- While Google Wallet is no success to this point, the company keeps pumping it. Just last week, the company, through a subsidiary in Ireland (!), launched a new NFC (near-field communications) payment card in Kenya (!).
- PayPal is making a major push this summer to have bigbox stores accept it as a payment medium. It has agreements with the largest and third-largest point-of-sale (POS) terminal makers, and outlets including Home Depot, J. C. Penny, Foot Locker, Toys R Us, and Barnes & Noble.
- The Economist magazine this week featured retail banking as a theme. While it presented, with its usual professionalism, a range of perspectives, there was general agreement that "... an upheaval is coming, driven by technological change ...".
- Simple's promotional video, co-branded with Visa, has a typical slogan for this iPhone application: "replaces your bank".
- "The Future of Mobile Lies in the Developing World", according to the headline of an article written by the co-lead of Tech Innovation for UNICEF.
- On the same subject, "Emerging markets will be about 60 percent of smartphone sales next year", according to Richard Kramer, managing partner at Arete Research.
- Gartner estimates m-payments will top $170 billion this year, and goes on to explain its views on regional differentiation, market fragmentation, the importance of ticketing applications, and more.
- Rabobank promotes its vision of Multicard-based cashlessness in this sport-oriented video.
- Kenya and other African countries demonstrate that m-payment can replace much or all of traditional banking.
- Groupon has entered the scrum at checkout with a direct competitor to Square and PayPal. Predictably, "[t]he pricing is extremely aggressive."
At one level, none of this matters to your current business: whether you're a retailer or supplier, your immediate focus needs to be on executing your existing business plan. That checks are going away, and that banking as we know it seems as ripe for disruption as book stores, newspapers, road maps, encyclopedias, and so on have been, isn't your problem. One of the points of all the initiatives described above is that big players are investing serious money to make transitions as easy as possible. When your customers want to pay with Google Wallet or BitCoin or an even wackier etheralized currency, there will inevitably be a gateway to ACH (automated clearing house) or your cloud-based procure-to-pay (P2P) or whatever made sense as you were building up your business. Neither "The Payoff" nor you can be trusted to pick the winners in the competition between payment systems, so there's no rush to adopt new ones.
We are confident, though, that some sorts of big change are afoot. What will it mean for your business if retail-level payments are all guaranteed to be effective within two business days, and you never have to account for chargebacks or bad checks? What if affinity cards, coupons, and payment are all bound up in the same three-second swipe? Will it affect your business if foreign visitors will be able to spend their home currency at your check-out registers with no delays or friction? How much will your sales expand if shoppers don't need to "go through the line", but close a purchase while talking with a salesfloor representative? These are just a few of the changes likely to accompany the current developments in payment systems. Most important will be not the transactional percentage points saved, but how the transparency of digital payments will affect your relationship with your customers and suppliers.Last modified on Tuesday, 29 May 2012