Karen Webster

What Payments Will Look Like In 2015

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Last week I laid out the 10 things that happened in 2014 that I believe will shape the direction of payments for the next decade. Those 10 things range from the breach at Target, which galvanized the once -fractured merchant community in the U.S. around EMV, to the launch of Apple Pay, which was the mobile payments wake-up call heard ’round the payments ecosystem. If you missed that 15 page opus, there’s good news. That’s nothing that a stiff glass of eggnog, a comfy chair and a click thru to this link can’t fix.

But, “so what,” you might say. There are lots of things that will change the future of payments and you just picked ten of them – but tell me how things will change and for whom. No problem. Here in Part Two of my three part series on The Next Decade In Payments is my take on how those 10 things will influence the road that these 8 key stakeholders in payments may travel in the coming years.

1. Merchants – The Road To Incremental Revenue

Without a doubt, merchants will be focused over the next decade on how what they do and with whom they do it can deliver incremental revenue. With foot traffic down in physical stores and a corresponding uptick in online commerce as well as in the costs to serve those online consumers, merchants are all about making decisions now about the apps and technology and innovation that can help them sell more stuff to new or existing customers now and in the future.

And, you can see evidence of that by the investments that they have made or say they will make in 2015.

For instance, 93 percent of merchants say they are investing in mobile apps, and 74 percent of those merchants say they will invest in apps that enhance the consumer’s shopping journey in some way – offers, exclusive experiences and recommendations. More than half say that beacons are in their future and as many are exploring online ordering and pick up in store options that make it efficient for consumers to interact with them. Still others are experimenting with dynamic pricing in the hopes of moving merchandise more quickly and efficiently. Regardless, there is wide recognition on their part that mobile and data is the digital lifeline to their customers and merchants are exploring any and all ways to improve customer engagement and experience in the hopes of boosting sales (and margins).

As for reducing the cost of acceptance, it has and will take a back seat to doing the kind of things that get customers into their stores and buying. Will merchants worry about whether accepting Apple Pay or PayPal or MasterPass, or Visa Checkout, increase their cost of payments? Of course they will, but in much the same way that they worry about the how much an increase in the cost of electricity may jack up their utility bills or how much more it costs now to replace light bulbs thanks to the new government standard. Merchants aren’t going to go without lights in their stores just because it may cost more to turn them on. And they’re not going to deny consumers the opportunity to pay using the method of payment they wish to use and risk killing a sale and a customer relationship.

Now, mobile payments schemes do create the possibility that consumers that used to pay with plastic debit cards will switch to a more expensive method of payment that happens to be stored in their digital wallet. For instance, I went to Whole Foods over the weekend to do some of my holiday grocery shopping and used Apple Pay to pay for my groceries. I have credit and not debit cards in that wallet. Since I always use my debit card to pay for my groceries, using Apple Pay cost Whole Foods more than it would have otherwise to accommodate my payments preference.

But what Whole Foods and merchants in general worry about more is what might happen if I and customers like me really wanted to pay with Apple Pay and they didn’t accept it and shifted our preferences to stores that did. (Remember the kerfuffle over that very issue a month or so ago when NFC was turned off at CVS?) Did Apple Pay influence my grocery shopping preference today? Nope, I was a Whole Foods customer before Apple Pay. And I would suspect that Whole Foods customers are disproportionately iPhone/iPhone 6 toting customers and among the early adopters of the service who are now doing exactly what I did today. But the question that Stop And Shop is now probably pondering, which is right across the street from Whole Foods, is how many more iPhone customers that used to go to Stop And Shop are now persuaded to flip to Whole Foods and/or spend more because they are buying stuff there that they used to go across the street to Stop And Shop to buy. And I sometimes go to Stop and Shop and if they offered Apple Pay and Whole Foods didn’t I might go there even more often.

The point here is that merchants make every one of their decisions based on whether not doing something will drive customers away or bring in more customers who could spend more.

But here’s the wildcard.

Loyalty programs are a huge part of what merchants care about too since they provide a very tangible incentive for customers to stick with them. Loyalty programs tend to attract and keep the most profitable customers. At the moment, Apple Pay doesn’t integrate with existing merchant programs – it’s a two- step process. For Whole Foods it doesn’t matter since they don’t have a loyalty program anyway. But for many other retailers, it does and it does a lot. The tokenization scheme that protects the security of the Apple Pay transaction makes loyalty difficult for merchants and clunky for consumers right now. For merchants for whom loyalty programs and private label cards are key to their bottom line, Apple Pay and all other mobile payments schemes will have to accommodate that.

