October 4, 2013 by Leave a Comment
It’s that time of the year when many of us are on the road. September to November is usually a very busy time with conferences and industry events. Of course, it’s a great way to meet our clients and prospects, other industry experts, and learn from attending the sessions and presentations. Usually, someone from Celent is at all the major events – for example, a few of my colleagues have attended SIBOS and wrote about it on this blog. In this post, I wanted to discuss the events that are keeping me busy over the next month of so. Last week I was at EFMA Retail Payments Week. As always, it was a great event and I wanted to extend my thanks to the organizers for inviting me again to speak. I presented my research on lessons from launching NFC payment solutions, which judging from comments and discussions after the presentation was well received by the audience. NFC payments was an important theme throughout the conference. While NFC is really struggling to take off in the US, there still seems to be a significant level of activity and interest in Europe. However, I was actually somewhat surprised at how strongly a clear message was coming through many conference presentations – even in Europe, banks are starting to lose patience with MNOs and are beginning to give up on the idea of collaborating. Instead, they are launching contactless cards (the good old plastic), and are exploring alternative approaches to mobile payments (secure element in the cloud, payments directly from the bank account, etc.) I am convinced that we will see NFC-based mobile payments in Europe in due course, but I suspect most of the solutions will be driven by mobile operators, with very selective participation from banks. I am getting on the plane tomorrow to go to Money2020, which again promises to be a very interesting show. I will be moderating a panel discussion titled The World of Payments Meets the World of Marketing, continuing the debate around how payments transaction data can be used effectively to the benefits of consumers, merchants and financial institutions. I will also be presenting at the ATM, Debit and Prepaid Forum, where I will be asking the question whether the retailers can ignite mobile at the POS. Given that NFC models haven’t taken hold, and open wallets such as Google Wallet continue to struggle, I will be arguing that retailer apps might actually be the ones that spark adoption of mobile payments. On the morning of October 17th, we are hosting a Banking Roundtable discussion in London on The Future of the Bank Account. It is a confidential, bank-only forum, with an emphasis on idea exchange. We already have a strong roster of registered participants, but there are still a few places available. If you work for a bank and would like to find out more, please contact Todd Carter (email@example.com) or Chris Williams (firstname.lastname@example.org). Finally, most of the Celent’s Banking team will be at BAI Retail Delivery in Denver. So, if you are going to any of these events, don’t hesitate to drop us a line so that we could arrange to meet. Look forward to seeing you!
September 18, 2013 by Leave a Comment
You know the drill – you go into the store, select your goods, and take them to the cashier to check out and pay. What if we flipped the process on its head and you started with a check-in instead? You come to the store and your phone announces your arrival. The merchant knows you are here and is able to communicate with your phone as you move around the store, providing relevant information, such as product details, stock availability and special offers. When you see something you like, you just add it to your virtual shopping basket and when you are done, you simply leave (most likely, after you’ve demonstrated to someone that the contents of your shopping bag correspond to the items in your virtual basket.) What about payment? Well, the payment simply happens in the background based on your registered preferences (e.g. a card). Forget NFC, EMV and other complex buzzwords. We already highlighted this as a potential future scenario in our report on Digital Wallets last year. A number of announcements in the last 10 days or so indicate that this future might be closer than we think. Both Apple and PayPal announced new developments based on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology, iBeacon and Beacon respectively. The Beacons are essentially small devices that merchants can put around their stores. These devices then use BLE technology to communicate with other devices, such as Bluetooth compatible phones. Their energy consumption is very low and they don’t need Wi-Fi or a phone signal to work. Most excitingly, with built-in micro-location geo-fencing features, Beacons can enable new applications in indoor mapping. For example, iBeacon supports “enter” and “exit” events, so it can send different notifications while entering into the range and exiting out of the range. BLE has been touted for some time as NFC killer, and it’s easy to see how it can replace the NFC payment (NFC in card-emulation mode). Of course, NFC is also simply a communications technology (peer-to-peer mode), so BLE will also be competing with NFC tags. BLE devices are