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February 13, 2017

The Five-Star That Flops

For the most rabid college football fans, a major day just occurred—National Signing Day, the day when high school seniors sign scholarship papers to attend their colleges of choice. Not only have these seniors been evaluated by coaches, but also entire websites are devoted to their evaluation and ranking using a star-based system, with a five-star player being a top-rated, can't-miss player. Traditionally, much fanfare accompanies these players, and media and fans shower them with attention. Many times, these five-star players go on to accomplish great things at their respective schools, but sometimes they are "busts," failing to live up to lofty expectations and making minimal or no impact for their team. Unfortunately, my college team has had its fair share of five-star busts. Because of being let down, I no longer get caught up in recruiting rankings and I don't fret about the big recruit that got away. And in 2017, this is my new attitude when it comes to mobile payments at the point of sale, or POS.

I've been in the payments industry for a decade, and for over half of that time, I've been hearing and reading how mobile payments are going to change the POS experience. I've heard major announcements about new mobile payment wallets, from Apple Pay to Samsung Pay, and platforms, such as LevelUp, time and time again. I have overheard conversations with contemporaries and colleagues about the latest and greatest mobile solution that will forever change my experience at the POS.

But in 2017, I am not hearing any of this anymore because I am tuning it out. Oh, I am sure that I could attend a conference this year and within the first hour, someone would state that 2017 is the year of mobile payments. But after hearing about the next great mobile wallet or that this wallet will finally bring mobile payments to scale repeatedly, year after year (you get my tone by now), I am no longer getting caught up in the hype around using my phone instead of a card at the POS.

However, I will continue to get excited about mobile commerce opportunities. With more and more people shopping on their mobile phones and tablets, apps and in-browser platforms are making that experience so much better. When picking up a coffee on my way to the office or grabbing a chicken sandwich for lunch after ordering ahead on my mobile phone, I always wonder to myself, why are all those people standing in line? (I am a bit worried, and apparently rightfully so, that as more people use order-ahead features, that pick-up line might grow to be worse than the traditional ordering line.) During the Christmas season, I purchased many gifts on my mobile phone, and that experience was almost always simple and seamless—unlike in years past, when it was a bit cumbersome.

Using my phone to order ahead or shop online has truly simplified my life, unlike using my phone as a replacement to a card at the POS. With so much hype around mobile at the POS, I believe that many people only relate mobile payments to this use case, but it is so much broader. And I believe the mobile commerce piece is akin to the unheralded two-star recruit who goes on to lead his team to the national championship. What do you think 2017 entails for mobile and its place in payments and commerce?

Photo of Douglas King By Douglas A. King, payments risk expert in the Retail Payments Risk Forum at the Atlanta Fed

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