RBTE 2015: Mobile payments dominate conference

Across the two days of conference presentations on consumer payments at London Olympia for last week's RBTE there was one topic that dominated most speeches and questions from the audience: mobile payments.

Mobile was no longer being discussed as a potential disrupting technology but instead as something consumers are demanding now, and so retailers were encouraged to increase their investment levels and speed up adoption timelines.

As RBTE conference chairman for the payments stream, I thought I'd share some of the key discussions that took place.

Robert Teagle, EMEA IT director for Starbucks, highlighted how the combination of loyalty and payments makes for a powerful customer proposition and one that is already delivering significant revenue for his business. He explained the evolution Starbucks has taken and highlighted the continual improvements they have made to their mobile app and customer experience.

PayPal's director of mobile commerce Robert Harper talked about the digital payments revolution currently underway. He highlighted research findings from a project undertaken with Ipsos, including that over 60% of consumers who suffered a poor mobile experience were less likely to purchase from another channel of the same retailer. He concluded with a prediction from PayPal that: "In the next three to five years, we are going to see more change in the financial services industry than we have seen in the last 20 to 30 years."   

In the future of payments panel discussion Paul Thomalla, senior vice president and managing director EMEA at ACI Worldwide, gave a vote of confidence for new payment options that utilise the UK's faster payments infrastructure rails such as Zapp. Peter Keenan, CEO of Zapp, updated delegates on how consumers will soon be able to pay simply, direct from their bank accounts. He explained how, with Zapp, shoppers will be able to see their account balance before confirming a purchase. John Lewis IT development manager Tim Linsell shared the positive experiences from his company's trial of in-store tablets. He also confirmed the growing usage and significance of mobile at peak trading times such as Black Friday and Christmas. Thomalla encouraged everyone to focus on the consumer and their mobile payments experience rather than getting hung up on mCommerce per se.

The alternative payments panel session covered a variety of topics including the potential for Bitcoin, but once again mobile occupied most of the time and questions. Mike Everton, IT foundation project manager at Marks & Spencer, and Simon Curtis, head of strategic & retail at WorldPay, highlighted the success his they are both having with contactless cards acceptance and how the faster transaction times are improving the customer experience. They explained how high value contactless transactions will soon become more popular with the cardholder, who provides positive authentication by entering a passcode on their smartphone. This panel discussion reinforced the need to offer a wide choice of payment options in order to address customer preferences and never lose a sale.

Transport for London's (TfL) Peter Lewis talked about the success his organisation is having in accepting bank issued contactless payment cards across their transport network. He explained the reasons why TfL is moving from its highly popular proprietary Oyster scheme.

And how could we have two days of payments discussions without ApplePay being raised? Well, we didn't.

The most common point made was how Apple's adoption of NFC technology had ended the debate about the infrastructure retailers must now roll out across their store networks. ApplePay should help accelerate NFC readers at the point of sale and that this will benefit contactless acceptance, the introduction of mobile wallets and new payment systems such as Zapp. 

Mark McMurtrie is an independent consultant focused on consumer payments and technologies. He provides a range of advisory services for retailers through his company Payments Consultancy.

Click below for more information:

Payments Consultancy Ltd