With excitement often comes confusion, and that was true Tuesday at the Shoptalk conference in Las Vegas, where executives offered an optimistic view of the future of commerce and payments, albeit a vision that carried more than a bit of uncertainty.
Will mobile wallets gain traction? What secret payments projects do the likes of Amazon, Apple and Google have up their sleeves, and how might they change—or, more accurately, disrupt or even destroy—the best laid plans of competitors?
None of these are new questions, of course, but they continue to occupy the daily thoughts of the people who run some of the biggest and most daring retailers and technology providers around the world. And while the focus of this conference was firmly on non-payment issues such as marketing, fulfillment and more, how to pay, checkout and move money via mobile devices and computers formed the bedrock upon which much of the discussion rested. After all, a lack of a good payments program or infrastructure can “derail” even the best e-commerce efforts, said Rick Kenney, head of consumer insights for Demandware, one of the largest platform providers to online retailers in North America, with approximately 1,600 e-commerce sites using the company’s technology.
The general problem as new payments technologies are launched is that “people do not know what these systems do,” Kenney told Paybefore. As U.S. consumers get used to EMV chip cards and experiment with technologies such as Android Pay (launching today in the U.K.) or—for many mainstream consumers—PayPal, Kenney expects the launch of the iPhone 7 might further boost the use and popularity of Apple Pay. The mobile wallet represents a bright spot for Apple amid its recent earnings stumble, with 1 million new users per week, according to CEO Tim Cook. One analyst’s recent Paybefore Viewpoint suggests the technology stands as one of the most “promising” services the hardware giant offers. Still, any significant advance for Apple Pay from the upcoming iPhone 7 launch, likely in time for the holiday season, will take months to be measured and analyzed, Kenney continued. In fact, it could take until 2017 for Apple Pay and similar services to gain significant traction, he added.
A recent survey from Blackhawk Network found that 17 percent of respondents report using mobile wallets, up eight percentage points from the previous year. That slow movement toward mobile payments means job security for credit cards—at least according to half of the four-member panel at Tuesday’s “Driving Transactions on Mobile” session. Asked by moderator Ken Seiff, managing partner at Beanstalk Ventures, to predict whether the majority of electronic transactions in 36 months will be conducted by credit cards or mobile wallets, two members—Billy May, senior vice president, digital and e-commerce for Abercrombie & Fitch; and Mark Young, who leads strategy and development for movie ticking firm Fandango—gave a resounding vote in favor of plastic. “Since credit cards are in wallets, I am going to say credit cards,” Young deadpanned.
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