Broad and disruptive things are taking place right now in the mobile point of sale market. Retailers are feverishly striving to advance mobile payment/e-wallet technologies to deliver a transparent online-to-in-store omnichannel experience. Consumers are asking, "What's taking so long? How hard can that be?"
Between the forthcoming structural changes in the payment industry and consumers' mismatched views about what's currently possible, there is a golden opportunity for entrepreneurs who can combine payment platforms with loyalty and brand activity in a way that benefits both the consumer and the retailer. Let's look at some recent developments.
Last summer, the MCX consortium made major announcements about building a common mobile payment/e-wallet. The constituents in MCX are pretty much everyone, including major players like Walmart, Best Buy, Wawa, and Meijer. However, the key question is what will draw consumers to the retailers' payment and mobile platforms instead of credit cards and other online systems (such as Google Wallet)? This merchant consortium will need to distinguish its payment systems and integrate them into the mobile experience that consumers demand.
On another tack, PayPal recently announced a new mobile point of sale platform, PayPal Beacon. The premise is that retailers can simply plug Beacon in to allow nearby mobile users to connect over Bluetooth and shop from their PayPal smartphone application. Beacon also promises retailers the ability to integrate micro-personalization with the mobile payment experience and create custom offers for customers during the payment process. Beacon intends to bring the power of big data (applied by all large online vendors) to the retail point of sale through mobile technology.
Of course, that ability to micro-personalize the shopper experience has incredible value that major brands won't relinquish without careful thought. Starbucks leads the pack here with an accomplished mobile application that its customers utilize for more than 10 perecent of their purchases. The application powerfully integrates e-wallet, personalization, loyalty program, cross-selling/cross-advertising, and store locator capabilities to deliver an exceptional and consistent customer experience.
And there are the many mobile wallet offerings approaching the problem very directly, such as those from Venmo, Google, Sprint, and Visa. The competition is fierce.
With this much noise, what's the takeaway? Mobile payment technology is a real thing. Consumers adopt it quickly when it enhances their shopping experience. Improving that experience means knowing where consumers are located, presenting highly relevant offers to each shopper, and providing safe, trusted integration from phone and payment technologies to brand management and advertising platforms. And let's not forget full integration between those things and online customer loyalty databases.