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IRX 2012: Preview Interview with Mark Brant of PayPal

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In our latest preview of one of our major events of the year, Internet Retailing Expo (IRX 2012), we put our questions to Mark Brant of PayPal, a keynote speaker at the conference, on how we’ll be able to pay in the future.

Internet Retailing: What are the latest, most interesting developments in the way people can pay, in your view?

Mark Brant, sales director, UK & Ireland, PayPal: The line between the online world and the high street is blurring and will soon disappear. We at PayPal are playing our part in making it happen – you can already pay your bill at your table in PizzaExpress on an iPhone, and PayPal is a payment option in store at Home Depot across America. The really interesting thing is not simply replacing your wallet with your phone. (If a mobile does no more for the consumer or retailer than existing ways to pay, it’s unlikely to become the standard way to pay any time soon.) The cool part is having access to your loyalty programmes, offers and different payment methods on any of your connected devices, wherever you are. It’s good news for retailers as it means your customers are more likely to engage with you. For example, it will help overcome the reaction ‘I don’t want to sign up for yet another loyalty card’ – because the customer won’t need to carry the card to benefit. I wish this feature had been available when I was invited to join a well-known retailer’s loyalty programme at its Richmond store recently.

This smarter, digital wallet will also make self service in store even more effective. I’m a big fan of the self-service checkouts at retailers like M&S and WH Smith. It’s queue-busting at its best. They’re bound to be even more useful combined with a digital wallet, which will automatically apply a coupon or offer if it’s valid for the transaction. It will also overcome the problem with some self-service tills systems, which require a member of staff to validate some coupons.

At PayPal, we’re developing these services so watch this space.

IR: What do you think has driven these changes? Is this all about responding to how customers want to pay: if not, what other factors are important?

MB: Consumers have driven the change, driven by the mobile technology that has become widely and relatively cheaply available to them. I don’t think payment itself is driving the change; it’s the spending experience – making it richer, quicker, simpler, more convenient, more flexible, sexier. Payments aren’t that interesting on their own but they become interesting and drive consumer and retail change when coupled with all the other things a phone can enable – loyalty, targeted offers, queue busting checkout apps and much more. Changes in payment technology enable much more exciting and useful changes in other parts of our everyday lives.

IR: Why is the development of payments, on and offline, important to retailers? How do you think payments helps to shape the way we shop in general?

MB: The mobile payment revolution will create a huge opportunity for retailers. And that revolution goes beyond payments. Smart retailers will use it to shape a world of shopping where the high street and online have merged. We’ve talked about multi-channel retailing for years – but we’ve only just glimpsed its true potential.

Imagine a consumer visiting a friend. She loves the look of a friend’s jacket. She takes a photo of the fabric via an app on her phone, which highlights a selection of clothes in the same fabric. It shows the high street stores that stock them. She has the option to reserve her choice for in-store collection or have it sent to her home. She can decide whether to pay now or on credit. And naturally she gets loyalty points as she has the retailer’s loyalty programme on her digital wallet.

This is just one glimpse of how we’ll shop very soon.

IR: How do you see payments developing in the future?

MB: I’ve already consigned my paper diary, address book, pen, camera, video camera, tube map, A-Z and boarding pass to the bin or bedside chest of drawers and replaced them with my mobile. I can see a time in the very near future where I don’t need to carry a wallet stuffed with plastic, that wallet can be in the cloud and I access the cloud via many number of devices, one of which will be my mobile – via a retailer agnostic app or for the very few retailers where it may make sense a retailer specific app.

Hear Mark Brant’s presentation, The future of payments in retail, at Internet Retailing 2012 (IRX 2012). He will be speaking in the Fast Track Conference at 10.30am on March 21.

Entrance to IRX 2012, which will be held at the NEC in Birmingham on March 21 and 22, is free. More than 4,000 visitors are expected at the event, which features an exhibition of 150 suppliers to the ecommerce and multichannel industries alongside a two-day learning programme, Selling in the Digital Age.

The programme features four conferences, dedicated to Mobile and Social Commerce, Fast Track, Enterprise and Customer Experience, as well as a series of workshops, learning sessions and demonstrations of the latest technology.

Mark Brant can be contacted at

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