The retail landscape with mobile payments, both virtual and in-person at brick and mortar establishments, is about to change in a big way. An actual wallet may soon become obsolete, as well as plastic credit cards, cash registers and paper money. As mobile payment services, such as PayPal become ubiquitous in the way we are paid and make purchases, companies such as Google, Twitter, Visa and many others, are quickly moving towards cardless and contactless transactions. Surprisingly, the largest and most lucrative market for contactless financial transactions is at point-of-sale terminals. Very soon, as the next generation of smartphones enters the marketplace, equipped with Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, consumers will be able to withdraw money from ATM machines, purchase movie tickets, or buy a new pair of shoes, by simply holding up their mobile phones.
Our smartphones will soon replace our wallets and credit cards. And retailers had better be prepared, or risk becoming irrelevant with young, technically savvy consumers. Although Europe has been shifting towards digital in-person mobile payments for quite some time, North America has lagged behind.
Google Wallet and Paypass in Mobile Payments
Google made a big splash this past week with its launch of Google Wallet, a mobile payment service linked to its Android Nexus S phone that’s already equipped with NFC technology carried by Sprint and T-Mobile. Google Wallet is tied in to MasterCard’s PayPass network that provides secure e-commerce services to thousands of retailers. Google is also teaming up with merchants, such as Macy’s, Toys “R” Us, and even Subway sandwich shops, to entice smartphone-equipped consumers with promotional discounts and coupons.
Google has its sights firmly set on the burgeoning mobile payments market at point-of-sale venues. Starting this summer, the search engine giant will begin distributing NFC terminals produced by VeriFone in select cities.
Visa and Digital Wallet with “Click-to-Buy” in Mobile Payments
Visa is also preparing for the 21st century explosion in mobile phone payments. Early this month, the financial giant unveiled its own mobile payments service, dubbed Digital Wallet with “Click-to-Buy.” The company called its digital payments system the “next generation electronic payments and services.” Like Google, Visa is focusing its attention on point of sale transactions using NFC technology.
Joseph W. Saunders, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Visa Inc., said in the company’s press release, “Our new solutions deliver greater consumer choice, convenience and control while helping our clients grow their businesses. By helping to reduce abandoned online shopping carts and bringing new account holders into the Visa network, we create a win-win-win for merchants, consumers and financial institutions.”
What is Near Field Communication and What Does It Mean to Mobile Payments?
Near Field Communication is simply a wireless radio signal, similar to Bluetooth, which functions only at short ranges. Because the signal is limited in distance, the transmissions are secure. Companies have used NFC tags encoded with data for quite some time, but the universal technology is just coming into its own in the digital mobile phone payments era.
In the next decade, NFC will become standard technology for our smartphones, paving the way for mobile phone payments at restaurants, retail stores and grocery stores. No longer, will an enhanced mobile phone be a luxury; it will be a necessity, serving as a communication device, computer, wallet and credit card.
Not only will businesses need to prepare for the next generation of digital payments, consider the investment opportunities in the new technology that will be needed to support mobile payments. There is money to be made and IPOs to be drawn up. Consider this a wake up call. Don’t get left behind.
What are your thoughts on this emerging technology in mobile payments? Please leave your comments below.