Do consumers even want mobile payments?

Alex Walls
May 22, 2013

Do consumers even want the option of mobile payments, or should the entire proposition be scrapped?

At Marketforce’s the Future of Mobile Payments conference, a member of the audience asked a panel of people involved in mobile payment from the retailers’ perspective whether it would be better for consumers to forget about mobile payments, given that it would take investment, hassle and could confuse the consumer, and whether there was, in actual fact, retailer resistance to mobile payment take up.

Tesco Bank director of business development and innovations Rafaele Petruzzo said there was resistance in customer adoption.

“As a retailer you’re not going to put any barriers to your customer actually coming into your stores and doing their business. So long story short from our perspective, we’re not going to dictate any mechanism versus the other – as soon as it makes commercial sense to an extent for us and equally though makes it easier for the customer to interact with us.  It’s all about choice from the retailer point of view.”

AIMIA vice president for global digital strategy Martin Hayward said consumers wanted mobile payments in coffee shops but in other elements, people were not crying out for it.

“They can’t yet see how it’s going to make life easier than whipping out a card and pressing it against a reader.”

A member of the audience interjected that this was a narrow definition of ‘mobile payments’ and that merchants were anxious that mobile usage changed their value proposition, with customers searching online to find the lowest price from Amazon or Tesco, behaviour which the merchant couldn’t control.  This willingness to embrace connection with the outside world through smaller devices was what needed to be looked into, he said.

The Futures Company director of strategic futures Andrew Curry agreed, saying it depended how narrowly one wanted to define mobile.  NFC was perhaps one of the bridge technologies which would die away, he said.

“Clearly some consumers do want to use mobile and not necessarily just in coffee shops.”

Transport for London’s mobile payment initiative was an example, he said, which everyone had complied with because it made no sense not to.  The way to escape the race to the bottom on price was to reconstruct value propositions by using information constructively in the way the merchants were sharing with the consumer.

“Consumers will go to mobile payments…because it’s easy and convenient or there’s some benefit attached to it and retailers and service deliverers will have to follow, and they’ll have to follow in a way that doesn’t just lead them into a race to the bottom on price.”


Payments Council chief executive Adrian Kamellard said the traction of mobile in a ‘bricks and mortar’ store was avoiding the queue.

“When you go to IKEA and you’ve got 20 to 30 people ahead of you, it’s daunting and it takes a lot of time, and I’ve never been able to master catching the waiter’s eye, as I sit there gormlessly, desperate to pay and leave and I can’t, so mobile payments will save that problem for me.”

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