A version of this post originally appeared on Re/code.
The roller coaster 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 a Flexcoin, a Bitcoin storage service. As the breaking news frenzy continues, so does the debate about the longevity and usefulness of Bitcoin. 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.
I attended a briefing from Visa Europe yesterday, about its V.me digital wallet. Here’s what Visa said:
V.me is more than a mobile digital wallet. Customers will be able to use V.me to make online payments too. It lets users check out at online stores using a one-click solution that remembers card details from multiple providers (including MasterCard and American Express cards) as well as billing details and postal addresses.
V.me is not just about mobile contactless payments. V.me will support a variety of ways to initiate payments including bar codes and QR codes, as well as NFC.
Visa intends to distribute V.me through its member banks, much as Visa cards are distributed today. BBVA will be the first issuer in Spain.
V.me is already in extended pilots in the UK and Spain to test the system and will launch formally in both countries soon. France will be next. V.me will start rolling out into stores in the UK next spring. Officially V.me will be available in France, Spain and the UK by next summer. (Visa Inc has already launched V.me in the US).
This is a guest post from Myriam Da Costa, a researcher serving eBusiness & Channel Strategy professionals.
France has been quick to embrace mobile banking. Banks like BNP Paribas and Société Générale were among the pioneers of mobile banking in Europe and since 2009, all of the big French banks have launched iPhone mobile banking apps, so most French banks now offer several forms of mobile banking. The first wave of mobile banking was about getting the basics down and offering customers functionality like balances, transaction histories and SMS alerts. The second wave now focuses on money transfers and payments.
As we wrote in our report on The State Of Mobile Banking In Europe 2012, mobile banking is the foundation for mobile payments. France's banks and mobile operators are moving fast to seize the opportunity. In the past two years there has been a wave of new mobile payment initiatives in France: Buyster, Cityzi, Kwixo, Kix and S-money.
Today’s announced partnership between the West Coast innovators Square and Starbucks represents a significant milestone in the advancement of mobile payment and digital wallets. Here’s why:
New entrant scale. The Pay With Square digital wallet has suddenly catapulted from a respectable new entrant in mobile payments, driving adoption within the long-tail of retail, to soon being present in every Starbucks, and in NYC, that’s just about every other block. Starbucks, the leader of in-store mobile payments, says that 1 million people per week use its mobile payment app to pay in-store. Its existing mobile payment customers will now be Square’s customers, giving Square an immediate boost in the number of locations and consumers it reaches within the market.
Accelerated adoption. As with the Starbucks app, consumers have only to download the Pay With Square wallet and load their funding source in order to use it. But unlike the existing Starbucks app, the Square digital wallet works with other merchants. According to Square, merchant acceptance is very quick and no-to-low cost, and Square promotes its participating merchants to users of the wallet. I think this set of factors will motivate other merchants — both large and small — to use this as an opportunity to trial mobile payments in their stores. Today’s announcement is unclear about whether the initial implementation will have Starbucks embedded in the Pay With Square wallet, but at a minimum, this deal gives Square broader visibility and awareness and the opportunity to earn the confidence of new customers with its digital wallet, which will drive broader adoption overall.