PayPals pending spin-off from eBay has the company poised to attack the mobile payments space with renewed vigor, and Apple Pay brings one of the largest and most successful consumer technology companies into the field as well.
Whether or not either company sees great success in mobile payments, one thing is clear: Mobile payments have firmly arrived as the leading edge of consumer payments.
But future success isnt as clear as it may appear at first glance. As a consumer survey recently released by Kurt Salmon makes clear, banks, payment networks and retailers still have their work cut out for them to make a compelling case for consumers to switch over to mobile payments technology.
On one hand, the business case for mobile payments participantsbanks, payment networks and retailersis clear. For banks, the arrival of mobile payments opens an opportunity to capture more purchases that would otherwise be transacted via cash or check and instead convert these to credit or debit card purchases. Payment networks, similarly, will benefit from capturing increased gross dollar volume flowing through the electronic pipes between retailers and card issuers. Merchants, meanwhile, have an opening to capture more comprehensive consumer data through technologies such as embedded geolocation in smartphones while also potentially speeding throughput at the point of sale.
On the other side of the equation, however, stand consumers who are familiar and comfortable with the more traditional payment forms of cash, check and swipe-cards. They will need to be persuaded that paying via smartphone offers additional benefits they cant receive through traditional payment methods. So what can be done to convince a critical mass of consumers to change their behavior? Our consumer data looked closely at active mobile payment usersthose who already prefer to pay for a purchase in a store with their smartphoneto open a window into the issues and concerns that can drive change in the population at large.
Mobile payments participants will be well advised to address three meaningful needs among consumers: security, convenience and rewards.
Safety is top of mind, with more than 40% of active users worried that their personal information is at risk when making mobile payments and 37% believing that making an online purchase via smartphone is not secure. Communication about mobile payments security will need to remain strong, unambiguous and consistent to win support from consumers.
To achieve broad adoption, mobile payments need to be easy to use and find at places consumers regularly shop. Though replacing or upgrading payment terminals in the nine million U.S. locations where credit cards are accepted will be expensive, the coming mandated transition to EMV in the United States marks the perfect time for retailers, service providers and banks to make this transition.
Incentives, in the form of reward points, loyalty coupons and in-store recognition, are a powerful motivator. Sixty-one percent of active users cite discounts and rewards as the primary reason for using their smartphone to make payments. Targeted rewards are generally the most effective, and our research shows that consumers are willing to provide personal information to receive a lower price.
While the recipe for success in mobile payments is complex, and the investment from all players in the payments value chain will be significant in order to shift consumer behavior, the path ahead is clear. How quickly mobile payments participants seize the opportunity presented by EMV, leverage loyalty and rewards programs, and demonstrate the security of mobile payments technology will dictate how quickly consumer adoption reaches a tipping point. Once that happens, we will witness the most significant evolution in consumer payments in more than two decades.
Michael Archer heads the North American Consumer Financial Services practice of global management consulting firm Kurt Salmon.