The frenzy over Apple’s formal launch into the digital wallet space has reached a fever pitch. There is no shortage of speculation around the widely anticipated “iWallet” – and for good reason. Apple has a slew of compelling assets to leverage for its wallet, like an existing consumer base with roughly 800M cards on file, Passbook, iTouch, iBeacon, and more. It also has a unique track-record of entering existing categories with elegantly designed solutions that redefine, then dominate -at least for a time. However, we can’t ignore the fact that the mobile wallet graveyard is littered with elegantly designed solutions that failed to take off. Case in point: Square Wallet..
When it comes to digital wallets “…build it and they will come…” simply does not hold true. The challenges of Google Wallet and Visa’s V.me are two more familiar examples. To be clear - I do expect that over time Apple’s mobile wallet will have greater success than Square Wallet, Google Wallet, or V.me. But an elegant user experience won’t be enough to do it. Merchants will determine whether Apple’s mobile wallet lives or dies.
Digital Wallets Require Scale, And Merchants Control The Levers At Checkout
Japanese consumers are among the most mobile-savvy in the world: They were shopping, banking, and gaming on mobile phones long before consumers in other nations. The Japanese mobile ecosystem used to be unique; telecom operators specified to Japanese handset manufacturers the design of services to implement on multimedia phones. This is changing in an app world.
Indeed, the mobile market is opening up quickly to the smartphone app ecosystem. While Japan is a mobile-centric society, smartphone adoption has lagged behind other major markets. Many international brands launched their first mCommerce initiatives in Japan several years ago, but the market subsequently disappeared from the innovation radar due to the US-centric smartphone app ecosystem. But this is changing. It is time to take another look at Japan to uncover how the nation is combining innovation and scale as its market embraces smartphone apps.
More than a decade ago, I had the opportunity to work with NTT DoCoMo to introduce i-mode — the mobile multimedia service in France. At that time, Japan was clearly two to three years ahead of the rest of the mobile world. The Japanese market — and more specifically, the i-mode business model — is rumored to have inspired Steve Jobs to launch the Apple App Store. After that, Silicon Valley became the new source of innovation and inspiration for mobile marketers. Now that the app ecosystem has come full circle, marketers should again consider mobile marketing in Japan, benefiting from a more open ecosystem to distribute their apps and engage with Japanese customers. I recently spent a full week in Japan, and it is fascinating to see the relationship people have with mobile phones over there.
There are lots of lessons to learn from the likes of Rakuten, Line, Felica, Softbank, or NTT DoCoMo and from a mature ecosystem of mobile contactless and connective-tissue technologies.
At the beginning of the year in our yearly mobile predictions report, my colleague Julie Ask and I made the following call: "mobile will affect more than just your digital operations — it will transform your entire business. 2014 will be the year that companies increase investments to transform their businesses with mobile as a focal point." McDonald’s France is a great example of such a trend.
In France, you can now order a Big Mac anytime, anywhere on your smartphone, tablet, or desktop and pick it up later at any of 1,200 McDonald’s restaurants. But mobile ordering and in-store pick up are just the first steps of a broader and more ambitious strategy: differentiating McDonald’s brand experience and powering a future relationship marketing platform by enabling direct behavioral customer insights. Although it started with a mobile ordering and payment app nationwide, McDonald’s France aims to transform all points of customer engagement by building a platform to extend new services to loyal customers and evolving the entire organization.
Despite a less mature mobile ecosystem and lower mobile usage than in the US, McDonald’s France was the first subsidiary of McDonald’s to launch a mobile ordering offering at scale. Such an ordering service is only at pilot stage in the US. France is McDonald’s second-biggest market after the United States, with €4.35 billion in turnover in 2012. Most other countries had piloted mobile payments so far. With more than 16 million members, McDonald’s Japan mobile couponing and in-store contactless payment services is the only other mobile service for McDonald’s (and the vast majority of brands) that has scaled massively, but it does not yet offer the same value.
A version of this post originally appeared on Re/code.
The rollercoaster ride for Bitcoin enthusiasts continued this week: There was good news from UK regulators, who have taken a relatively progressive stance on virtual currencies, and bad news with the latest heist of 890 Bitcoin (roughly $600,000) and the resulting demise of Flexcoin, a Bitcoin storage service. The breaking news frenzy perhaps reached a new peak with the claim that the real Satoshi Nakamoto has been identified. There’s no doubt that additional revelations are on the horizon when it comes to the first crypto-currency, and with that, the debate about the longevity and usefulness of Bitcoin will continue. In our new report on Bitcoin, we address the following questions:
1. What is Bitcoin?
2. Who are the main players?
3. What headway has Bitcoin made?
4. How viable is Bitcoin as a consumer payment alternative?
5. Should I worry about crypto-currencies like Bitcoin disrupting my business?
6. How can I outsmart crypto-currencies?
Here’s the bottom line: Bitcoin is deeply flawed as an alternative currency or payment method for mainstream consumers. It will, however, be a catalyst for a more efficient global payments system because it demonstrates one way to tackle the many embedded inefficiencies.