But what merchants want most is evidence that the innovation they are embracing and being asked to support will help them sell more stuff to more people – not just iPhone 6 users – and keep their best customers loyal. And those are the signposts that merchants will be paying attention to on their road to incremental revenue over the coming years.

2. Networks – The Road Into The Unknown

The card networks were delivered a massive vote of confidence when Apple Pay made the decision to embrace the existing payments industry and its EMV/NFC technology standard as its go-to market strategy. Until it launched, it wasn’t entirely clear just how Apple Pay would enter payments. The networks could rest easy knowing that volumes via Apple Pay would be via their rails and that Apple Pay would be the force to ignite their preferred technology standards.

But maybe not for long.

It’s hard to know just how Apple Pay will evolve over time. For now, it has a sweetheart deal. Issuers pay them 15 bps every time a transaction is done using Apple Pay. Networks and issuers are pouring millions of dollars into advertising to raise consumer awareness. Apple doesn’t have to do much other than to get people to buy iPhone 6s which is what it would do anyway.

So, given all of that, it’s hard to imagine that Apple would want to do anything but continue to ride that free wave and keep the networks (and issuers) as their best buds.

Until perhaps they decide they don’t have too.

It’s no secret that Apple’s a pretty powerful competitor and a tough negotiator. Just ask the music industry and the mobile operators. Over time, it’s easy to imagine a scenario where as Apple gets momentum, it puts the squeeze on their best buds to get an even better financial arrangement in exchange for not going rouge. Or Apple could decide in a few years that thanks to the largesse of the networks and issuers, they have a zillion populated wallets, and they can take them and outsource the back end of payments to a third party who can enable them to operate as a separate network without getting their hands that dirty. As we’ve said multiple time, it would be totally nuts for Apple to “get into” the payments business – why would they want to do that anymore than they wanted to get into the music business when it launched iTunes. But, Apple is a powerful distribution channel and consumer conduit. And, there are a few players with the capability and interest and incentive to power a payments capability if Apple really wanted to control the payments ecosystem in much the same way that it controls every other ecosystem it has entered and disrupted.

That thought may have crossed the minds of the networks, too.

Have you noticed how they’ve begun to remind us of the fact that they are more than Apple Pay enablers? On Visa’s Q3 earnings call, and on the heels of the news that Apple Pay had accumulated 1 million users in 72 hours, Charlie Scharf reminded analysts that Visa Checkout had 2 million registered accounts and a growing roster of merchants. MasterCard’s Ajay Banga reminded analysts that same week that MasterPass “picks up where Apple Pay leaves off” in a nod to MasterPass’ support of loyalty and offers and not just payments.

But it’s not just Apple Pay that should make the networks nervous over the next decade.

Alipay and its 800 million Chinese consumers and 300 million registered mobile accounts don’t have cards attached to those registered accounts. And, as more and more retailer sites enable Alipay, that incremental cross border volume to merchants doesn’t and won’t travel over network rails. And doesn’t need to.

Then there’s Chase. Its deal with Visa doesn’t eliminate Visa as a player in whatever plans Chase Merchant Services has for its future. It does, however, pinch the economics for Visa of largest issuer client.

PayPal, on its way to becoming an independent entity, could decide to become a merchant friendly network and cozy up to merchants promising a different business model and the use of the ACH network to keep the finance guys on the merchant side happy. That would be a two-fer for merchants who like that idea but have two chances – slim and even slimmer – of getting consumers to fork over their DDA account information to establish ACH-enabled accounts to merchants who have been routinely hacked.

And speaking of ACH, the networks should be a little sleepless over the implications of the real time and same day ACH-based settlements proposals that are now circulating. The Fed’s real time payments program, in particular, advocates the creation of what seems like it could become a free set of rails for merchants to leverage that will have every merchant and innovator in the world angling to figure out how to make that work to their advantage. If that proposal gets a head of steam, it won’t have an immediate impact, but could certainly over time. Reading between the lines, it’s clearly the Fed’s intention to control the rails that drive payments in the U.S. (And I said in October for many reasons, that would be among the scariest things to happen in payments.)

So, the networks over the next few years have a bunch of things to think about.

They have to cooperate and collaborate with the innovators and new mobile payments schemes that today, at least, leverage their rails, at the very same time, they have to work hard to mitigate their downside risk and ignite their own schemes. And find new revenue streams. It’s why we’re seeing tokenization as a network revenue stream emerge, as well as a variety of efforts focused on attracting developers and innovators that make their value to issuers and merchants more robust and top of mind.

