Commentary

Mobile Commerce Readies to Flip the ON Switch

The technology is getting ready for a virtual onslaught of new commerce behaviors which are now aligning in the marketplace.

As I visited various malls, retailers and merchant locations over the weekend, it struck me that the promise of the transformation of commerce is just around the corner.

Due to new rules that retailers who do not deploy EMV terminals by the end of this year will assume fraud liability, new point of sales terminals have been popping everywhere.

Retailers like the Gap’s Athleta and Frye, a high-end leather footwear store in Boston, have point of sale hardware capable of handling future payment systems, but as is the case in many places, they’re not yet activated.

Sales associates at one of the Athleta stores told me they had never heard of EMV or chip and pin, as it’s commonly referred to, since a chip in a credit card is read and then the consumer enters a PIN.

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This has been common in Europe for years and coming to the U.S. by the end of this year, though in many cases it will be chip and sign, where the consumer signs the screen after the chip in the credit card is read.

So check that next credit card you receive and you’re likely to notice it has a small embedded chip on the left side of it, if your cards don’t already.

Many point-of-sales terminals are set for mobile payments, so soon some 500 million Android phones with NFC (Near Field Communication) already in the phones will be able to pay by tapping their phone.

And then there is the continuing rollout of Apple Pay enabled terminals gradually extending into other counties.

It’s not only mobile payments technology being installed, but also many thousands of sensors of various types.

For example, Radius alone has more than 50,000 active beacons in the marketplace, the company told me recently.

And I have been told of many yet-to-be-announced beacon deployments at significant (as in big) retailers of various categories, beyond the already announced major installations.

Another example of a technology being put in place but not yet activated was at a Marriott in Boston I visited.

Marriott International already has a reported 1 million mobile check-ins. The Boston property appears to be all set for it but when I tried the screen, the friendly front-desk associate told me it was just for show and that she would have to provide a room key.

That is, like much of the mobile commerce infrastructure being put in place, until they activate the system.

For much of mobile commerce, they’re getting ready to flip the switch.

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