more expensive than NFC tags (~$30-50 vs $0.10), but their communication range is much bigger (up to 50 metres vs ~4cm), so the merchant would need fewer of them. It may be a coincidence, but there were further bad news to the “NFC camp” in the last few days in the US. First, Capital One, one of the three issuers that supported the Isis pilot (Chase and Amex were the other two), announced it would be withdrawing from Isis. Then, Google Wallet announced its new app with many new features, such as P2P payments. The app will be available to all Android phones, including those running on MNOs other than Sprint. While Sprint was the original and the largest MNO partner, Google Wallet has since rolled out to a number of smaller networks, including Virgin Mobile, US Cellular and Metro PCS, so technically it was available to more than one MNO, just not the 3 large giants behind Isis. The new app doesn’t change that – if you want to use NFC payments at the POS, it will still only work with selected handsets on Sprint and those other MNO partners. However, to me this is another indication that Google Wallet is re-focusing its attention on e-commerce, P2P, and other payment use cases, just not physical POS payments. I also thought the announcement on offers was interesting, as the wallet allows the customer to capture the offer irrespective of where it comes from and present it for scanning at the POS. The significant shifts here are the expansion of the universe of available offers and the fact that you don’t need NFC and tapping to get them redeemed, both of which could important catalysts for increased usage of the wallet. Mobile payments never cease to be exciting and interesting. Integration of BLE technology could be a game-changer for the industry.
August 9, 2013 by Leave a Comment
Arguably, it is fair to say that Isis, a mobile wallet from the leading US mobile network operators, has so far attracted more criticism than admiration. Its launch was marred with delays, as the company made changes to its business model and kept refining the solution. It finally did launch with pilots in Austin, Texas and Salt Lake City, Utah in October last year and while the company would not release customer numbers, it did say recently that “on average, active Isis Mobile Wallet users tap more than 10 times per month.” Last week Isis announced a national roll-out scheduled for later this year. That raised a few eyebrows as most of us know the challenges associated with deploying NFC technology in many markets, and especially the US. While there are increasingly more NFC phones available in the market and Isis promised iPhone support (most likely, via a special case), the issue of NFC-capable POS terminals remains. And if anything, that issue potentially just got bigger after the added uncertainty over debit fee caps, network routing and, subsequently, EMV (see my earlier blog.) Then today came another announcement which hinted how Isis was going to address the NFC issue – by partnering with American Express and incorporating Amex Serve platform into its wallet. To me this sounds like an attractive deal for both parties. Amex Serve was one of the first of the new breed of digital wallets to market, although it hasn’t really taken off (so far) as a standalone proposition. Amex’s decision last year to partner with Wal-Mart in launching Bluebird was in part due to the desire to better utilize the Serve platform and the underlying technology. Isis gives Serve another route to market. At the same time, Serve enhances Isis wallet by making it more universal – it is no longer just a retail POS solution, but a wallet that can be used for other purposes as well, such as online or P2P payments. The irony, of course, is that the piece of technology which reduces dependency on NFC and enables broader set of use cases is the good old plastic card linked to the Serve account. We’ll see if Isis is able to deliver national roll-out this year; after all, they have missed most of their own deadlines so far. But the latest deal with Amex has the potential to change that track record.
June 14, 2013 by Leave a Comment
Earlier this week I attended MobeyDay, a second annual event when the Mobey Forum opens the doors not only to its members but the wider global mobile financial services community. As analysts we attend many conferences and it’s easy to become somewhat jaded from hearing the same messages over and over again (usually, how big mobile already is and how it is going to become even bigger.) Therefore, it is very refreshing to come to an event where all the presentations and panel discussions are content-rich, insightful and thought-provoking. And for the second year running MobeyDay has delivered exactly that. Below are just a few of my personal highlights:
- Dave Birch gave an opening keynote presentation and talked about what the mobile wallets will “really” look like. He argued that for digital and mobile wallets to succeed they will have to deliver something that a physical wallet can’t do, and that the “triple A play” – authentication, apps and APIs – will drive the next phase of the technology evolution. If done well, the actual payments experience will fade into the background – think the Hailo app for taxis.
