Will the new Apple iPad ring the register for merchants? Scott Holt, VP of Marketing and Solutions for ROAM and MPD CEO Karen Webster chatted about this, as well as the other developments that could help – or hinder – the existing plans of mPOS players, especially as they prep for the holiday season.
KW: The topic of conversation is – no surprise – Apple Pay. I’d love to get your perspective around Apple Pay and the news that Apple is going to release a new iPad. What does this mean for mPOS, and ROAM?
SH: Well, one of the things that’s been really key to our strategy is to make sure we’re payment agnostic, supporting any payment type or means. We have had in markets for some time, operating outside of the US, two of our chip and PIN devices that already accept NFC. We are working on some very cool stuff for next year that will be a dongle-based NFC device that we think will really take off based on a lot of the demand we’re seeing. We’re focused on making sure, from a payment acceptance standpoint, that we have the technology available for our customers so they can offer their customers both EMV and NFC solutions.
KW: There’s been a lot of speculation that the bigger Apple iPad is better for content consumption for consumers, but also, in an enterprise environment, something that makes POS more functional and perhaps they will NFC-enable those devices. Does their ability to do that worry ROAM, with ROAM’s position in provisioning and selling mPOS devices?
SH: Not at all. There’s still a part of the service and solution we provide that isn’t related to the hardware component. So regardless, if Apple does launch an NFC-enabled device, that’s great. That’s only one payment mechanism that they accept – they’ll need to accept others, like chip and PIN. From that perspective, we certainly see a market for all of the devices we supply.
Outside of the iPad, there are a lot of other tablet offerings out there. A good portion of the market that we service today have Android devices, and in 2015 we’re evaluating Windows devices as well. For us, it’s just a great complement. We’ll continue to offer NFC- and non-NFC-enabled devices.
KW: What are you hearing from merchants with respect to their interest in NFC-enabled mPOS devices and solutions? Has Apple Pay made a difference in conversations you’re having with merchants, and if so, is there a particular type or size of merchants that seem more interested than others?
SH: I think if Apple announces anything, everybody becomes interested. So, I’d definitely say it’s sparked the interest of merchants and also many of our partners – acquirers, banks, PSPs, etc. – to make sure they at least have a solution. We’ve certainly seen the conversation centralize around NFC-enabled solutions. We’ve seen Android from the mobile POS side, then on the physical POS side. It definitely has changed the conversation. NFC is that thing that’s been around for awhile, but no one quite knew when it was going to take off. With Apple Pay, it’s definitely happening – we’ve seen this day in and day out. Almost every conversation we’re having today, since that announcement, includes understanding our strategy on NFC and NFC-enabled devices.
KW: So let’s talk about the upcoming holiday season. What are merchants plans for incorporating mPOS into their overall holiday plans, but thinking in particular on Black Friday?
SH: What we’re seeing is the extension of the POS – we saw some of this last year, and we’re seeing it this year. Many of the merchants who have not made a full-scale integration with mPOS into their existing POS systems are at least evaluating it and preparing to use it to extend the basic checkout functionality.
We’re also seeing merchants using mPOS not only for physical POS but for pop-up stores, which has been a topic of discussion for quite some time. We actually have some merchants partners that are going to be trialing it, creating pop-up stores in locations that are not near their physical storefronts.
I think every merchant is very focused on driving as much transactional revenue, therefore making it as seamless as possible for the consumer to checkout as quickly as possible.
KW: A lot of people are starting to suggest that mPOS really will become POS as the merchant-consumer experience in store really becomes the ability to transact anywhere, anytime. Do you believe that, and if so, how far away are we from that?
SH: Do I believe it’s going to replace it all together? No. What we see happening is more of a convergence – the converging of mobile devices, tablets and smartphones with existing POS systems, or extending the value of those tablet systems with smart terminals. I think our perspective, based on what we’re hearing from retailers, is that retailers will continue to evolve their checkout experience, for which mPOS will be key, but at this point we should not assume the complete dissolution of the existing POS in these merchant locations. We’ve also seen that extending the POS outside of stores has been a key focus.
KW: Some thing that consumers really can become the point of sale with powerful devices that they’re holding – on the one hand, that’s true, but the merchant needs a device to complete that transaction. What’s your reaction to consumers as the POS and the way POS can evolve?
SH: I’m a consumer, and I’d be scared if I was the point of sale. As I said, I think certainly consumers will have more power to use the devices they have to checkout more seamlessly, but I believe we’ll see the merchants having the unique infrastructure and mechanism to accept these payments.
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