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Reader Forum: Further customer knowledge and loyalty with mobile payments

Editor’s Note: Welcome to our weekly Reader Forum section. In an attempt to broaden our interaction with our readers we have created this forum for those with something meaningful to say to the wireless industry. We want to keep this as open as possible, but we maintain some editorial control to keep it free of commercials or attacks. Please send along submissions for this section to our editors at: dmeyer@rcrwireless.com.

With all the current momentum in the mobile payments space it seems hard for merchants to be able to decide what, if anything, they should utilize now to enhance their business. However, it is a critical time for merchants to think about how they can capitalize on mobile payments beyond just offering up another payment option at the point of sale and use mobile payments as a way to bolster customer knowledge and loyalty.

There are many different mobile payment options for merchants to choose from, such as NFC, wallets, dongles and more.

–Verifone expects their mobile payments annual run rate to exceed $10 billion.

–Square reported processing $11 million in payments per day via mobile.

–Google Wallet has announced that 22 of the largest U.S. retail chains support its initiative, which enables consumers to make purchases by tapping their Android smartphone at 300,000-plus MasterCard PayPass-enabled merchant terminals.

–Home Depot has decided to bring PayPal’s POS technology to nearly all of its 2,000 stores in the United States.

Not only can the array of options be confusing for merchants, but new options continue to crop up that are also gaining immediate popularity. For example:

–In the first 24 hours of availability, PayPal Here was signing up more than 1,000 businesses per hour.

–The Geode raised $190,000 and sold 1,200-plus units in just five days following their launch.

–Starting this summer, the Isis mobile wallet will be available to more than 100 million U.S. card holders.

Capitalize on mobile

What merchants don’t need is yet another POS option that runs transactions through a third-party system, leaving them with a list of nameless transactions at the end of the day. What merchants should capitalize on as part of this mobile shift is a way to further their knowledge and relationships with their customers. Getting to know customers, their purchasing habits and being able to communicate directly with them based on known profile data is an absolute critical component to a merchant’s ongoing success.

There are already some great examples of merchants taking matters into their own hands:

–The Starbucks app has been an overwhelming success and enables direct knowledge of and communication with customers. Starbucks says that last year more than 26 million in-store transactions were paid on mobile phones.

–Eventbrite, who manufactured its own swiper, said they decided to release a proprietary reader instead of working with an existing mobile payments company because third-party payments companies do not make available the data they capture about the people who are buying those tickets at the door.

–Alliance Data offers a service for retailers to enable customers to sign up for a store’s private-label credit card and make purchases from a store’s mobile app. They recognized that enabling merchants to maintain control of their customer base is critical.

–There is also an initiative including Target, Walmart and two dozen other retailers who are working together on their own mobile payments system. They are not only hoping to get a piece of this large market, but to get to know their customers better and build loyalty.

Payment options don’t change very often, so now is an important time for businesses of all sizes to push for solutions that enable them to build on their direct knowledge and relationship with consumers. Since the act of swiping a credit card is not inconvenient for a consumer, merchants can play a leading role in the type of technology that wins the mobile payments wars. Merchants should not settle for solutions that leave them in the dark when it comes to customer knowledge, but should rather seek out and influence solutions to provide them with better insight and the ability to actively foster ongoing loyalty with their customer base.

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