ORLANDO–It might be difficult to pick a payments industry topic in which executives working for traditional payment providers and those who formulate strategies for alternative payment companies would share similar views.
But they found one here at last week’s 24th annual Card Forum and Expo. PaymentsSource publisher SourceMedia Inc. hosts the event.
Turns out, they agree consumer purchasing habits and methods have changed dramatically in the past few years, but they offer slightly different views on how to put new technologies in consumers’ hands.
Gary Marino, senior vice president of Global Financial Services at PayPal Inc., proposed a fairly simple approach during a panel discussion on how payment providers can adjust to what essentially has become a redefined purchasing experience for consumers.
“We have to go where the technology takes us,” Marino said.
Apparently, PayPal Inc., a unit of eBay Inc., practices what Marino preaches in that it has gone in numerous directions, essentially covering most technology bases in the process. PayPal in the past year added to its online-payment presence with a new mobile-payment method and developed a plastic PayPal card accountholders may use to make payments through PayPal or other accounts at point-of-sale terminals. Home Depot is among the first retailers accepting the card (see story).
While agreeing that addressing consumer needs with new technology is important, Mike Boush, vice president of e-business for Discover Financial Services, warned issuers and acquirers they can’t allow a focus on technology to overshadow the consumer.
“The consumer does not think about the different payment options available; she thinks about how much money she has to pay for what she wants,” Boush said. “Everything else that happens in the middle of a transaction, the consumer doesn’t feel a need to know about it.”
In making a point that gold rushes to new technology can come up empty, Boush reminded forum attendees that technology providers were assuring the card networks that “2006 was going to be the year of mobile payments, and if you weren’t on board, you were really going to miss something.”
In reality, he suggested, adoption of new payment methods is difficult to attain, other than through “early adopters.”
“You can get the consumer to try something, but you can’t get them to make it part of their daily lives as easily,” Boush noted.
However, a key to providing a positive consumer service lies directly with the providers converting their customers–retail and service merchants–to new mobile payment methods, said Eric Dunn, senior vice president of payments initiatives at Intuit Inc.
From where he sits, Dunn said he is glad to see merchants embracing mobile-payment methods such as his company’s GoPayment card readers that attach to mobile devices.
“The industry was looking for faster acceptance of mobile payment on the consumer side, but the amazing trend has been with the merchants for accepting mobile payment,” Dunn suggested.
Creating a digital wallet for consumers calls for many different players in the industry to come together to make it happen, Dunn said. “The key is taking a complex ecosystem and making it into a package that is as easy to use as it needs to be,” he added.
The stage has been set for consumers to embrace new payment methods, noted Amir Wain, founder and CEO of prepaid processor i2C Inc.
Electronic commerce has grown to $1.6 trillion in sales volume, with more than 1 billion Web-connected handsets in operation in the world, Wain said. In addition, businesses acquired 68% of their customers through social media marketing, such as Facebook, he added.
“Rather than manufacturers having the power in saying what happens to products, that power has now shifted to the consumer because of access to product information and the ability to act on it through mobile devices,” Wain said.
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