3. Issuers – The Road to Relevance

The road to digital payments has created a pretty bumpy ride for issuers.

That’s not to say that consumers no longer use the payments products of issuers or won’t in the future. But in a digital world, issuers are less visible to the consumer since the form factor – the mobile or tablet device or even the laptop – reduces them to the last four digits and the CVV number in a merchant’s shopping cart or a third party wallet. The opportunity to embed commerce in apps like Uber push that association even further to the background since payments is a very passive part of the entire experience. Consumers love the experience of invisible payments – issuers not so much.

Apple Pay presents an entirely new double-edged challenge to issuers who are even more subordinate to the Apple brand in an Apple Pay world. When consumers use Apple Pay to enable their payment, of course, it’s the issuer’s card that actually makes the transaction possible. But the consumer’s association is that they just “paid with Apple Pay.” After all, that’s what the POS terminals say and what’s being advertised by their issuers. Payment volume is driven to the issuer but the brand association with consumers isn’t.

So that’s pretty terrifying if you’re an issuer. Out of sight and out of mind.

And maybe even out of luck.

Issuers, legitimately fear that if they miss out on being loaded as the default card in a digital wallet, then they’ve lost the consumer entirely. Once consumers set it and forget it, it’s very hard to get them back.

But that’s not the only pothole that the issuers have to worry about ruining their ride to the digital future.

Regulation is doing a number on the issuer business model all over the world. Late last week, EU member states and the European Parliament agreed to draft terms to cap interchange at .2 percent on debit and .3 percent on credit. Odds are this is pretty much a done deal. No wonder Apple Pay is looking at India – that’s gotta look amazing compared to their chances in the EU.

Then there’s the possibility that Durbin here in the US might not be decided after all. The Supreme Court has yet to decide whether it will hear the appeal of the retailer’s case against the networks on Durbin. Talk around the water cooler is that the length of time it has taken for a decision to be made could be a sign that there’s enough support among the justices that they may hear the retailers’ complaint that the Fed ignored the intent of Congress. Anyway, we’ll know one way or the other shortly after the New Year begins.

And, as I mentioned earlier, the Fed’s efforts to essentially make access to the bank’s biggest assets – consumer deposits – instand and fee – is not only a shot aimed at the networks but at the issuers’ jugular. If the Fed’s proposal prevails, it’s a merchant dream come true – cheap rails, and real time capabilities that minimize the risk that payments made over those rails aren’t made with good funds. So issuers are supposed to feel great about spending billions on upgrading those systems so that they can make access to their prized asset free, at the same time they are facing the loss of interchange on payments all over the world. That’s of course, on top of the CFPB looking into the fees that issuers charge on checking accounts, and it’s not because they think they’re too low.

If that’s not enough, the rise of alternative lending platforms like Lending Club, OnDeck and others made possible because of the financial crisis and increasing capital requirements is just another arrow at the heart of how banks make money. And Silicon Valley’s obsession with bitcoin and “the protocol” is aimed at destroying the way banks move money around the world. As ridiculous as that entire proposition is, it’s a distraction that the banks have to deal with, too.

Perhaps it’s not only the road to relevance that the issuers are traveling, it’s the road to questioning the viability of a business that anyone, including the issuers, find interesting to be a part of anymore. The road to relevance for issuers in the coming years will mean an entire overhaul of their business model, their product focus, how they prioritize investments in innovation and even where they innovate.

And, on that note, you don’t need more than one hand (and not even all of the fingers on that one had) to count the number of issuers that could legitimately pull off having their own mobile wallet. That means that most of the issuers who have that on their roadmap for 2015 should just say no.

4. Consumers – The Road to Adoption

As we’ve seen over the last ten years, just because there are mobile payments schemes in the world, doesn’t mean that consumers will like them and want to use them. Unless these new schemes solve a problem for a consumer or add value to their commerce experience in significant ways, consumers, as we’ve seen, have been just as happy to stick with what they know, and know works everywhere they want to shop. That, of course is the formula for ignition when those immovable forces – consumer interest and merchant acceptance – come together at about the same time.

Which has happened successfully when there have been tremendous problems to solve.

Like when the innovation of MPESA made it possible for Kenyans to send money to each other by eliminating the need to hand paper bags filled with money to unreliable and shady bus drivers making trips to the villages from the city.

