Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Mobile Payments Growth: Just The Tip of The Iceberg?

A new report from Business Insider Intelligence on the state of the mobile payments industry shows that, while the volume of mobile payment transactions still represent just a small percentage of overall payments on the surface, the level of growth is significant and quickly shaping the entire payments industry.

Both consumer and merchant uptake is exploding as smartphone users are quickly adopting mobile wallets, payment apps, etc. to facilitate offline and online purchases and as businesses are turning smartphones and tablets into full-featured POS terminals. The next critical step is to persuade the masses to become users of the payment technology available.

When Amazon and eBay launched their online shopping sites in 1995 and 1996 respectively, the notion that over half the U.S. population would make purchases online would have been scoffed at. Yet in 2013, the number of online shoppers in the U.S. will reach 189.6 million, according to eMarketer. In this case, the majority of the consumers were resistant to change until they made the switch and realized the benefits. The same applies to mobile payments.

The key is to examine the current payments industry growth trends, motivations of current users, the reasons for the gap between awareness and usage, and how financial institutions, retailers, network operators and equipment manufacturers can work together to convert reluctant consumers into loyal users. As mentioned by many of my fintech colleagues recently, it goes beyond a mentality of "If you build it, they will come". There is a need to solve for the concern around mobile security as well as develop incentives for usage.

Defining Mobile Payments

For the purpose of the study being reviewed, 'mobile payments' were defined as when a mobile, internet-connected device (smartphone, tablet, smart watch, Google Glass, etc.) is used to facilitate a transaction that might otherwise have taken place using a physical credit card, debit card, check or cash at a physical (not online) store. 'Mobile transactions' (for the purpose of this study) are a larger category that included mobile payments as well as mobile commerce and e-commerce channeled by an app or mobile website (e.g., Amazon's mobile app).

Mobile payments and transaction innovation is currently be led by start-ups and tech companies, who are prompting legacy payments players and card companies to reevaluate their current strategies and increase their own pace of innovation. 'Coopetition' has become the norm as companies team up with each other as opposed to building a mobile strategy from scratch. These partnerships (and individual initiatives) are pushing innovation forward quickly, making the industry fragmented yet ripe for consolidation.

Mobile Payments: Still Relatively Small on the Surface

Like an iceberg, there is much more to the mobile payments than what the can be seen on the surface today, with a U.S. mobile payments forecast of $30 billion in 2013. According to the research compiled by BI Intelligence, this forecast represents an average annual growth rate of 118 percent since 2008, but still will only account for 2 percent of the $3.3 trillion debit and credit card volume in the U.S. this year. It was also found that other global markets (such as Africa and the Asia Pacific regions) are seeing a much larger percentage of mobile transactions.

In both the U.S. and other global regions, the growth in mobile transaction volume has been driven primarily by the growth in smartphone adoption (especially in areas of underdeveloped banking systems). Not only has the smartphone impacted the consumer side of the payments equation, but also the merchant side, where attachable card readers transform smartphones and tablets into cash registers, making card purchases easier.

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The Gap Between Awareness and Usage

In a recent research study conducted by Accenture entitled, Driving Value and Adoption of Mobile Payments: Consumers Want More, it was found that while consumers know that mobile payments are an option, they still prefer not to make them. In the study, 41 percent of North American smartphone users were highly aware that their phones could be used as a payment device, yet only 16 percent had done this.

Similarly, the BI Intelligence research found that, similar to most disruptive technologies, the adoption of mobile payments to date has been driven by both the underserved and the early adopter segments. From the merchant perspective, firms like Starbucks, Apple and Home Depot are helping both awareness and usage.

On the consumer side, new apps and 'mobile wallets' from firms like PayPal, Google and Square are helping mobile payments acceptance. But, while consumers are highly aware of these mobile payment applications, and find the convenience and money-saving incentives appealing, many are holding back from using mobile payments because of security and privacy concerns. Consumers worry about their liability if their phone is lost or stolen and express concern that the risk will escalate as the phone evolves into a mobile wallet.

Security and Privacy Concerns Hinder Growth

According to the Accenture study, 45 percent of respondents who do not currently make mobile payments said they were concerned about security, while 37 percent had worries about privacy. 

