Poland has been hard at work burnishing its image as a tech hub over the last several years. A country in which financial services were largely reinvented in the 1990s after the fall of communism, Poland’s banks have digitized and otherwise embraced technology in the delivery of banking and payments services. Poland is also one of the world’s more active markets for contactless payments.
Today, Poles carry 29.4 million contactless payment cards in their wallets, which account for over three-quarters of cards issued. There are over half a million contactless POS terminals in Poland, which account for about 91 percent of all payment-accepting terminals nationwide.
A study recently commissioned by Mastercard reported that 61 percent of Poles would like to be able to use mobile payments anywhere, including in small convenience stores, at stalls, marketplaces, etc.
Their wish, more or less, is Mastercard’s command. This fall, Mastercard will roll out a pilot program in Poland that will make it possible for micro merchants and SMBs to enable cashless payments, with a Samsung smartphone (and an app) acting as the only necessary device for accepting those payments.
“We want to make it so that any Samsung device can turn that phone into a mobile point of sale without any dongles or peripherals attached,” James Hicks, EVP, Global Acceptance and Solutions at Mastercard, told PYMNTS during a conversation shortly after the program was announced.
Hicks said Poland is in many ways an ideal environment to roll out this type of POS terminal solution for micro merchants. It’s a fairly large country — with 40 million people and a population that is already fairly well-versed in conducting mobile payments.
“We want to expand acceptance to merchants who want a lower cost, less complicated mPOS option than what has been available to them in the past,” he explained.
A New Option for Small Merchants
Dongles, Hicks noted, serve a purpose well in a differently developed market, but in Poland, where contactless is already king, it makes a lot more sense to skip that step and offer more streamlining.
Hicks emphasized that this solution is more than simply trying to build out tap and go —it reflects the nuances of Poland’s market. For Hicks, that means embracing the contactless “habit” and acceptance that already exists and eliminating the need for a merchant to have to carry “one more thing” to accept a payment with a credit card machine. Removing the dongle, Hicks said, and making it just a phone and an app, removes that barrier.
“For us, it gives us another market to test, a different type of approach to test, and really to see the learnings that come out of that. For us, the ultimate goal is always giving more merchants the chance to make their way into the digital economy,” Hicks said.
Along with that ease in payments, Hicks noted, they can offer SMBs something that cash (in all its simplicity) can’t: better security by passing the transactions through the secure element on the smartphone as any traditional NFC terminal would.
Mastercard has seen this movie — or at least the movie trailer — play out in other pilots, specifically one in the U.K. that Hicks said has merchants enthusiastic about the simple, seamless way to move from credit card machines toward digital transactions.
But Hicks emphasized that different markets have different needs, and Mastercard isn’t looking for a single silver bullet to make the migration away from cash toward digital everywhere in the world. Instead, he said, it’s about finding a myriad of solutions that will work across the multiplicity of markets Mastercard serves.
“The ‘one thing’ we are doing is to expand acceptance and help digitize the ecosystem, and we do that in a lot of different ways,” Hick said, saying that Mastercard has solutions for mPOS with dongles and QR codes in environments where each of those solutions makes sense.
Although Hicks acknowledges that every merchant in every market is different, they are all held together by at least one common goal: to grow their business.
“Every small merchant wants to be a bigger merchant. We want to make that path easier and find new ways to continually grow the ecosystem with them,” he said.