Mobile Payments Business is Starting Over, Says Schropfer

The mobile payments business is starting over, says David W. Schropfer, a partner at Luciano Group. Ironically, as both Isis and the Google Wallet systems now essentially disclaim any interest in revenue from the transaction process, seeking instead to build new businesses based on advertising and loyalty, the “wallet” part of the mobile commerce business now seems to have “substantially slowed mobile commerce development in the rest of the developed world.”

To a large, though not complete extent, “payments” now are taking a back seat to “wallets,” which probably means we are headed for a period where “mobile commerce” becomes the headline phrase, not necessarily “mobile payments.”

The new direction, at least for many significant players, seems to be a recognition that “significant revenue is available from the advertising, retention and rewards programs,” says Schropfer. That’s the upside.


The other recognition is that the payments ecosystem cannot easily afford to support many new “mouths to feed” in the revenue chain. Complicated ecosystem That being the case, the incumbent participants have every incentive to use their considerable resources to thwart entry by a new category of participants, says Schropfer.

Make no mistake, there still remains  a potential disruption here. But it is a disruption of the broader commerce process, not the “payments” process in a narrow sense.

One might also argue that the “commerce” angle, aiming to reinvent the shopping experience, almost automatically answers the question of “what’s in it for retailers” in a way that “payments” systems have not. Merchants care about loyalty, customer retention and promoting customer traffic. The “Wallet” approach addresses all three of those concerns, in addition to providing value for consumers.

Loyalty programs and systems generally refer to programs intended to bring a consumer into a specific merchant with incentives such as coupons, discounts, and other incentives, says Schropfer. The advantages for consumers and merchants therefore are pretty clear.

“Remarkably, there are over 2.1 billion loyalty and rewards programs currently
issued to customers in the United States,” Schropfer says. “With only 300 million total
population, this equates to almost seven accounts for every individual in the United States.”

Just as important, retailers are willing to spend money to acquire new customers. “In a study by international consultancy Deloitte, the company estimated that merchants  are willing to pay between seven percent and nine percent of a transaction amount to acquire a new sale,” Schropfer says. 

That’s important because it suggests where a wallet revenue model lies: getting paid by a merchant to deliver a customer.

“Starting over” is a bold statement. But it is hard to deny that, with some exceptions, much of the activity in what used to be the “mobile payments” business now has shifted in the direction of “mobile wallet,” with a revenue model based on loyalty, offers, advertising, marketing, promotion and other elements of the commerce system.

One might argue that there are some areas, such as enabling use of a smart phone as a credit card reader, or integration of PayPal as a retail payments method, various forms of social and virtual currency or overseas or person-to-person remittances continue to be important for some segments of the “payments” business. 

Still, for the moment, “wallet” seems to have emerged as the more-important aspect of change in the mobile commerce arena, eclipsing “payments” for the moment, even though “wallet” value is sometimes harder to describe. “Starting over” is an important phrase, whether one agrees or not.
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