And when Alipay and PayPal introduced a payments platform that made it possible for people to transact safely and securely online with sellers they didn’t know, igniting both their payments scheme and the marketplaces that they were a part of.

And when Amazon removed the friction of buying in its online marketplace with just one click.

And when Starbucks and LevelUp mashed up mobile devices, merchant-specific loyalty schemes, an attractive business model and cheap POS scanners to enable mobile payments in high frequency merchant environments like coffee shops and QSRs.

But as we’ve seen even recently with Apple Pay, before that with contactless cards and before that with Softcard/Isis and Google Wallet and the dozens of others that came before, simply substituting taping for swiping didn’t really knock the socks off consumers. Even before the consumer survey last month that showed how few iPhone 6 users had used or thought to use Apple Pay, we asked InfoScout in August to survey its consumers about their experiences with mobile payments. They discovered that more consumers had heard of bitcoin than used NFC payments schemes like Isis/Softcard that had been market for 4 years. And, according to UK Payments Council Data, mobile NFC in the UK – where contactless terminals and smartphone penetration is pushing 80 percent, transaction volume is projected to be .0027 percent of total transactions in 2014 according to the UK Payments Council Data up from .0007 percent in 2013. That’s not nothing, but it’s pretty close.

So, what will get consumers to move? It’s as complicated to execute as it’s simple to articulate: giving consumers more places to use mobile devices to pay and more reasons to do it. Ubiquity doesn’t have to mean that every merchant everywhere accept the preferred mobile payments scheme – after all not all merchants accept AmEx or Discover and they do just fine. But enough of the merchants that matter do.

And the experience needs to leverage the power of the data and the cloud that the mobile device can enable to make the experience that consumer has with that merchant more valuable: offers, recommendations, special promotions, the use of private label cards.

When that happens, that’s when you’ll see merchants push hard to get consumers to give it a try, too.

5. Acquirers and POS Manufacturers – The Road to a Pivot

There’s a big fork in the road for acquirers and POS players as payments moves digital.

That decision is which direction to take to keep them off the commodity highway which will lead them to one of two final destinations: commoditized payments utility or obsolete payments artifact.

Let’s start with the terminal manufacturers.

Hardware is a commodity. Now, it may not feel like that today with the merchant gold rush now underway to replace mag stripe terminals with EMV models. But, the mobile devices carried by consumers and the opportunities that presents for consumers and merchant to reinvent their relationship will force a transformation in how payments happens in stores over time.

And, I’m not just talking about replacing fixed terminals with tablets.

For example, every retailer is looking to add online ordering/in store pick up to their menu of services – whether it’s the local deli or the high end department store. Curbside, a startup, is piloting a new service that takes thatone step further – literally. Store associates track consumers who order from them via their mobiles. As they approach the store, they run out and deliver the parcel to the car. In all of those cases, checkout happens on whatever mobile device the consumer happens to be using at the time.

The internet of things will drive commerce even further to edge devices. If innovators have their way, it won’t be long before refrigerators register when eggs in the egg container are low and automatically trigger an order, charged to whatever digital account is on file and then delivered an hour later.

In emerging countries, there just won’t be terminals. Mobile to mobile will make the need for cards and terminals and phones that need to interact with them obsolete. Those economies will simply leapfrog to mobile to mobile device schemes.

Hardware will simply be a commodity and services that enable payments will be in the cloud – and not inside of terminals that sit on countertops. That won’t happen overnight, but will happen – sooner in some sectors than others. Restaurants could easily decide that EMV terminals don’t make sense for them, and double down on mobile. And, retailers shouldn’t be the only ones worried about the decline in foot traffic in stores. Fewer consumers in stores means fewer physical stores over time, and fewer terminals to sell.

The terminal manufacturers loss could be the acquirer’s gain. Well, those who step up their game, that is, and understand and embrace a future that is powered by software and the cloud and not hardware and closed networks. Today, the majority of transactions are driven by a swipe in store (or soon in the US, a dip). The next decade will see the shift from swipe to non swipe gain momentum.

Those who can assemble a solutions platform that is technology and hardware agnostic and enable a range of capabilities for merchants to enable secure commerce on any device will avoid the commoditized payments destination that might otherwise be their final stop.

6. Challengers/Digital Wallet Providers – The Road to Acquiring Digital Accounts

The non-traditional players in payments have only one road to travel over the next year – and years to follow – and that’s the super highway to getting digital accounts populated – and fast.

Why that road and why the need for speed?

