Internet of Things, Part 1

Mobile payment just the beginning of device connectivity

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

ATLANTA -- As c-store retailers continue to explore the potential of mobile opportunities within their businesses, viewpoints emerge from different places within the larger mobile ecosystem. In the first of a two-part question-and-answer session, Eric Barfield, director of product strategy for payments processor WorldPay US Inc., speaks to the larger direction mobile technology is taking within the retail landscape.

Q: What do you make of the evolving mobile-wallet space?

A: As new technology enters the retail and consumer space, it creates opportunities to engage customers in ways that were undreamt of even a few years ago.

For instance, the ability to directly market to consumers through mobile devices, proximity driven advertising, being able to target specific geographic areas (such as a specific ZIP code) with specific coupons or offers. Imagine being able to immediately respond or take advantage of that offer and making the purchase on your smart phone. Mobile wallets provide yet another powerful point of interaction with customers or prospects.

But the term "mobile wallet" encompasses a lot of things. It is just one of a series of trends breaking into mobile, not all of which directly involve payments. It's tempting to think of payments as a standalone product, but the lines are blurred depending on the product that you look at in the space. 

Q: Do you see any shakeout among major players soon?

A: The migration toward mobile is one of the biggest fundamental paradigm shifts in payments taking place in a generation. As a payments vehicle, mobile has developed more quickly--and continues to evolve--than anything I've ever seen. That said, a shakeout is likely to be a series of ongoing changes rather than any single event. It is highly likely that years from now we will be able to point to 2013 or 2014 as a major step in the evolution of payment space as it adapts to mobile. The nature of mobile app development makes it extraordinarily easy, from multi-billion dollar tech companies to start ups based in a garage, to provide unique interaction points in the consumer electronics space. The emergence of a development or functionality that propels a particular aspect of mobile payments can come from just about anywhere. … And it's that ideation that helps make this one of the most exciting times to be part of the payments space. It's not just the one with the most money that wins; it's any person (or company) with the best idea.

Q: How would you describe the "stage" we're in?

A: As much as mobile has emerged as a payment preference in the last couple of years, we are still relatively at the starting line in terms of where the technology will go. What makes this race interesting is that the tracks veer off in a dozen different directions, each with a different finish line, and the first horse that crosses the line (or lines) doesn't necessarily win.

In the U.S. payment space, we're all rapidly moving toward chip on plastic, chip on phone, phone to cloud, POS [point-of-sale] to app, and POS to cloud–and that's just some of the paths in play. Add into the mix couponing, loyalty, advertising and specifically gearing offers around consumer data entering into the equation from various directions, and frequently with different intent. On the surface, you might point to each of these as distinct, but the fact is, they continually cross paths–particularly in the mobile space.

Moreover, the internet of things has only just begun. Today, we can easily see a piece of plastic in our wallets as well as an expanding set of mobile and digital payments options. These only began to evolve into digital as Ecommerce took off in '95, accelerated with the smart phone, and is currently trending toward accelerating in even more directions as other pieces of the consumer world tie into the world of connected devices. The internet of things involves more than just the mobile devices we perceive today. We are heading toward a connected world that has more devices than just your phone, tablet and PC. For instance, cars, air conditioners and even blenders will be connected and processing data in ways we don't currently see. When your electric meter begins running transactions to automatically process your bill, you have entered yet another world of payments. That's the world that started when TCP/IP took off as a standard interface for communications, and is only getting bigger. To say that another way–no matter where you are in the continuum, you are always at the beginning of something bigger.

Q: Tell us a little about WorldPay.

A: We're based in Atlanta but operate in 40 countries, processing millions of transactions every day. We work with 500,000 businesses worldwide and 150,000 here in the United States. Our payment-processing services allow retailers to accept a range of payment types, including Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, debit and gift cards to loyalty cards, checks, electronic benefits transfer (EBT) and ACH (direct debit).

As a way to continue the discussion of mobile and its vast potential within c-store retail, CSP editor Angel Abcede has initiated both a blog and a series of ongoing CSP Daily News articles to cover everything from payment to marketing, internal operations to loyalty. For past blog entries, click here.

Angel Abcede, CSP/Winsight By Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP
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