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NFC transactions to remain low through 2015: study

May 30, 2012

Retailers expected to try to repeat Starbucks' mobile payments success

The Starbucks Android app

While mobile payments are growing at a fast rate and will surpass $171.5 billion in transaction values this year, NFC transactions are expected to remain relatively low through 2015, according to a new report from Gartner.

Not only are mobile payment transaction values on the rise – growing 61.9 percent over last year’s values – but the number of mobile payment users is also growing. In the report, “Forecast: Mobile Payment, Worldwide, 2009-2016,” Gartner predicts that the number of mobile payment users will reach 212.2 million in 2012, up from 160.5 million last year.

“Mobile phones are carried more-religiously than a wallet or purse,” said Wilson Kerr, vice president of business development and sales at Unbound Commerce Inc., Boston. “It makes sense to use a connected device to transact, but this comes with a big user behavior change hurdle.

“With so many players chasing the transactional percentage pot of gold, it is inevitable that mobile payment transactions will grow, but it will likely be a slower adoption curve than predicted, as consumer security fears will offset wild growth predictions,” he said.

“Mobile payments are going to be slow and NFC for payment might be slow, but I believe NFC in general – as a trigger for web access to a specific deep link – will accelerate extremely rapidly.”

Mr. Kerr is not affiliated with Gartner and spoke based on his experience in mobile payments.

Gartner did not respond to a request for comment by the press deadline.

Fragmentation to continue
Between 2011 and 2016, Gartner expects mobile transaction volume and value to average 42 percent annual growth worldwide. As a result, by 2016 global mobile payment transaction values  will be reach $617 million and the number of users will top 448 million.

Only a few global players will have the scale and resources to serve large customers and the mass market. At the same time, different access technologies, business models and partners as well as different regulatory conditions should cause mobile payments services and solutions to be fragmented for the next two years.

Under these circumstances, Gartner predicts there will be opportunities for service and solution providers to offer customized offerings tailored to local market needs.  

This is already apparent in the United States, where near field communications-based mobile payments solutions from Google and Isis are competing with cloud-based solutions such as PayPal as well as other business models.


The eBay iPhone app.

Web/WAP is the preferred access technology in North America and Western Europe, where mobile Internet is commonly available and will account for about 88 percent of total transactions in North America and about 80 percent in Western Europe by 2016.

NFC adoption for mobile payments is expected to remain low because NFC requires a change in user behavior. The technology also requires the various stakeholders, including banks, mobile carriers, card networks and merchants, to collaborate, something that takes time to develop.

Gartner expects mobile ticketing will be the primary driver for NFC transactions until retail payments begin to pick up in 2016.

“Mobile commerce is red hot and nearly every retailer is launching a mobile optimized site. A relative few, on the other hand, are pushing hard on mobile payments at checkout,” Mr. Kerr said. “PayPal is making waves by partnering with retailers like JC Penney to seize the momentum high ground, but mobile payments will take many years to become faster and better than using a credit card.”

Retailers will emulate Starbuck
Online e-commerce purchases as well as in-store purchases are expected to drive mobile payment transactions in North America and Western Europe.

Already, major retailers such as Amazon and eBay have developed strong mobile storefronts and have seen significant growth from the mobile channel.

For in-store purchases, Starbucks’ mobile app has been successful and is being rolled out more broadly.

Gartner expects a large number of merchants to introduce their own mobile payment services in response to Starbucks’ success.

By region, Asia/Pacific and Africa together will account for more than 60 percent of global mobile payments volume in 2016 while North America will be the third-largest region by value in 2016.

“Large retailers who transact in small dollar amounts will lead the way,” Mr. Kerr said. “Starbucks is the best example.

“They are the gold-standard in the mobile transaction space, and they have done this is short order by leveraging their popular payment cards into mobile,” he said.

“Smart merchants will roll current prepaid card programs into mobile apps or sites, versus making the mistake of thinking that consumers want to cut up their credit cards right away. They don’t.”

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