Because it’s pretty unlikely that most consumers will have multiple digital wallets. They may shop on a large number of merchant sites or stores or apps, but they’re not likely to use multiple wallets each time they do. The experience that every digital wallet provider is after is one that establishes their “wallet” as the default payments method everywhere consumers shop because that’s how consumers behave today.

Think about your own behavior.

In the physical world, you carry one wallet. You have multiple cards in that wallet but you have only one of them. You pick out a card in that single wallet when you want to pay for something at that merchant. Online and in app, you probably exhibit similar behavior. And as your preferred method of digital acceptance – PayPal, Apple Pay, Visa Checkout, MasterPass, ShopRunner, Alipay or whatever – becomes more predominant on the sites and in the apps where you shop, more and more of your online and in app payments behavior will reflect that preference.

That’s what consumers say too.

A recent survey reported that 62 percent of consumers said that they can’t imagine using more than one digital wallet to shop at all stores even though that’s what we do today. Starbucks is accepted only at Starbucks, LevelUp and Apple Pay at the merchants that accept it. That’s because we’re still early days and there isn’t any one digital wallet that checks all of those boxes. But that’s why the superhighway to getting more consumers populating digital wallets and using them has to be priority number one if you’re a challenger hoping to win the digital/mobile commerce game. The digital provider with the most consumer accounts and who use those accounts frequently in the pursuit of commerce has something valuable to offer merchants who are trying to decide what schemes to enable.

That’s, of course, why in the physical world, you see so many digital wallet providers intently focused in the food/food services area. In the physical world, delis and coffee shops and drug and grocery are really the only places that people go frequently and where the preference that comes with habituation can be established.

It’s also why there will be a mad rush to own the Android ecosystem which is pretty much up for grabs now. Samsung is rumored to be going after that and building its own version of Apple Pay to dominate mobile payments with the most popular mobile operating system in the world.

It’s also why challengers whose digital payments capabilities cross mobile operating systems and technologies – PayPal, LevelUp, Visa Checkout, MasterPass, ShopRunner – (are or should be) working overtime to get wallets populated. The ability to deliver customers to merchants regardless of the handset model they use is a key selling proposition to them not to mention a key benefit to the consumer who, remember, wants one method of payment everywhere they shop.

And why the focus of many innovators is on solving for the friction that exists in the in app and online world. Embedding payment in apps and/or white labeling payments capabilities to expand the reach of their solution and/or leveraging app functionality to support other use cases such as bill pay or P2P is where many innovators are working hard to add value to the commerce and payments experience.

As I wrote about earlier in the year, Webster’s Habit Forming Theorem says that Nirvana is when a critical mass of able and willing consumers can use their mobile phones at their favorite merchants. Lots of willing and unable consumers equals the ultimate uphill battle for everyone. Few willing and few able is hopeless – a road that most innovators would rather avoid. The road to nirvana will take time, and getting consumers to populate those wallets is where the rubber will meet that road.

7. Mobile Operators – The Road to Hope

Mobile operators may find themselves traveling different roads depending upon what part of the world they happen to be in.

In emerging countries, the road for mobile operators could be a little more scenic and a little less friction filled. In those countries, mobile money schemes are essential to bringing in the billions of consumers who want to and need to become part of the financial mainstream. And, in those countries, just about every bank-centric mobile scheme has fizzled. Meanwhile, the mobile money schemes have not only used the new service to reduce churn, they are beginning to print money of their own as they reach scale and are starting to add on other services.

The road is quite different in developed countries where the carriers are facing highly developed payments and financial services that work just great for consumers. HCE and Apple’s new SIM and Apple Pay’s SE and Samsung’s potential direction around its mobile payment scheme will render what was once an already hopeless road, an even less hopeful journey.

No one wants – or needs – the mobile operator in the middle of payments and commerce in developed countries. We’ve watched that play out over the last four years with the likes of mobile operator backed schemes like Softcard/Isis (which has languished) and Weve and O2 which pulled the plug earlier this year. Mobile operators in developed markets are a means to an end for which consumers pay a monthly data services plan. Having them in the middle of transactions and collecting and dictating terms and relationships and access adds no value to anyone. And the networks, merchants and issuers have all decided to take a very different exit ramp on their journey to the digital future.

8. Innovators – The Road to Embedded Commerce

The diffusion of smartphones and the explosion of devices connected to the internet means that the players in payments aren’t just traveling a road to payments reinvention, they are traveling the road to creating and igniting entirely new commerce opportunities and ecosystems.