Bitcoin Is Not A Viable Payment Alternative For Mainstream Consumers
Ten years ago, Forrester published some research with the slightly awkward title of ‘New Payment Systems’ Survival Guide’. One of our findings was that many successful new payment systems have some kind of ‘must-have’ transaction that encourages customers to go through the hassle of learning how to use a new system in the first place. Good examples of ‘must-have’ transactions include eBay’s auctions for PayPal, travel to work for Transport for London’s Oyster, and online shopping for iDeal.
Ever since, I’ve been seeking the ‘must-have’ transaction that will spark consumer adoption of mobile payments in developed economies. But what if there isn’t one? (And, after 10 years, it’s probably time to admit that there isn’t). The answer is to focus relentlessly on both lowering the barriers to mobile payment by making it as easy as possible for customers to use a new system and to increase the benefits by maximizing the number of ways and places customers can use a system.
2013 will be a pivotal year in consumer payments. It will be marked by an increase in digital disruption by nimble, tech savvy competitors. Payments incumbents will leverage their market power to battle disruptors. We see early evidence of this with MasterCard's new fee structure for “staged” digital wallet providers such as Google Wallet, PayPal and Square, which mask the merchant of record and other transaction details from others downstream in transaction flow. Finally, merchants and consumers will wield their tremendous influence in picking winners and losers as the array of alternative payment options become more abundant, more accessible and begin to deliver greater value to the commerce experience. In my new report out today, titled “Three Disruptive Payment Trends in 2013,” I explore three trends, driven by digital disruption, that will shape the future of consumer payments. I provide an analysis of what each trend means for competitors across the payments ecosystem and provide recommendations for responding to the impending disruption. Here are the key takeaways:
It’s that time of the year: the pilgrimage to the Mobile Mecca, Mobile World Congress (MWC), in Barcelona. This is my 10th pilgrimage in a row and, needless to say, the event has changed tremendously over the past few years – from 3GSM in Cannes to the new venue in Barcelona this year. While CTIA is still very US-centric and CES is still a lot about TVs, MWC is really the only global mobile event with a strong presence of operators and handset manufacturers from all over the world. Every year the show becomes not only more global, but also more open to new categories of players — such as advertisers and developers — willing to make the most of mobile technologies, and more open to connected devices that go far beyond the traditional definition of a mobile phone. Markets are colliding and mobile innovation is at the center of these upheavals. MWC used to be a telecom show focusing mainly on mobile technologies, but the event is now bringing together people from every industry.
In the light of today’s first announcements, here is my take on how to put in perspective the announcements to be made at MWC 2013 in the coming days:
Mobile payments saw continued innovation and competitive disruption throughout 2012, but consumer adoption lagged behind the industry hype. The Forrester Research Mobile Payments Forecast, 2012 To 2017 (US) shows that US consumers will adopt mobile payments at an accelerating rate over the next five years, reaching $90 billion by the end of 2017. Lower barriers to adoption, increased convenience, and early entrants striving for scale will be important drivers of growth.
As the annual retail pilgrimage to the Jacob Javits Center draws to a close, I started wondering if anything has changed since last year. As I met with Forrester’s retail clients during the show, it was clear that this is no longer just a brick-and-mortar show. The retailers I met with had all sent a delegation of cross-functional executives, including the CIO, COO, CMO, SVP of eCommerce, and head of store operations. These leaders are no longer working in organizational silos: they know that they need to find technology solutions that meet the needs of today’s digitally connected customer, not the needs of their legacy channel-centric business units. I was impressed at the way these retailers are embracing and executing on agile commerce.
On the expo floor, the same theme was abundantly clear. NRF has evolved to become a retail commerce show, not just a retail technology show. Joining the incumbent store systems and POS vendors were all the enterprise eCommerce solution providers, order management vendors, system integration firms, and digital agencies. Whereas last year was all about mobile, with hastily developed prototypes and lots of vaporware, this year the expo floor was a place more grounded in reality. Strategic relationships were abundant, with vendors realizing that customers are demanding integrated solution suites that go far beyond the scope of their own product portfolio. As I did my rounds of expo floor booth visits, executive briefings, and product demos, here’s what I found:
This week, the National Retail Federation (NRF) held its 102nd Annual Convention and EXPO —Retail's Big Show 2013. Attendees gathered from around the world to demo products and services and exchange ideas about the future of retail, including mobile payments. Mobile payments have captured the attention and imagination of industry insiders, venture capital investors, and innovators. Although retailer investment and consumer adoption have been nascent to date, we see that changing. Forrester forecasts that US mobile payments will reach $90B in 2017, a 48% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from the $12.8B spent in 2012.
In my new report out today, titled “US Mobile Payments Forecast, 2013 To 2017”, I outline the growth drivers and inhibitors for the three mobile payments categories: mobile proximity, or in-store payments; mobile peer-to-peer (P2P) and remittances; and mobile remote commerce, or mCommerce. Here are the key takeaways:
Mobile payments adoption will be fueled by unprecedented growth in proximity payments. Mobile proximity payments are currently the smallest category within mobile payments, but we expect it to be the fastest growing. Proximity payments will reach $41B, making up nearly half of all mobile payments in 2017. Lower barriers to adoption, increased convenience, and early entrants striving for scale will be important drivers of growth.