In 1987 Groupe Spéciale Mobile Association (GSMA) launched its first international conference and exhibition for mobile technology. The event was reportedly small and very nichey — and mobile technology in 1987 was pretty nascent.
Flash forward 30 years — and that little trade group meeting has blossomed into something else entirely: Mobile World Congress (MWC). Over the past decade — and, more rapidly, over the last five years — MWC has evolved to be about not just the mobile technology, but also mobile possibilities and all the ways that tiny supercomputer is shaping and reshaping modern life all over the world.
This year, while phones and tablets are taking their normal bows, self-driving cars from BMW, Ford and Peugeot will be looking to grab some headlines, as will a whole heaping helping of IoT applications in the digital and mobile world. Netflix’s CEO is one of the keynote speakers — as is the head of the U.S. FCC, who will be there to talk about the wonders of 5G. AI, something that was barely on anyone’s lips even last year in 2016, is expected to be a starring feature across a variety of presentations — both in chatbot and voice-activated virtual assistant form.
And, of course, where there is mobile, there are payments and commerce. There is also the question that everyone is trying to answer — so far with only limited success — how to cement the connection between mobile and payments as clearly for consumers and merchants as it is already for all the players who will be meeting in Barcelona. What does the future of mobile payments look like, and who will make the future really ignite in actuality? These are both big questions that remain unanswered.
Hoping to get a preview of what the answer’s looking like as the 2010s are drawing to a close — and MWC is spinning up for the thirieth time — Karen Webster sat in with Mastercard’s Digital Payments and Emerging Platforms Group Executive James Anderson about what the card network is bringing to the big show this year — and what’s next on the long walk toward mobile payments.
“This is our fifth year with a big show presence at Mobile World Congress — and it is a completely different world. Five years ago, we weren’t talking about tokens, for example. Now MDES has 700 issuers and is in 17 countries and more than 80 million digital-by-default Masterpass-enabled accounts. Our strategy now is capitalizing on those 80 million with more compelling use cases for consumers. For us, that comes down to the merchants we can work with.”
Take, for instance …
Mastercard And Oracle Pair Up To Take On Payments
The big news today is that Mastercard and Oracle have teamed up to take on streamlined digital payment experiences for retail and hospitality, with a particular focus on restaurants, hotels and retail stores. You may recall that Oracle bought MICROS in 2014 for $5.3 billion.
“If you look at restaurants, that’s where Oracle really opens up a lot of opportunity for us because of their acquisition of MICROS. There are a lot of apps that restaurants have that are focused on showing consumers the menu with maybe some order-ahead. What our partnership makes possible is those apps then have more features: Split the bill, open a tab, pay at the table. The key thing that makes the partnership sing is the software platform is the backbone of the operation,” Anderson told Webster.
In food service in particularly, Anderson noted, nothing can happen — even something as simple as ordering a Coke — until a ticket gets opened, and Oracle/MICROS’ software is where that ticket opens for a lot of places.
“Our partnership with Oracle makes so much sense because we can tie in Masterpass so the customer can open their payment ticket as it appears in the system,” he said.
Moreover, Anderson noted, in any retail environment, Masterpass essentially allows its retail partners access to a single, secure and seamless checkout experience no matter what channel they are operating in, physical or digital.
Mastercard and Oracle are already working with joint partners such as Wagamama, Carluccio’s, Young & Co Brewery and Geronimo Pubs. The Oracle announcement is also tied to Mastercard’s second big announcement for MWC kick-off, the expansion of Qkr! with Masterpass.
Qkr!’s Mobile-Order-Ahead March (And The Magic Of Running A Tab)
Part and parcel to the Oracle tie-in, Mastercard is expanding its proprietary app, Qkr! with Masterpass, to six new markets and adding new functionality to eliminate the traditional “open tab” at a bar, club or restaurant.
“Qkr! is all home-grown,” Anderson explained. “One of the things we’ve done is brought digital payments and labs together so that the work in developing new cases in the labs is directly benefitting Masterpass and what we can offer.”
And, apart from growing into six additional markets — Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Singapore, South Africa and the United States — Qkr! is also expanding what it can do. Going forward, customers can use Qkr! to open a tab at a bar or club — without ever having to hand over their plastic card.
“When you think about customer experience, order-ahead is good for coffee and takeout food. Pay-at-the-table is good for places like Wagamama. Open-a-tab is good for pubs and bars — and I don’t think anyone really likes just handing their plastic over to go behind the bar.”
The Wonders Of Scale
Though not a digital product of Mastercard, Anderson and Webster did speak for a bit about the other big element Mastercard brings to its endeavors as it works to build a more mobile attractive world — Mastercard Payment Gateway Services, which makes sure that the payments can all get processed in a secure manner that lets the right one through — and blocks the fraudsters.
“More and more, the need is for there to be a connection between digital and the core business. If I am a merchant undertaking a big digital project, it’s not like I’ve stopped worrying about my card business — cards matter a lot, day in and day out. A company like Mastercard can show up and tell a good story about how we can help merchants with the meat and potatoes of cards and getting them accepted at the right rate in a wide variety geographies. Of course, this is with the added advantages of Masterpass,” Anderson added.
This year, Mastercard’s message at MWC is about offering more. Because, Anderson noted, at the end of the day, consumers demand it, and merchants are now really ready to offer it.
With the goal to make it easy enough that it feels less like a change than a natural evolution.