A troubling gap is growing between the promises being made around mobile payments to consumers and merchants, and what payments technology providers are actually delivering, according to PayPal’s Bill Ready.
“People really are demanding and expecting to get much better services through the mobile channel,” said Ready, senior vice president of product and engineering at PayPal, during a speech last week at the Electronic Transactions Association’s annual gathering in Las Vegas.
Notably, consumers and merchants have signaled they’re not interested in mobile payments in the strictest sense, Ready pointed out. “Instead, they want easy access to shopping and rewards, and they’re wondering why these things can’t be all in one place.”
One of the major obstacles preventing mobile payments from taking off is the fact that many of the pieces of the puzzle are “all in [different] silos,” Ready observed.
Mobile payments could play a critical role in enhancing commerce for consumers and streamlining the way merchants offer promotions and rewards, but industry players will need to do a better job of working together and forge more useful partnerships to get there, Ready said.
“It’s more important than ever for payments to work seamlessly [across platforms] for e-commerce, loyalty, rewards and offers,” he said.
Paypal is partnering other payments industry players, merchants and social media platforms to improve its mobile payments offerings, Ready said.
One example is the way PayPal manages e-commerce options through Venmo, its person-to-person payments app linked to social media (PayPal obtained Venmo through its 2013 acquisition of Braintree, which Ready headed as CEO).
The new Pay with Venmo feature enables users to communicate through mobile devices to plan outings to games and events, purchasing tickets and splitting costs on the spot through a partnership with ticket-seller Gametime, Ready said.
“This [kind of partnership] is how we’re delivering new experiences that didn’t exist before,” Ready said. “Behind the scenes, we’re leveraging a number of payment partnerships to make this happen.”
Ready also hinted that territorialism within the payments industry also could be holding mobile payments innovation back, but he emphasized that PayPal isn’t to blame.
“We care more about growing the pie than just protecting our part of the industry,” Ready said.
During a separate panel discussion at ETA, payments industry execs agreed that along with partnerships, improved biometrics technology for mobile payments may dramatically improve the offering's security and general appeal to consumers.
“Five years from now, mobile payments’ success will hinge on biometrics,” predicted Mike Lemberger, senior vice president with Visa. “Whether you’re shopping in-store or digitally, merchants will have the ability to know who you are and where you go, with the option for you to be recognized wherever you go [for purchases]."
Improved use of biometrics for mobile payments could radically customize the shopping experience and provide deeper levels of security, said Craig Tieken, vice president of product and integrations for TransFirst, a company TSYS purchased this year for $2.4 billion.
“I’ll go into a store and they’ll know who I am, what I want, and all my [transaction] history, which will help keep things secure,” Tieken said.
But all consumers may not welcome that level of visibility into their shopping and transactions, said Sue Crowley, senior vice president at Global Payments.
Some groups of consumers will welcome biometrics and eagerly share their preferences with merchants, but others are likely to resist, Crowley believes.
“We have a large generational gap, and some consumers who embrace technology and others who don’t think anything is secure and don’t want to share their personal information,” she said. “How the payments industry handles privacy and security with mobile payments will be a big factor in future adoption."