Karen Webster

PYMNTS Greatest Hits

I wrote about 260,000 words over the last year summarizing my take on the many developments taking place in payments and commerce. All of those words were intended to be thought-provoking and start a dialogue about the future of our industry. And they did! Here are a few of my favorites which also seemed to get the juices flowing for many of you.

I am so grateful for your support and very appreciative of the time that you take to read and share your perspectives. I know that I learned a lot from our exchanges and hope that the same was true for you.

My very best wishes for a prosperous – and exhilarating – 2015. From all indications, it’s going to be an amazing year for our industry – and I hope for each of you, too.

Happy New Year!


My Favorites

 

WHAT DO THE GOD PARTICLE, YODELING AND KNIGHTS HAVE TO DO WITH THE FUTURE OF PAYMENTS?

 

My piece on the contribution of Sir Tim Berners Lee’s contribution of the worldwide web on apps and mobile and payments and commerce raised a few important questions about the relevance of the Internet in a world that is dominated by apps and mobile. We’ll get a chance to ask Sir Tim this question on March 18, when he kicks off The Innovation Project 2015.

 

IS AMAZON FIRE A THREAT TO PAYMENTS?

 

Yeah, I called this one a dud before their CFO admitted that more of them were collecting dust than being shipped. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should. But I did offer some constructive advice for Mr. Bezos in his pursuit of digital commerce dominance – summed up in two words – local + services.

 

ALIBABA AND SHOPRUNNER SAY “OPEN SESAME” TO DIGITAL COMMERCE

 
When the whole word was pooh-poohing ShopRunner as nothing more than an Amazon Price knock off, I dug a bit deeper since there was no way, no how Scott Thompson was going to take over as CEO of a free shipping company. As it turns out, my hunch about ShopRunner, Alibaba’s $200 million investment and the Chinese consumer’s pent up demand for American merchandise was confirmed with Alibaba went public in September and Alipay showed up as a payments option on the Chinese version of ShopRunner. There’s also a Harvard Business School case on this company which digs into more detail.
 

 

APPLE PAY | WINNERS, LOSERS AND QUESTION MARKS

 
Some called me the total party pooper when I wrote this piece shortly after Apple Pay launched, but I think I was pretty balanced in how I portrayed the good, the bad and the maybe even ugly long term depending on how Apple Pay evolves. For now, Apple Pay needs adoption – consumer and merchant – so much of what I pointed out may seem unimportant. But, just look at what they did to music. All I can say is just watch this space.

 

HOW TO GET CONSUMERS HOOKED ON MOBILE PAYMENTS

 
This is the post that I got sort of all quasi-academic-y and did a 2 x 2 matrix illustrating what it takes to ignite mobile – and more importantly, the framework for figuring out who’s where. Bottom line, “nirvana” is as elusive as, well nirvana always is, and more players are in the dreaded bottom left than they’d like to admit. At the moment, the only thing that consumers are hooked on from a payments perspective is their plastic cards (and cash – depending on where in the world you are).

 

THE SCARIEST THINGS IN PAYMENTS

 
I was inspired by Halloween, which is a pretty huge deal in New England, to map out the scariest things in payments. What I wrote raised the hairs on the back of my neck, maybe even scarier was how fearless many of you seemed to be of the things that I think could be the scariest.

 

THE BIG BITCOIN DEBATE: IS BITCOIN MORE THAN MONEY?

 
One of the best things about Apple Pay is that it sucked the air out of the Bitcoin balloon over the last few months. As I’ve said consistently, Bitcoin as a currency is ridiculous, Bitcoin the protocol is also ridiculous yet it hasn’t stopped the venture community from pouring hundreds of millions into both. At least when that bubble bursts, the damage will be contained. I lay out the case for why you think they both should be ridiculous here (if of course, having the ruble as a more stable currency isn’t convincing enough).

 

SO YOU WANT TO BUILD A REWARDS PROGRAM, WHY?

 
What business doesn’t want loyal customers? That would be none, of course. Yet the key to getting them isn’t rewards programs, I posit, which seems to be the “go to” for everyone these days. Rewards programs can sometimes backfire, and create artificial loyalty to the reward and not the brand. And, since reward programs cost money, cut into margin and even marginalize the profitability of existing customers who don’t need deals to do business, there’s gotta be, I argue, more than just doing rewards to create customer loyalty.

 

‘MIRROR, MIRROR, ON THE WALL, WHOSE DIGITAL WALLET WILL BE USED MOST OF ALL?’

 
Talk about the trillion dollar question! I wrote this piece before Apple Pay hit the scene and laid out my case for which wallet is or could get traction and be a game changer. It’s worth reading to see if or how Apple Pay has changed your views – and the landscape.

 

CAN A SHOW ABOUT NOTHING TEACH ONE (ALMOST) EVERYTHING THEY NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PAYMENTS?

 
Seinfeld is inspiring in so many ways. And, the anniversary of the show about nothing, in addition to the one in which George complained about his fat wallet, inspired me one weekend to compare the progress in payments innovation to that show about nothing.

 

INNOVATION … YOU KNOW IT WHEN YOU SEE IT

 
In this piece, I argue that disruption is a word that is totally overused to describe just about everything that’s going on in payments. If it’s disruptive, it must be good, because that means it’s so bad for someone else. In this piece, I go on the record and give you my sense of what truly deserves the moniker “disruptive” and why.

 

IS APPLE THE AMERICAN EXPRESS OF PAYMENTS?

 
I was looking at the stats of the typical Apple user last summer and started thinking about how similar they are to the affluent, upscale American Express customer base. That got me thinking about how appealing an Apple payments brand might be to a merchant – and what merchants might then do to attract those customers. Was this a preview to the Apple Pay movie?

 

WHO WILL RUN “ANDROID PAY”?

 
Apple Pay launched and the world, as we know, went gaga. There is another ecosystem that I thought everyone had forgotten about – Android. It’s the world’s most popular, but also the world’s most fragmented, not to mention less affluent than its iOS counterpart. Yet, I offered some thoughts on the value of the Android ecosystem and who might decide to become the [fill in the blank] Pay of Android.

 

THE TEN THINGS THAT CHANGED PAYMENTS IN 2014 and WHAT PAYMENTS WILL LOOK LIKE IN 2015

 
So, in two 15 page installments, I did my annual look back to look ahead – times two. So much did happen in 2014, that I felt I had to break things into chunks – a piece on the 10 things that I thought really changed the payments conversation in 2014 and then how the players in the payments ecosystem might respond in 2015. From beacons and breakups, to Apple Pay and Alibaba and from tokens and the Target breach, I don’t think that anyone will look back on 2014 and say that it wasn’t a turning point in payments.
 
And, speaking of turning, time to turn the page on 2014.
 
Happy 2015!

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