- The message of payment experience disappearing and becoming embedded in the commerce transaction was also echoed in the closing keynote by Citi. Chip-enabling various devices gives rise to M2M (machine-to-machine) interactions, some of which will require seamless payment settlement (e.g. your fridge ordering a bottle of milk). While I am not convinced I want my fridge to go on a shopping spree and start buying a bottle of milk today and a few slices of ham tomorrow, I do agree that M2M is an important trend that will shape commerce and payment experience going forward.
- PKO Bank Polski presented its IKO project. In my digital wallets report a few months ago, I talked about the chasm between online and offline payments. IKO solution leaps over that chasm and delivers a solution that works across multiple mobile payment and banking scenarios, from physical payments at the POS and card-less ATM withdrawals to P2P and online payments. The bank calls it “4G mobile banking – mobile banking and mobile payments in one versatile solution.” It’s true that for now the solution is “closed loop”, i.e. only works with PKO bank merchants and consumers, but it helps that PKO is the largest universal bank in Poland. The early results are impressive and PKO is willing to include other banks into the IKO ecosystem in the future as they continue towards “building of a new local mobile payments standard in Poland.”
- The notion of moving away from mobile payment solutions built on card rails towards integrated mobile banking and payments directly from a bank account was a recurring theme throughout the day. I had the privilege of moderating a panel discussion among the representatives from Banco Sabadell, ING, PostFinance and Clear2Pay on value-added services for mobile banking. Whether the banks should be embracing the key asset only they have (the current account) and build bank account-based payments solutions was also among the many questions we debated on the panel.
- Finally, there were also very interesting presentations from Caixa Bank and PostFinance, as well as excellent panels on mobile payments disrupters, Big Data and m-POS.
May 15, 2013 by 2 Comments
I’m attending Finovate Spring in San Francisco (Finovate.com). We’ve seen a number of great demos, and others that haven’t gone so well. If you think of a classic consultant’s 2×2, with one dimension being strength of the idea and the other the strength of the presenter, probably the most unfortunate quadrant is the one that has a great idea, but shoddy delivery. Here are a few tips to help Finovate speakers give a killer presentation that will have the twittersphere take notice (with apologies to those who prompted the observations):
- First, before you do anything else, State the Problem that you’re trying to solve
- Have a demo that works; extra credit for something live
- Involve the audience, preferably with something live (see #2)
- Have a catchy slogan
- Print catchy slogan on a tee-shirt
- Speak in a Commonwealth accent (Australian, British, Kiwi, South African – they’re all good). Americans think you sound smart
- Avoid using the terms “security,” “identity,” or “authentication.” These are all terribly important, but from a presentation perspective, you’re starting from a hole ten feet deep.
