Report from NRF: The Mobile Landscape 

Jan. 17, 2013

On the second day of the largest annual gathering of retailers in the U.S., mobile payments had its moment on stage (though, according to panel moderator Andrew Morris, principal of inCode Consulting, the panel was a late addition after conference organizers realized the agenda lacked a mobile payments session). Representatives of several competing technologies engaged in a sometimes spirited debate on the merits of the various technologies enabling mobile payments at the point of sale.

While Morris tried to restrict conversation to payments at the POS and how the competing technologies might address it, Jim Stapleton, chief sales officer at carrier-backed mobile payments JV Isis, said it’s not possible to separate payments from the other retail functions evolving on the mobile device: offers and loyalty.

“The value we’re delivering to the consumers is broader than payment,” said Stapleton. “It’s a cocktail of offers, loyalty cards and payment cards loaded into your wallet (and, by the way, an insatiable appetite for more credentials to the point where consumers consider all of the things currently in their purses and wallets and wanting all of that in their phone).”

Stapleton said the value proposition for mobile wallets is to take the friction out of all the non-payment functions while enabling payment—the only ingredient in the cocktail that has “a 100 percent use case” at the POS. 

Isis, of course, is betting on NFC technology to enable its wallet. PayPal’s Don Kingsborough, the company’s vice president of retail and prepaid products, seemed to scoff at the notion (perhaps in solidarity with recent remarks from PayPal’s president, David Marcus ) that consumers will choose only the contactless technology for mobile transactions.

“If tapping is a solution, we think you need a new strategy,” said Kingsborough. “The consumer has decided they don’t have to simply go to the store and buy something or get on the computer and buy something. They’re going to do it when they want to do it on whatever device they want to do it with. And, they want to do it in their time. And all the rest of us are catching up.”

Kingsborough said PayPal’s strategy of putting the wallet in the cloud and letting the consumer decide how to access that payment method or coupon or loyalty card should be the standard.