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Forget payments: mobile will reshape the entire retail process

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Mobile payments have finally arrived – well for consumers they have. While the mobile industry has long plugged away at getting people to pay using their phones, it has taken until 2016 for this to actually happen.

And, as with all these things, once a critical mass of people start doing it, it has snowballed into a mass movement across the globe.

Well, that’s the hype at least: according to the latest survey of mobile money from the Mobile Ecosystem Forum (MEF), 18% of people globally saying they have used their mobile phone in a shop in 2016. This is encouraging news, but does it really demonstrate that people really are embracing mobile payments?

The research findings do show that in a year the use of mobile in stores to pay for things has jumped from 8% to 18%, largely driven by Apple Pay in China.

But is this really a measure of mobile payments success – and is mobile payments really a thing any more anyway? I recently received a new contactless card and I just use that. It replaced a card that wasn’t contactless and which I had made contactless by assigning it to Apple Pay. Now I have no need of Apple Pay in stores. I no longer use mobile payments in store.

What I am trying to say is that the convenience of mobile payments in store was the contactless bit, not the mobile bit.

But this belies what is important about mobile payments: the convenience, security and the management of paying across the web, stores, anywhere. What people want – and what retailers need – is payments that are as seamless as possible and that they trust. The less friction there is the more likely people are to pay. The more security there is, the more likely they are to pay.

And this is where mobile payments come into their own. They enable one or two click payments that are secure and instant. Apple Pay is a fine example, using the fingerprint to authenticate it and using tokenisation to do the payment. It is quick, easy and secure.

Other forms of mobile payment are starting to also offer similar assurances. Charge to mobile for digital goods – that puts the charge on the phone bill or against the pre-paid credit – is similarly gaining ground as it is secure, fast and lends itself to two click payments.

The other factor that makes mobile an ideal tool for payments is using it to manage what is going on. This isn’t mobile payments per se, but is more an issue of mobile wallets, but the upshot is the same. Mobile offers an ideal tool not only to pay securely and seamlessly, but also to manage accounts, cards, payments, coupons, receipts – everything to do with the mobile purchase process.

This is where mobile really comes into its own: it is a secure tool to pay and manage payments. While retailers can rightly feel pleased with themselves that they are taking Apple Pay payments, this is just the start. The really far sighted ones are already working on how to integrate mobile wholly into the shopping process along the lines of Amazon Go stores and Wal-Marts new scan and go trial in the US. The mobile authenticates the person, handles the payment, redeems coupons, and gets the receipt. This is what ‘mobile payments’ really means: it is the total reshaping of the retail process.

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