March 7, 2013 by Leave a Comment
I just came back from three weeks of being on the road. I ran a workshop on merchant-funded rewards at Merchant Payments Ecosystem event in Berlin, presented on mobile payments at Celent’s own (and very successful!) Insight and Innovation Day in Boston last week, and managed to squeeze a holiday on the snow in between. While I was away, there were a lot of interesting news and announcements in the mobile payments space, particularly last week at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. As I was catching up on all the latest developments, I wanted to share a few announcements that especially caught my eye. 1. MasterCard introduced MasterPass, the “future of digital payments.” According to the company, MasterPass is “a digital service that allows consumers to use any payment card or enabled device to discover enhanced shopping experiences that are as simple as a click, tap or touch – online, in-store or anywhere”, and represents an evolution of PayPass Wallet Services, itself announced only last year. At first glance, MasterPass appears to be a solution to bridge the chasm I was describing between online and offline payments in my recent digital wallets report. While the initial focus remains on e-commerce and online/ remote transactions, MasterCard was apparently demoing how MasterPass can be used for proximity payments with QR codes on posters and even TV. Naturally, MasterCard will want to make sure it also works well with PayPass contactless to be a truly universal solution, but the direction is definitely encouraging. 2. Visa introduced Visa Ready Partner Program “designed to accelerate the introduction of innovative payment solutions globally and further drive the global migration from cash to electronic payments.” The program has two main components: the existing program for the approval of mobile NFC-enabled devices, and a new one for Mobile Acceptance (mPOS) Solutions. Ingenico’s ROAM is the first partner to participate in the mPOS solutions program. However, it was the announcement of a new deal between Visa and Samsung under the NFC program that I found particularly interesting. Future NFC-enabled Samsung phones will come with Visa’s PayWave applet and pre-certified to work with Visa’s payment system. Another important feature is the new NFC integration allowing banks and others to launch mobile payment services using Visa’s new Mobile Provisioning Service to download payment account information to the devices. This has the potential to simplify the existing complex process of provisioning payment accounts to secure elements, one of the barriers for widespread NFC adoption today. 3. Bankinter in Spain also announced a new way to circumvent secure element hassle for mobile NFC payments. Their customers will need an app on their NFC-enabled phones, and then, instead of using a secure element from a handset manufacturer or network operator, the customer will temporarily download virtual one-time use replicas of their physical credit or debit card every time they make a payment. The service was developed with Visa Europe, Net1 UEPS and Seglan. While such a solution clearly puts the bank in control of mobile payments, it relies on ubiquitous network connectivity and ability to download a virtual token before a payment can be made, which may not be practical in all circumstances. There were more news in the start-up world, from Stripe entering the UK to PayPal co-founder Max Levchin launching a new payments venture Affirm focused on streamlining the mobile checkout process. All of which only confirms that there is no respite when it comes to innovation in mobile payments.
February 7, 2013 by Leave a Comment
In my recent report on Digital Wallets, I discussed a number of players which while still keeping their cards close to their chests, have a potential to significantly influence the payments market. One of them is Apple, which made headlines recently with their patent for cash distribution without ATMs – see Bob Meara’s excellent blog and my related comments for more details. Another one is MCX (Merchant Customer Exchange), a joint mobile wallet initiative amongst a number of the US retailers. The initiative was announced in August 2012, but the details have remained scarce since. The participating retailers have been talking about their desire to have a collective voice in shaping the future of mobile payments, and protect their data and customers. They have talked about developing a wallet, but it hasn’t been clear if they also had ambitions to create a new payment scheme or would rather rely on the traditional cards in their wallet. So I was intrigued to come across an article that appears to shed a little more light on MCX ambitions in payments. Citing sources close to MCX, the article suggests that MCX is indeed planning to build a new payment system based on QR codes and ACH payments cutting the transaction costs to 4c. Two cents would go to the FI for processing an ACH payment and the other two would go to the technology partners and towards future MCX development. If it is indeed a confirmation that MCX are inclined to build alternatives to cards, then it is very interesting. However, it is still not clear how such a payments system would work:
- Would the QR code identify the customer, the merchant’s payment request or just the merchant?
- Would the customers be asked to register their bank account details with MCX wallet in the cloud? I can imaging this would be a big stumbling block for many consumers.
- Will the transaction be based on ACH debit or credit?
- If it’s debit, how will the authorisation happen? If there is no authorisation, will the fraud costs just become unacceptably high negating any savings on the interchange? There is speculation that consumers would be asked to register their debit card, which would be used for authorisation over card network rails, and then the transaction would convert into an ACH debit for clearing and settlement. If that’s the case, the overall transcation costs need to include the authorisation fee as well. And it sounds very similar to many decoupled debit propositions, most of which have failed to ignite the market so far.
