Peter Guidi's Blog

Posts Tagged ‘mcx’

“Contractual conflict”; Apple Pay and MCX, the new front in the mobile payments war.

In ACH decoupled debit, alternative payment, merchants, mobile payment, payment, Platforms, Retail Payment, Uncategorized on November 3, 2014 at 8:38 am

A few years ago, while at one of the major POS annual user conferences, I had the opportunity to socialize with one of the initial members to MCX. At the time, I was with PayPal and mobile payments was more of an idea than a technology. MCX had just been announced and I was learning about the “hush hush, MCX Exclusivity” requirements. I was floored. How could that be good for either the merchant or the consumer? His answer; “They really did not care if MCX ever conducted a single transaction. If allowing Visa/MC into the mobile wallet forced lower overall fees (read cards as well) then MCX would have done its job”. When asked about how profitable CurrentC would be, Lee Scott, former CEO of Walmart said, “I don’t know that it will, and I don’t care. As long as Visa suffers”. It never seemed like much of a business plan to me.

It was all such a secret. I can’t count the number of times I heard; “The first rule of MCX is; you don’t talk about MCX”. Well, judging from the news, things appear not to have worked as planned. The veil was lifted on the MCX story when Rite Aid and CVS Health pushed aside Apple Pay and in doing so revealed a new wrinkle in the mobile payment war, contractual conflict. The notion that an exclusive MCX mobile payment solution might be a lever to force card acceptance fees down seems to have reached its apex. Are retailers willing to say no to Apple Pay? The consumer is caught in the middle.

One of the ingredients in the MCX secret sauce is the idea that retailers will adhere to an exclusive arrangement thus locking out competing payments systems in the mobile channel. As Karen Webster speculates in her 10/27 blog, MCX is likely to have told both Rite Aid and CVS “You simply can’t do it. And, the fact of the matter is that you’ve been caught two-timing with Apple Pay, and that’s clearly a violation of your contract with us.” In doing so MCX is leveraging its big stick, not its economics, product features, or consumer demand, but the strength of its legal teams and the adverse contract its members have signed. “This act by CVS and Rite Aid heralds the advent of the imminent battle in the mobile payment system,” said Anindya Ghose, a marketing and information-technology professor at New York University. Now that lines have been drawn, we will learn if MCX can drive the cost of payment down, or will its own member retailers instead chose to provide their consumers with choice. Call the lawyers.

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The Battle of the Titans continues as NACS squares off with the ETA over mobile payment.

In Convenience Store, merchants, mobile payment, Retail Payment on October 30, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Greek Mythology and the payments industry seem to have a lot in common. There’s something similar about CVS and Rite Aids decision not to accept Apple Pay that reminds me of when “Cronus attacked Uranus, and, with the sickle cut off his”…..well, you get the point.

There has been a lot of noise about mobile payment over the last few years. Confusion about technology and economics clouds the issues. Now, in the same tradition of Durbin (legislation) and Brooklyn (litigation), banks and retailers are setting the stage for another battle over mobile payment. The new issue is; does Apple Pay, Softcard and other NFC based solutions simply enable the traditional payment providers (read fees), or is MCX just an anti-competitive alliance of retailers created for no other reason to leverage the emerging consumer acceptance of mobile payment systems to drive the cost of payments down? In the middle is the consumer who simply wants convenience and choice.

The Apple Pay launch opened the latest salvo in the fee/service war. The Electronic Transactions Association is saying that the decision by CVS and Rite Aid to block mobile payments services like Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and Softcard is “anti-consumer and anti-competitive”. NACS, apparently in support of the Retailers MCX relationship is saying that Apple Pay essentially allows “Visa/MasterCard monopoly into mobile payments”. saying “Those two dominant credit card networks have faced a lengthy series of antitrust actions from the U.S. Department of Justice and merchants over the years due to their anticompetitive conduct. Now, they are working feverishly to require merchants to accept their preferred technology, near-field communications (NFC), so that they can extend their dominance into the future.” How supporting MCX, a program that requires exclusivity within the mobile payment channel, even the exclusion of non-VISA/Mastercard 3rd parties is not Anti-Competitive is a bit of a mystery.

Let’s be clear, MCX could allow either Visa or Mastercard into the CurrentC wallet, it’s a business decision, not a technology issue. Apple was clever enough to shift costs (at least for now) to the issuer, rather than the merchant. This opened the door to many merchants avoiding the interchange conversation. Why many merchants have chosen not to join MCX might have something to do with membership fees, product availability, or perhaps that it is an ACH program rather than a new low cost 4th network. After all, there are many ACH providers, why spend a lot of money joining a coalition only to pay a high membership fee for a product that is already available from other providers?

The reason the industry is lining up to fight over the CVS & Rite Aid decision is because this is another skirmish in a multi-year battle over the fees retailers pay, or banks earn, when consumers make a payment. For retailers simply wanting mobile payment at low cost, the program is available today. Retailers can compete with banks for consumer’s method of payment, that’s the “Competitors Code”. The point is, Retailers don’t need legislation or litigation to drive fees down, competition will do the job. If CVS and Rite Aid don’t want to accept Apple Pay, so be it. On the other hand, how does a restrictive exclusive contract with MCX serve the consumer?

Big Data and Mobile Payments: Three priorities.

In Uncategorized on March 28, 2013 at 9:11 am

The three high-level goals of a Big Data program are:

  1. Collect information: The objective is to collect information that deepens the understanding of customer’s plans, intentions and behavior so the organization has a basis for decision and action. The first step is to collect and save all of the digital breadcrumbs. The challenge is, since we can’t understand consumer behavior that we don’t have, we need to collect everything. Since it’s impossible to know the future value of data we must hang on to it for a very long time.
  2. Conduct Analysis: Big Data really means Big Data Analytics. The challenge is to find relevance in an ocean of information. There are multiple trends occurring within the consumer base, some evolve quickly, some play out more slowly. The goal of analysis is to provide insight and opportunity to the decision makers managing the business.
  3. Take action: More tactically, it is what you do with the information that counts. The key to Big Data and mobile payments is the dialogue that occurs between the consumer’s mobile application and the POS during the purchase cycle. The objective of action is to promote more profitable consumer purchasing behavior.

The success of mobile payments begins with transactions. Transactions are a result of consumer enrollment and adoption. Enrollment and adoption require constant visibility and consumer incentives, in ways similar to advertising typical of the current payments paradigm. The difference is that Retailers rather than Financial Institutions are promoting the method of payment. The key to ROI is engaging consumers and creating demand using Big Data solutions during the purchase cycle. This is the connection between BIG Data, mobile payments and the POS.  Access to Big Data during the purchase cycle requires an integration that is tightly coupled to the POS at the transaction services layer.

The retailer controls payments in the mobile environment. Retailers are being very careful about who they allow into the wallet…MCX is an outgrowth of this concern. Retailers are concerned that the current card fee structure will become the standard in mobile payments. Retailers are asking, “How do mobile payments make me money or even justify the infrastructure investment”. While the current focus on mobile payments are POS enablement and transaction fees, tomorrow the focus will be driving new business through consumer engagement. Big Data is the backbone of demand generation and the POS controls how Big Data solutions are enabled.

Smart phone technology changed the expectations of consumers, merchants and eco-system partners. The smart phone has also changed the way consumers do business; integrated mobile payments at the POS is the last frontier.