Mobile Payments: The How vs. the Who

With a steady stream of announcements about the introduction or updating of various mobile payment methods, I have to wonder if it will end up a battle between how a person pays and who a person pays.

The mobile industry tends to focus on the how of paying. For example, with NFC (Near Field Communication) in phones, a tap or swipe at a terminal is the how.

Paying at checkout can be as simple as telling the cashier to charge it your particular account, which can appear on the point of sale terminal in stores that use the app you have loaded.

There’s certainly no shortage of mobile ways to pay, such as PayPal, Google Wallet, MasterCard PayPass Wallet, LevelUp and Lemon Wallet, to name a few.

And as we discussed in this space yesterday, most consumers are not even yet aware of any of the many digital wallets available.

But from a consumer viewpoint, the how of mobile payment may not become as important as the who.

Isis, the joint venture of Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile, which is in trial in Austin and Salt Lake City, thinks the carriers can be the who. MasterCard and Visa would think the credit card companies should be the who. Others, like PayPal, Facebook and Apple, may have another who in mind.

As the proliferation of ways-to-pay continues, ranging from technology that provides one-click checkout through Facebook or Twitter to the ShopSavvy app that allows one-touch buying from various retailers, consumers may become more focused on the who-to-pay issue.

The question may come down to where consumers want their bill from purchases made via mobile to come from: their credit card company, wireless carrier, bank, pre-paid or some other way.

The who may matter more than the how.

5 comments about "Mobile Payments: The How vs. the Who".
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  1. Peter Vogel from Plink, February 7, 2013 at 9:53 a.m.

    Another way to ask this question is - "Who controls the data?"

    Google would love to be the pipe through which all mobile commerce takes place, because they then will have behavioral data on millions of users they can then sell to advertisers who would bid on access to those qualified purchasers, much as companies bid on search terms now.

    Make no mistake, the coming mobile wallet wars are ALL about who owns the data- the small amount made from the actual payment process is irrelevant to the biggest players.

  2. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, February 7, 2013 at 10:07 a.m.

    Agree, Peter, the back-end data is a big pot of gold here. And then there are the transactions processing fees that entrenched players are not likely to want to concede.

  3. Peter Vogel from Plink, February 7, 2013 at 10:17 a.m.

    Hey Chuck,
    If you do any further peices on the mobile wallet ecosyetem, please feel free to reach out to me at peter @ plink dot com.

    I also started a group called on Linkedin called Mobile Wallet Wars, which you might find interesting.

  4. Jason Gross from VeriFone Media, February 7, 2013 at 3:05 p.m.

    Just as the MNOs discovered that the card associations will not give up their interchange fees lightly, Google and others (MNOs included) have begun to realize that larger retailers have little interest in giving up their data.
    Just as DSPs have proven online, the marketers (read: merchants) are looking for facilitation. Of payments, of loyalty, of marketing. Any viable solution should save them money on all fronts, be cheaply and widely scalable, and work without friction for consumers across all smartphones.

  5. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, February 7, 2013 at 3:56 p.m.

    Right Jason, there obviously is a very long way to go in all of these areas and we'll have to see where the give and take is along the road. Good points you make.

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