- If it’s credit, the authorisation challenge turns into the authentication challenge. One way to solve it would be to ask a customer to log-in to their bank account (e.g. through a mobile banking app) and authorise a payment to the merchant. Somebody would also need to pass a token to the customer’s bank with the payment request details. This is pretty much how Online Banking ePayments (OBeP) networks work; however, attempts to build such a network in the US (e.g. NACHA’s Secure Vault Payments) have again had limited success so far.
January 17, 2013 by 2 Comments
We are all familiar with the power of a good headline – it grabs our attention and compels us to read the rest of the story. In the world of printed newspapers, front-page headlines are there to sell papers. And it seems that ability to write a witty headline is a pre-requisite to getting a job at any of the UK’s tabloid newspapers. Headlines also have the power to mis-lead. Just a few days ago, a news story caught my eye, which implied that 42% of the US POS terminals were infected by malware. With a healthy dose of disbelief, I clicked on the link and sure enough, it became clear from the article itself that 42% of all known instances of a single malware type were detected on the US terminals. The story and the headline’s implication couldn’t be further apart. As someone who keeps an eye on the developments in mobile payments, naturally, I was intrigued by some other recent headlines announcing that “the UK banks were to launch mobile P2P network next year.” Did I miss something? No, there was indeed a new announcement by the UK Payments Council, but it was talking about the same initiative announced nearly a year ago on 21st Feb 2012. And it became clear shortly thereafter that the service would likely be launched in 2014. As far as I can tell, the main piece of news this time is the list of 8 banks who have now committed to launching the service. Again, given that it was expected to be an industry-wide initiative from the start, it is no surprise to see all the major UK banks signing up to this, including Barclays, which has its own P2P service, PingIt. For our non-UK readers who may have missed the story last year, The UK Payments Council has commissioned VocaLink to build a central database that will allow bank customers to link their mobile phone number to their bank account. Having done so, they will be able to send a payment from their mobile phone by simply entering someone else’s mobile phone number and would not need to know their banking details. The actual payment would run over Faster Payments, a system that’s run by VocaLink and settles payments in nearly real-time. Is P2P really that important in the UK? Despite some early successes of PingIt, I think the jury is still out. Obviously, it simplifies making a payment to another person (or potentially, business) which is a good thing. However, in the UK it is already quite common to tell someone your bank account details for them to make a one-off payment. As I pointed out in my blog commenting on the original announcement, the ever-popular “splitting a restaurant bill” example is over-used – most people in the UK would settle the bill by asking the waiter to split the total onto multiple cards right there at the restaurant. And the popularity of Direct Debit drastically reduces the need to proactively pay regular bills. Paying to a small business/ merchant/ tradesman appears the most promising scenario, but there this payment method is going to compete against the new mobile POS solutions, which enable those same tradesmen accept cards, and more realistically, cheque and cash payments, the ingrained practices of today. Having said all this, it’s a very welcome initiative and it could be just a start. As the service grows, I would expect it will allow use of other proxies in addition to the mobile phone number (e.g. email, Facebook account, etc.) and will enable them to be linked to multiple bank accounts. And once the infrastructure is built, other services (e.g. merchant payments) can be developed, which would help the UK banks maintain their leadership in payments. I am looking forward to the real news announcing the launch of the actual service in 2014.
November 21, 2012 by Leave a Comment
Despite increasing online-offline convergence in retailing, there is still a chasm between online and offline payments which today’s digital wallets are struggling to cross. It remains a challenge today to use secure element-based payment credentials online and cloud-based credentials at the physical POS, although various solutions to bridge the divide are emerging. The above statements form the central thesis of my new report to be published early next week under the same title as this blog post. With my report, I sought to address the following key questions:
- Given the proliferation of solutions, how to differentiate between various digital wallets in the market today? How best to think about the solutions, economics and implications for various players?
- Is there any consensus in the market on what is important in order to succeed? What are some of the big unknowns which could significantly influence the market? What are some of the key challenges that the industry as a whole needs to address?
- How should financial institutions respond to these market developments?