This holiday shopping season the mobile marketing world is abuzz over just how much the shopping apps will impact the final big retail push of the year. Next year at this time we may be speculating on whether near-field communication mobile payments will make their presence known. Right now the Google Wallet platform is available on one phone only through Sprint, so we don’t have much to go on in the U.S. market. The competing standard, ISIS, has AT&T and Verizon behind it as well as multiple credit card companies, but we are still waiting for it to deploy. Rumors continue to swirl about Apple getting into the NFC fray with its next iPhone model. How all of this will at least start to take shape may be the story of Holiday 2012.
ABI Research is already predicting that the big players in smartphone operating systems, Google and Apple, are going to be important forces in the market despite the carriers, or mobile network operators (MNOs) trying to dominate the market. The company says that the MNOs may have a majority share of the NFC and mobile wallet field in the short run, but Google and Apple will cut into market share between 2012 and 2016.
Analyst Mark Beccue says in a statement, “By the end of 2012, Google will prove that Google Wallet is a hit with consumers. By 2014, we will see Google Wallet supported alongside competing MNO offerings globally.” ABI is projecting that a 75% share of NFC-enabled payments in 2012 will erode to 63% in 2016.
Beccue expects that Apple will introduce NFC into the iPhone in 2012 and that its MNO partners will allow the handset to operate its mobile payments system even as the carriers also roll out their own. Apple’s share of the NFC market will comes from the growth of its hardware footprint worldwide. Google’s will come from MNOs that themselves do not want to build out an NFC infrastructure to support the contactless payments system and so will partner with Google, the research company states.
ABI is expecting the number of mobile wallet owners worldwide to reach 594 million in 2016, with the strongest presence in the U.S., western Europe and Japan.
The growth of mobile wallets creates unprecedented opportunities for marketers to bring offers, couponing, loyalty programs, etc. right to the point of purchase. Mobile NFC infrastructure, while technically feasible since before 2004, has been slower to emerge than many expected, largely because the basic functionality of using a phone in place of a credit card really wasn’t solving a problem or adding value for consumers or merchants. With the advent of smartphones and apps, however, the payment mechanism can be tied to countless other merchandising and value-added services that analysts now expect to have greater traction among consumers and retailers.