If they haven't already, retailers should begin getting a clearer picture of how to deploy a mobile wallet and loyalty program to their customers.
There are ways to make all of the current mobile payment technology work toward the same goal of easing a retailer into mobile commerce, says David Luther, executive vice president of global business development for Austin, Texas-based Mozido.
Mozido provides a white-label, cloud-based mobile commerce and wallet technology for retailers and financial institutions, with an emphasis toward pulling unbanked consumers into mobile payments.
Luther recently sat down with PaymentsSource to discuss current mobile technologies and what it all means for the retail industry.
PaymentsSource: What is your sense of how the retail community is deciphering what is available to them on the mobile front? I don't know if you can say all merchants are confused, but it seems as if some indifference could settle in as the options grow.
Luther: I think that is correct, especially if retailers are viewing Near Field Communication as the [ultimate] mobile solution. They now have NFC included in, or on top of EMV, in the U.S. migration. Both of those technologies involve changes at the point of sale. But a cloud-based solution avoids all of that, and it doesn't have to touch NFC or EMV. That causes some hesitation on their part.
PaymentsSource: The Isis Mobile Wallet is riding the NFC technology wave and Isis executives indicate positive results from their beta testing. But you wouldn't hitch your mobile commerce to that wagon?
Luther: Actually, we are following the same track as the Merchant Customer Exchange. We are seeing much more rapid adoption of a cloud-based solution because of the lack of infrastructure that is needed to offer that quickly. We will support NFC if that becomes popular. We might see NFC become more popular as EMV takes hold in the U.S., and there are developments taking place in the industry such as the SIM card in phones, and that is also an NFC card. With that, you don't have to wait for Apple to go NFC, you can just swap out the SIM card.
PaymentsSource: Aside from a specific technology choice, what is the other key message that retailers should know about entering mobile commerce?
Luther: There is some consensus that merchants will have to have their own branded app for mobile payments. Even the Merchant Customer Exchange conceded that merchants will have to have their own branded app, they will want to do things a certain way and they still have to compete with each other. So they are not going to be able to have an MCX wallet that does everything for everybody.
PaymentsSource: So that's where the MCX pitch comes in that the app it is developing could integrate with whatever mobile pay setup the retailer already has in place, as was mentioned when MCX member CVS Pharmacy expanded its mobile shopping app?
Luther: What MCX can provide, among other things, is ubiquitous registration of those services, so the consumer won't have to enter payment credentials in every customized app or download. If they can provide that kind of service, they will have the capability to imbed their application interface into the merchant's personalized app. That is important. Retailers should walk away from that concept thinking about a strategy as to what their consumers would want out of a mobile app.
PaymentsSource: Are you saying it could narrow down the options?
Luther: More along the lines that they can work together. Before, retailers were thinking, "Will it be MCX, Google Wallet, Isis Wallet, the V.me Wallet or my own personalized mobile app?" Hopefully, they are not thinking that way anymore. It doesn't have to be an either-or.
PaymentsSource: What should retailers be thinking about when combining mobile pay with mobile loyalty and rewards programs?
Luther: It's not about payment type or frequency. Retailers are using loyalty programs to drive consumer behavior. They give the consumer double loyalty points if they pay with a stored-value card, because they get charged less for interchange fee. Some are creating games for consumers in the store and rewarding completion of those games with loyalty points. Usually, loyalty points add up to something free in the store.
PaymentsSource: Are mobile technology providers trying to hook into an audience, say the Baby Boomers, who actually may not be interested in changing a payment or loyalty technology as they get older? Or are mobile vendors strictly relying on the younger consumer for this?
Luther: The payment has to be as simple as swiping your card. It has to be a form in which you do it once, then you are done learning about how to do it. If you can make it that simple, along with the other aspects like offers and loyalty, then I think consumers will use it and the age demographic won't matter.
PaymentsSource: Will the industry ever see mobile payment develop to the point where the card brands are not dictating what happens in the industry?
Luther: Cards will be around for a long time. There is a significant infrastructure there, to be able to go anywhere in the world and pay with your card. Some, like MCX, are trying to develop an alternative payment method, because retailers are hungry to cut interchange fees.
PaymentsSource: I get the impression Mozido doesn't steer merchants in a particular way on any of this, because the company can help them no matter which system they want to roll out?
Luther: That's correct. We're kind of this transaction hub for mobile transactions and we'll connect to MCX for what they offer, or connect to some programs we have, or to something the merchant already has. We're all about rapid connection to what you want to expose as a mobile app.