Mobile Payment In Eurasia: More Than A World Apart

Written by Evan Schuman
May 10th, 2009

Making U.S. retail mobile payment efforts look, by comparison, about as modern as a rotary dial telephone, major European and Asian retailers have been pushing ahead on pay-by-phone efforts, especially in the last six to ten months, according to the London-based consulting/analysis group Planet Retail.

“After dozens of failed projects in the last ten years, the time is ripe for payments by mobile phone at retailers’ checkouts,” said the report. “Powerful initiatives in France and the Netherlands, initiated by the likes of Carrefour, Ahold and Auchan, may be strong enough to set European, perhaps even global, standards for mobile phone payments.”

In many parts of the world, the growth of M-Commerce is strongly linked with the acceptance of contactless payment. Once the contactless mechanisms are in place, it’s relatively easy to integrate it with cellphones. A classic example of this relationship is happening in France, where grocery chains Carrefour, Auchan and Intermarché have been working with retailers Fnac, Castorama, Decathlon and Leroy Merlin to merge payment, loyalty cards and couponing and have it all on a consumer’s PDA.

“The idea – to bring everything onto one single platform. A platform that the customer is always carrying: the mobile phone,” the report said. “Carrefour has already announced larger field tests for late 2009, followed by roll-outs in 2010.”

One of the advantages that France, which still eludes the U.S., is active cooperation within the financial community. “The seven largest French banks and the three French mobile phone network operators joined forces as Payez Mobile to turn the customer’s mobile phone into the wallet or the purse of the future,” said the report. It added that Payez Mobile executives are confident it will be able to finalize all specifications by the end of this year, enabling major roll-outs in 2010.

“Already in the second quarter of 2009, Payez Mobile will publish the first version of its standards. Carrefour, Auchan, Intermarché and their partners in the Ergosum project are already in talks with Payez Mobile,” Planet Retail said, although Payez Mobile is “only setting specifications for mobile phone payments and not for loyalty schemes and couponing on mobiles, both longer term goals.”

At one Auchan store, consumers were required to edit a Web-based shopping list.

The report also noted some fringe efforts, leveraging other parts of the phone. “There are still dozens of other projects for mobile phone payment on the market, most of them based on text messages (SMS) and the mobile internet standard WAP,” it said. “Although these projects are still of interest for services such as content downloading or topping up mobile phones, it is unlikely they will play a significant role in payment at retail stores’ checkouts.”


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