By Gary Kim, Mobile Marketing & Technology
Compared to the situation just six months ago, U.S. mobile payments and mobile wallet activity has seemingly accelerated sharply.
As the mobile payments and mobile wallet businesses accelerate beyond the tempo that seemed to be prevalent a year ago, there might now be a greater emphasis on “practical” approaches rather than “revolutionary” technology. The Starbucks mobile payment system, generally considered the most successful mobile payment system ever launched in the U.S. market, does not use exotic technology, for example, but instead simply offers a better user experience, says Jay Emmet, Open Market general manager.
The other perhaps important trend recently is a growing recognition that without retailer support, any mobile payment system will have trouble gaining traction. “Consumers are essential” in the long term, but “don’t make the decisions” about whether merchants will accept such payments, Emmet says.
And though there continues to be a struggle about “control” of the mobile payments ecosystem, that might not be possible in the way some contestants might envision that state of affairs. Traditionally, banks have been used to “controlling” the payments function. Historically, mobile service providers have been used to “controlling” mobile services.
Whether that can be the case in the mobile wallet and payments business is the question, says Emmet. It is possible, perhaps likely, that there will be no veto power, on the part of any of the important ecosystem participants, in the old way.
It is true that unless there is value for retailers, adoption won’t happen, but it also is true that if consumers show significant demand, merchants will move forward. The issue of “value” remains incompletely understood and validated. But “there are some possible uses for near field communications that are just as interesting as payment,” says Emmet.
Affinity programs, ticketing and credentials management are among the areas that could rival “payment” as value drivers for merchants and end users. Google, which has launched a 300,000-terminal test with MasterCard, could prove important in that regard, says Emmet. “That’s a major trial.”