GUEST WRITER: Payment industry preparing for monumental changes in how to shop

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When one thinks of technology and the impact that it has on our lives, we rarely regard money and the way we buy things as an arena capable of revolutionary shifts. The stars, however, are lining up in a way that could totally reshape retail buying behavior, in much the same fashion as the Internet has done over the past decade. 

The catalyst for these monumental shifts is none other than the smartphone in your hand. As futurists predicted back in the nineties, the electronic grid would eventually produce an environment where marketing could actually be targeted right down to the final endpoint on the network, the individual consumer. Smartphones come equipped with a complex operating system, capable of accessing the Internet and performing sophisticated software applications with the mere stroke of a finger. 

Ancient marketing campaigns for the Yellow Pages (Remember those?) encouraged everyone to “Let your fingers to the shopping” through their page listings, but now your phone can read a bar code, search for the best deal at a location near you, then provide directions on how to get there. 

The next steps will be to coax you to shop for more items in the store you visit by alerting you by text message of special one-off promotions, designed specifically for you, based on an analysis of your previous buying preferences at all other shopping venues. If your store location is unknown, the contacts will come through your personal networking sites. This “Brave New World” goes by the name of “Integrated POS Marketing”, although many other clever catchphrases are competing for airtime.

If all goes according to plan, experts expect these types of options to be fully available in the marketplace in as little as three to five years. These timelines may be optimistic, but in the fourth quarter alone, nearly 500 million mobile phones were sold globally, and over 200 million of these were of the smart variety. Smartphones sales are connecting the world in ways never before envisioned at such a rapid pace. Software programmers are already at a mad rush trying to capitalize on the tsunami of opportunity developing.

To defuse much of the hype in today’s merchant marketplace, the Electronic Transactions Association (ETA) has recently published two whitepapers that provide both a brief overview, as well as a more in depth discussion of each relative topic in this subject matter. The current status, issues related to costs and risks, merchant benefits, and the various technologies competing for your current favor are discussed in a concise discourse designed for all concerned shop owners in the merchant community.

The good news is that every merchant has time to prepare for these changes on the horizon. No one needs to upgrade their POS equipment today. The market still needs to determine who the winners and losers will be. The time is right, however, to ensure that your present merchant processor is capable of supporting your needs down the road. Time is on your side. 

By Tom Cleveland  

About the author –  Todays guest writer has had an extensive career in the international payments industry with over 30 years of experience in executive management, corporate governance and business development. If you would like to read more on Mr. Cleveland’s thoughts regarding the merchant processing industry, then click here.

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