A good forecast is a notoriously difficult thing to write – particularly if one is trying to write it about the payments and commerce ecosystem.
Had we told the world a year ago today that Amazon was going to buy Whole Foods, that Walmart Pay would surpass Apple Pay as a consistently favored mobile payment method, that CES would essentially become a showdown between Alexa and Google Assistant, that Uber would take a major valuation haircut in its next funding round, that bitcoin was going to be worth around $20,000 by mid-December and that Elon Musk was less than 365 days from launching his car into outer space – it is unlikely we would have been hailed as visionaries.
At best, we would have been called fabulists of the highest order, and at worst we would have been written off as madmen.
Without especially magical tea leaves – or a very well-tuned crystal ball – the specific events in any given year in the life of payments and commerce are prone to beggaring the predictive powers of even the most sagacious. Such is the nature of a segment that has more or less become the nesting place for black swans over the last few years.
But while we can’t tell you exactly what’s next in terms of specific events, what we can offer is very nearly as good and useful: a preview of the shape of things to come from the best, brightest and most informed people working in payments and commerce today.
We turned to 40 executives in the space with a simple question: What’s next for 2018? Specifically, how do they see the next 365 days playing out in payments and commerce? If 2017 was the year of disruption, what will 2018 be?
Simply stated, 2018 will be the year of the satisfied customer – because the players that fail to satisfy will also fail to have customers.
Because – as the executives we spoke to nearly universally pointed out – there is no longer any fooling the average consumer about what is possible and what they can reasonably expect from providers. They know payments can be smooth, fast and invisible – because, as Cambridge Global Payments COO Mark Frey pointed out, they have been riding in Ubers and booking through Airbnb for over a decade.
They know they shouldn’t have to choose between ordering from their favorite retailers online or going directly to the store – because, as DataTorrent CEO Guy Churchward noted, their real favorite retailers at this point are the ones that don’t offer them a choice, but instead offer one seamless experience that moves easily between digital and physical access points.
And they know that securing their most vital data should not be dependent on remembering dozens of passwords to access dozens of sites, and then having to change those passwords every few months. As Diebold Nixdorf’s senior director of global software innovation, Douglas Hartung, pointed out, they should be able to expect that they can be the password.
“The literal personalization of payments – that is, consumers conducting transactions via their own unique fingerprints, palms, retinas or faces – seems to have nearly reached a tipping point,” he said. “In 2018, they’re becoming an ubiquity that no organization can ignore.”
In 2018, the customer knows what she wants, knows that the technology exists to give it her and is no longer willing to wait around – whether she is shopping for herself, completing supplier payments at work or trying to send money from Point A to Point B around the world. And that customer, according to the experts, is increasingly becoming every customer – because the advances are just that ubiquitous at this point.
They want it fast, they want it secure, they want it invisible – and, most importantly they want it now.
The winners in 2018?
Well, our experts can give you a good idea of what they have to offer – and how they have to offer it to live up to an increasingly tall order.