These findings were in line with another study done earlier this year by Chadwick Martin Bailey entitled, The Mobile Moment: Barriers and Opportunities for the Mobile Wallet. In this study, 73% of those households that were familiar with the concept of a mobile wallet but were forgoing using the capability mentioned security as the reason for non-use. The specific reasons for security concerns included identity theft (70%), theft of phone and personal information (60%), interception of personal information during transaction (57%), hacking of mobile phone (52%), hacking service provider (34%) and getting charged for an accidental transaction (19%).
Chadwick Martin Bailey Mobile Wallet Research, 2013

Potential Beyond Payments

As we move from mobile payments to mobile wallets, many studies indicate that there is the potential to offer more than just payments. According to a recent study from mobile marketing firm Vibes, nearly 85 percent of smartphone owners would like to receive non-payment services from a mobile wallet, including loyalty card storage, coupons, personalized offers and other marketing materials (similar to the Apple Passbook app). Interestingly, the study finds that only 19 percent of those surveyed believe they had been offered any such content.

Again, the Chadwick Martin Bailey research from earlier this year collaborated with the findings from Vibes, illustrating that several additional features would be viewed positively by households who understood mobile payments but had decided not to use this functionality. In fact, the 'perfect' mobile wallet combination from the perspective of non-users was payment functionality combined with the ability to store loyalty cards and other sensitive documents (insurance cards, drivers license, etc.). 

While mobile offers were not scored as high as storage of cards in the CMB research, the Accenture research found that 60 percent of consumers who already do mobile payments would do so more often if they received instant coupons. In addition, 36 percent said they would provide personal information in exchange for such rewards and 46 percent would increase payments if they received location-based offers

Chadwick Martin Bailey Mobile Wallet Research, 2013

The Future of NFC

Near Field Communications (NFC) is a technology that allows devices to communicate with each other at close range to facilitate payments and other transactions. Despite years of debate on the pros and cons of the technology (especially in the U.S.), there are more and more who believe NFC will be a non-starter as a payments technology. It's not that the technology is disappearing (NFC chips are being placed in virtually all new Android phones). It's just that acceptance has never gained steam:
        • Google Wallet recently dropped the requirement that NFC technology be required for its wallet app to run. Google wallet has recently developed an app for the iPhone and becoming device and technology agnostic.
        • Apple (and PayPal) recently released new close range technology (Beacon) that use low frequency bluetooth communication that is available on virtually all smartphones. This technology also requires significantly less hardware upgrades from the merchant and is faster and has more functionality for the consumer.
        • Beacon technology could eliminate the checkout entirely, providing real-time offers, product information, facilitate payments and remove any security devices before leaving the store.

The Future of Mobile Payments

Despite a lot of noise among financial technology insiders and the payments industry, mobile payments and mobile wallets are far from becoming mainstream. As expected, mobile payments are more commonplace with younger demographics and higher income categories as well as having greater potential for those who are underbanked. In other words, the potential for mobile payments in the future is high, but is far from guaranteed.

While our industry continues to be focused on the next shiny technology breakthrough in payments, consumers are more concerned about security, privacy, convenience and the improved 'value' of using their phones to make payments. In other words, "Will the customer experience be better than what I have now?"

Financial institutions, merchants, network operators and technology providers must answer the above concerns and provide education on the way to best move forward . . . from the consumer's perspective. This education is made more difficult with the multitude of different payments solutions being introduced and the overall 'noise' in the marketplace. 

Finally, recent research indicates that both current mobile payments users and non-users can be provided incentives to increase their use of mobile payments. This can be in the form of transaction incentives, mobile coupons, geolocational offers, etc. that are incorporated into the mobile payment experience. 

Today's digital consumer expects their mobile devices to improve and simplify their lives. Until the providers of mobile payments can achieve this goal on a broad spectrum, mobile payments will look like more of a tip of the ice cube vs. tip of the iceberg.

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1 comment:

  1. The Mobile Wallet Consumer Awareness chart is total BS. There is NO WAY that 100% of the market is "aware" of a PayPal mobile wallet. Do they even have one?