Analysts say that by the year 2020, there will be roughly 50 billion devices – that’s about 7 per person – connected to the internet. Embedding commerce in any or all of those devices isn’t just possible but likely as introducing commerce into those devices gets easier and the ability to create entirely new businesses becomes more plausible.

Uber, as we all know, wasn’t created to solve a payment problem, it was created to solve the problem of how we get reliable taxi service. Making payment part of that just made the experience better for the consumer and possible for drivers to be paid more quickly. In the process Uber created an entirely new transportation ecosystem.

Instacart wasn’t created to solve paying for home delivery services, but to enable a personal grocery shopping service that includes home delivery. Payment just made it possible for that new services ecosystem to be built without the friction of how payment across that value chain was made.

Thumbtack wasn’t created to solve the problem of how consumers pay for tradespeople, it was created to help consumers in need of such services find then negotiate for those jobs online. Embedded payment enabled the development of an entirely new services model and ecosystem that made the business more attractive to the suppliers of the services – the tradespeople – to get on board since it reduced the risk that they wouldn’t be paid for services rendered once they showed up to perform them.

Airbnb wasn’t created to solve for how consumers could pay for hotel-like accommodations. Airbnb created a whole new housing rental ecosystem by bringing those with a supply of rooms to rent with those who wanted to rent them. Embedding payment into that business made it possible for that ecosystem to get off the ground.

We’ve seen Twitter play around with commerce with its “Buy With Twitter” buttons. Facebook is said to be dipping its toe back into the commerce waters with its group selling app and buy button. OpenTable has embedded payments into its dining reservations app and enabling a complete vertical portal for restaurant discovery, reservations and payments. Yelp is in a position to do the same thing, if it adds payments for restaurants and local businesses. And Pinterest is positioned to do the same.

Okay, so you get the point.

The ability for innovators to embed payment in apps that are accessed online and via mobile devices leverages a trend that we pointed out years ago – the blurring of the bright lines between the virtual and physical worlds and the emergence of new ecosystems and business models that leverage data, the cloud and the mobile device. The ability to embed payment into each of these ecosystems was a key differentiator, removed the friction associated with how the business would be monetized and was a major contributor to their ignition.

It used to be that a consumer had to be somewhere with an internet connection and a device connected to that to conduct business online. Not all that long ago, that was a desktop computer, usually at the office, library or home family room.

Now consumers can be anywhere doing anything, including standing in a physical store transacting with that store online via a mobile device or a tablet. Nielsen did a survey earlier in the year in which they reported that 84 percent of smartphone consumers use a second device – mobile phone or tablet – while watching TV. Those consumers use those devices to shop, to email, to text, to look up information about what they are watching.

Mobile and the cloud and data and new technologies will simply continue to blur the lines between on and offline and enable commerce anywhere, anytime, and with anyone. Search, whether thru vertical apps like Open Table or designer boutique aggregators like FarFetch or shopping curating apps like ShopStyle make it possible for consumers to find what they want from just about anywhere and at any time. And payments make it possible for those transactions to drive revenue to those merchants.
And over the next decade, we’ll see even more of these innovations emerge, flourish and ignite.

So, there you have it. My take, at least, on the road that the 8 key stakeholders in payments and commerce are likely to travel over the next decade. Perhaps most interesting though is just how different each of those roads is in spite of sharing the same destination – a digital payments and commerce future.

That suggests the value equation that each will need to solve for (or have solved for them) is quite different.

Merchants want to see incremental revenue. Issuers want to be relevant. Consumers want to see the value. Networks want to hedge their bets. Mobile operators want to be in the mix. Acquirers and processors want to avoid being marginalized. Innovators want to create new value.

That also suggests that each of these stakeholders will likely be looking for (or even creating) some key signposts along that road.

Signs that point to the possibility of acquisitions and breakout moves. And detours that help them avoid being marginalized or diluted.

So where does this leave us in 2015 and beyond?

Well, for sure the digital future is bright. There are lots of connected devices and even more to come. At the end of this year, 25 percent of the population, worldwide, will have access to a smartphone. And, it’s projected that in just two years, more than a third of the world will be smartphone users. Next year, 15 countries will see more than half of their population adopt smartphones. That’s simply remarkable – and game changing. That means that all of those people will have access to devices that bring them into the payments and commerce mainstream – the emerging middle class with money to spend and lots of places to shop.

So, just who’s in the best position to ride that road and win?

Well, you’ll have to wait for next week for that!

In the meantime, I hope that you enjoy the holiday and all of the warmth and joy that it brings to you and your families.

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