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Retailers preparing for mobile payment technologies

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According to an April 2013 Convenience Store News (CSN) article, one topic dominated the discussion at the 2013 CIO/Tech Summit held in Chicago: mobile payment. Owners, executers, and supply chain consultants attending the technology forum are bracing for a world in which smart devices will increasingly replace cash, personal checks, and credit cards.

Several store retailers were represented including Flash Foods Inc., The Parker Cos., Road Ranger LLC, QuikTrip Corp., QuickChek Corp., KwikTrip Inc., Alon Brands, Love’s Travel Stops and Country Stores, and The Pantry Inc. According to CSN, most attendees believe that mobile payment technologies will be inevitable in the future at their stores.

However, such technologies are likely to have implications beyond payment solutions at the retail level (whether at a convenience store, shopping mall, or restaurant). In the future, such capabilities could be upgraded to enable customers to verify identity, exchange car insurance information at accident sites, or provide digital signatures at hospitals.

Retailers are bullish on mobile payment solutions which has several advantages:

  • Ease of use for customers
  • Identity verification, fraud prevention, and authorization
  • Potential for faster transaction times, which leads to a higher turnover in sales
  • Shorter lines at the cashier, including multiple, automated checkout lines
  • Cost savings on credit card fees and bank charges
  • Cost savings on interchange fees

One CIO/Tech Summit participant said that mobile payments are a “one-time opportunity to change”. However, a few traditionalists contested the idea that mobile devices are simpler than the standard point-of-sale (POS) machines currently in use. It’s not clear how much revenue is lost due to consumers leaving their cash at home, or due to a lack of desire to pay high transactional fees (such as paying up to $3 or $5 to withdraw cash from ATMs).

Some mobile payment businesses are seeing explosive growth. Payvia, led by mobile veteran Erdolo Eromo, saw its 2012 revenues increase by 400 percent. Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, a 26-year-old billionaire, was profiled on CBS's "60 Minutes." His new venture Square allows consumers to pay stores by attaching a small gadget on their smart devices such as an iPhone. Founded just three years ago, Dorsey’s business is now valued at more than $3.2 billion with nearly 200 employees based in San Francisco, according to Business Insider.

According to a recent study conducted by CSN, only 2.1 percent of convenience store retailers currently offer mobile wallet payment options. It added that “32 percent of all respondents plan to add mobile wallet payment capability in the next one to three years. That figure is even higher among 50-plus-store outlets, of which 46 percent expect to add mobile payment technology in the next one to three years.”

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