facebook could very quickly become dominant both on PCs and mobile devices because of its reach and the number of businesses who already have pages on the Facebook platform.

PayPal has more to worry about than Facebook and Apple
With that said, Facebook and Apple might be PayPal's most notable risks looking ahead, but PayPal faces far more problems from both smaller companies and those who are further behind in product development.

For one, (NASDAQ: AMZN  ) has been considered a viable competitor in the space, and it just recently launched its very own mobile credit card reader. The company already has its own payments platform for use on its site and applications, but if desired, the company could very well branch out into other markets and offer payment options at retailers, which could be bad for eBay.

Then there's Twitter, a company that recently named laws and regulations related to credit card processing as a potential risk in its second-quarter 10-Q, thereby creating speculation that it is preparing to enter both the e-commerce and payment processing industries. Already, Twitter has bought the credit card deals start-up CardSpring and is working with PayPal competitor Stripe. 

Finally, Groupon (NASDAQ: GRPN  ) is another threat, already having a mobile payment processing service, which now works in tandem with small businesses who partner with Groupon or offer deals on the platform.

Foolish final thoughts
The bottom line is that consumers now have far more payment options, with even more to come as Apple, Facebook, BlackBerry,, and Groupon all prepare their own versions of PayPal-like services. For consumers, this means more competitive fees, but for PayPal, it could be a knockout punch. Currently, PayPal is (small-f) foolishly valuable to eBay as a company, and as much larger networks launch their respective services, it's tough to imagine a scenario where PayPal can come out on top.

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Brian Nichols

Brian Nichols is the author of "5 Simple Steps to Find the Next Top-Performing Stock: How to Identify Investments that Can Double Quickly for Personal Success (2014)" and "Taking Charge With Value Investing (McGraw-Hill, 2013)". Brian is a value investor, but emphasizes psychology in his analysis. Brian studied psychology in undergrad, and uses his experience to find illogical value in the market. Brian covers technology and consumer goods for Motley Fool. Brian also updates all of his new and current positions in his Motley Fool CAPs page. Follow Brian on Twitter and like his page on Facebook for investment conversations and recent stories.

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