March 15th, 2015 by

The “Tapping” Point for Mobile Payments: Insights from Mobile World Congress

85,000 attendees. Nearly 2000 exhibitors. One topic: The future of mobile. After my team spent a week in Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest exhibition for the mobile industry, it’s clear that mobile payments in particular have reached the “tapping” point, if you will.

2015 is poised to be THE breakthrough year for global adoption of seamless mobile payments. Here’s a few of the top conclusions drawn from the last week spent with the world’s brightest mobile minds:

1) Consumer Readiness

Consumers are ready to ditch their physical wallet. This is extremely important in terms of driving adoption forward. When the consumer demands, the industry provides. 6 months have passed since Apple Pay debuted. People are now familiar with a concept that just a few months ago was perceived as unbelievably disruptive. No major disasters have occurred and comfort with the idea of paying via mobile is beginning to permeate the consumer psyche. While Scientific American claimed “For tech fans and younger audiences, paying by waving the phone is fun,” smartphone penetration in the US in now nearly 75%. The internet generation is rapidly evolving to become a much larger piece of the global commerce pie. While some smartphone users are skeptical, they are likely the same people who were slow to adopt internet, email, Amazon, SMS, etc. I have to say Scientific American isn’t sounding very scientific to exclude a huge chunk of the population which will likely follow suit, as they did with other emerging technologies of the last decade.

2) User Experience Improvements

“Friction-less” to “friction-free” was one of the major buzz-phrases regarding mobile payments at Mobile World Congress. Just a few months ago, I was griping about having to input both my fingerprint on my iPhone and my PIN at the terminal. Since then, the amount of steps to transaction completion is already improving. Visa, for example, is offering software development kits for developers to turn any ­internet connected device into a payments system. We saw this in action- and it was shockingly seamless.

Samsung Pay, leveraging their recently acquired LoopPay technology, allows consumers to use existing mag-stripe readers for mobile payments. This short-term band aid bridges onboarding while merchants upgrade to NFC hardware. Samsung Pay, in the meantime, allows a mobile payment to occur at any merchant where you can swipe your card. AKA everywhere. (Everywhere except cabs, of course. Viva Uber!) The future is here

Is it really? Well, while Apple Pay has only 47 retailers on board today, according to Boston Retail Partners, 40% of all large US retailers plan to support it by the end of next year.

3) Legacy Payment Network Buy-In

Visa, Master Card, Amex, Discover- These guys have been around forever. They’ve dealt with technological changes in the past- just take the emergence of the internet or mobile banking in the last 15 years. They know if they want preserve relevance they must evolve or they will become extinct. At MWC, I can assure you no one mentioned plastic, except in the context of it’s fading away. Everyone was focused on the next evolution of payments, particularly payment technologies like tokenisation, host card emulation, and more.

I don’t know about you, but I am so ready to ditch my wallet. And if Mobile World Congress was any indication, this is the year to toss it. Now if I could just glue my driver’s license to my phone….

Did you attend MWC? Comments/Questions? Please share below.


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