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Trying to connect with retailers

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This year’s Massive Mobile World Congress (MWC) event in Barcelona – the Mobile World Capital city no less – is its usual back slapping jamboree of mobile love. But this year there is a perceptible shift towards embracing the needs of key vertical markets as end users of all this tech, and retailers are the pick of the bunch.

Each stand I visit as I traipse the 8+ halls and 2.5km length of the Fira Grand Via – so you don’t have to – increasing numbers of companies are grabbing me by the Internet Retailing lapel badge and dragging me onto their stands to talk to me about how they are there for retailers.

The Views they are rapidly warm to in a rapid fervour to ‘tell their story to retailers’ is typically of personalised engagement and/or payments. As you can see from almost all the stories in this week’s newsletter, mobile payments is a pretty hot topic. Samsung has rolled out a mobile payments service – SamsungPay – that works with existing magstripe readers and DIMOCO and Juniper are suggesting that for digital goods (though eventually for physical ones too) carrier billing – charging to the phone bill – is going to be super popular.

Samsung’s play is interesting. On the face of it you look at it and think pretty much game over for everyone else in mobile payments as this uses existing in store tech and is pretty simple to implement. But like Apple Pay its so far tied to the one set of high end handsets – the S6 and S6 Edge, also unveiled at the show – and limited to the US and Korea. Oh well. Let’s see if it catches on.

More interestingly, carrier billing is getting a lot of attention. Charging to your phone bill is the oldest form of mobile payments and have languished for many years in the Doldrums as it was the preserve of sex chat lines and many dodgy scams. Now, however, it is being recognised as a really quick, easy, reliable and trusted way to pay. People recognise the veracity of network operators and like the idea of a one or two click payment.

Sure, merchants will have to get used to being paid by operators often 90 days later and the payout rates are in the 90% area, not 99% they are used to – but the extra business these things can deliver (not to mention that consumers like it and it works right now) make it a power thing to consider.

The other area where people are waxing lyrical is about mobile engagement. Mobile generates a lot of data – location, browsing history, what messages are opened – as well as providing several different ways to connect with consumers on this super personal device – SMS, MMS, email, OTT messaging, apps – that together these two things make it the place to reach out and connect.

This mobile engagement is going to be key to the use of mobile in omni-channel and the many vendors who are here in Barcelona talk a very good game – look out for my video interviews going live next week.

Why next week, you ask? Well because of the flaw in all these companies arguments: connectivity. I have been here for three days and have spent about 50% of the time staring at the spinning beachball on my mac and/or phone as I try to send or receive texts, emails, push messages or even update my calendar.

The sexy stuff that all these companies – more than 2000 of them this year – are pushing is great, but if I can’t connect how am I ever going to use them? And this is the topic that no one ever wants to tackle. Sure there are workshops on the roadmap to 5G and what 5G can do for mobile, but no one dares to talk about how right now it just doesn’t work if lots of people are using it.

And this is why retailers are not skulking about at the show and why I, with my retail head above the parapet, keep getting dragged into product demos on stands. Remember I am doing to for you guys.

Of course, you don’t have to schlep all the way to Barcelona, all your payments, engagement and other needs are taken care of at Internet Retailing Expo on 25-26 March at the NEC. The Digital Payments Village offers an insight into payment issues and all the associated engagement plays around it. So make sure you register FREE now and get yourself along to the show. See you there.

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