The company behind the German mobile payments app GO4Q has had a busy and challenging summer, adding payments for taxi drivers, golf courses and beer gardens.
It's a tough task given the nature of the local market, says Ulrich Kipper, CEO of it-werke Service GMBH, the company that offers and operates the GO4Q service.
"To have 20 retailers signed up to use your mobile payments technology may not sound like a lot, but these 20 retailers have 20 different interfaces," says Kipper, whose GO4Q has signed 24 retailers in all.
IT-werke launched GO4Q in October 2012, though its service was confined to friends and family of the company, and the content was sparse. "It was limited to window shopping, then we more recently added payments, couponing and ticketing," Kipper says.
To use GO4Q, consumers register and enter the debit, credit, bank or PayPal account they wish to use for payments. GO4Q works with MasterCard and American Express.
GO4Q's clients include Food Court, a Heilbronn-based beer garden; CITYCAR 3811 and EDEKA, two tax companies in Baden-Baden; and TIKI BAR in Schuttern. All of these companies signed on in July, and currently about 50,000 consumers have used GO4Q, Kipper says.
"Our in-built mobile payment terminal enables even the pizza place around the corner to accept mobile payments without any hardware to invest in besides a tablet," Kipper says.
The company expects to add a German golf course shortly, which will use the mobile app to collect fees. The golfer would scan a code with his or her smartphone and indicates time and date on the app. The app then provides a coupon that enables the golfer to confirm the payment. The coupon can be checked by golf course staff by accessing QControl, a GO4Q app used to issue and receive payments for events, Kipper says.
For the most part, Germany has not seen robust mobile payments adoption, Kipper says. As an alternative to contactless payments, GO4Q is using QR codes that can be read by both the consumer and merchant's smartphones or tablets. It's a strategy similar to Starbucks' mobile app, which is used for 10% of the coffee seller's U.S. payments.
"QR codes are the most versatile way to offer a payment; [Near Field Communication] requires more work," Kipper says. "There is a threshold for acceptance and we need a way that we can make boarding as easy as possible. The easiest way is to download the app and use a QR code."
Other mobile payments initiatives in Germany include Dortmunder Volksbank's April launch of a mobile payment service that uses MasterCard PayPass, the digital O2 Wallet and the Samsung Galaxy S3 or Galaxy Ace 2 NFC-enabled smartphone. Dortmunder Volksbank did not return requests for comment by deadline. Shell and Visa also plan to offer NFC-based mobile payments for gas and other purchases in 2014.
However, German merchants have fewer reasons to modify their point of sale hardware compared to the U.S., where merchants face Payment Card Industry data security standard compliance, mobile payments and the switch to EMV-chip cards.
In Germany, "much of the EMV migration has largely occurred, so most of the merchants have already undergone an upgrade," says Arkady Fridman, a senior analyst at Aite Group. "If NFC was not part of that upgrade, it's becomes much more complicated for mobile payments to gain a stronghold."