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Will Retailers Own Mobile Payments in the U.S.?

Over 3 million per week: that’s how many mobile payment transactions Starbucks processes in the U.S late march when the company had its annual shareholders meeting. Mobile now accounts for around 10 percent of Starbucks’ total transactions in the country. For those sceptics, this week they reported it has grown to nearly 4 million.

For the sceptics though we haven’t seen impressive adoption numbers from the Isis pilots in Salt Lake City and Austin and Google Wallet isn’t getting a lot of traction. So, will it be retailers that make mobile payments take off on a large scale in the U.S.? They already own the relationship with their customers, and many are seeing the opportunities mobile brings to their business outside of payments.

Back to Starbucks for a moment: the coffee franchise got in on the game early, in January 2011, when it became the first global retailer to offer its
own mobile payment technology—combined with its loyalty program. Shouldn’t ignore that loyalty aspect: the company also reported last month that new mobile app users say the ease of tracking loyalty points is a major reason they use it.

Mobile has made consumers more informed and demanding. And while retailers may initially look to mobile apps as a way to respond to ‘showrooming’
(browsing brick-and-mortar stores before buying online for less), there’s so much more potential.

Mobile gives retailers a direct, two-way communication connection to their customers. It can both deliver a 1:1 experience via consumers’ devices and an enhanced online + offline experience via mobile-equipped, in-store associates. Retailers don’t need to wait for banks or operators or anyone else. They can provide loyalty, couponing, location-based offers, payments and a better all-around, multi-channel experience to directly their customers. No middlemen. And maybe that’s what the future of mobile payments looks like.

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