When it comes to the changing way we pay for things, all three of these companies are playing key roles. And Starbucks, with the most widely-used mobile payments app, could be considered an early leader.
But the pace of innovation in payment technology is quickening, and it's drawing attentions from giants like Google to smaller, more focused start-ups like LevelUp. What happens next? Maybe, in true gladiator style, one champion emerges from the battle and sets the rules for the next era in payments.
Or maybe it won't be like that at all.
In the video below, Electronic Transactions Association CEO Jason Oxman shares his view on the fragmentation of payments innovation and what that means for the industry. A transcript follows the video.
Matt Koppenheffer: You mentioned mobile payments in your introduction remarks this morning. I think you referred to the fact that people are looking at mobile payments and saying, "It's not moving ahead as fast as it should. It's too fragmented." But you were more optimistic about it, and seemed to think that mobile payments are making good inroads, are making good progress.
I think one of the big questions I have is, does that stay fragmented, or does collaboration happen, where we end up with one shared standard or something like that? Or do we continue to see a Google over here, Starbucks doing its thing over here, LevelUp over here, and have that fragmentation?
Jason Oxman: You mentioned companies that are pursuing very different business plans, depending on what type of technology they use to implement mobile payments -- whether it's a 2D barcode, or a 3D barcode, or an NFC chip -- there are a lot of different technologies out there.
But as you noted, my view is that that level of innovation, taking place across multiple platforms, is a very good thing. I do think there are naysayers out there, who say there are too many different pathways, too many different companies deploying too many different technologies, and that's why mobile payments won't work.
I think it's exactly the opposite. I think that's exactly why mobile payments ...
Koppenheffer: Because there are so many out there.
Oxman: That's exactly right. Consumers need to see the technology that works for them. Merchants need to see the technology. It's easy to forget that merchants need to make it as an investment. They need to invest in point of sale equipment to accept mobile payments, and they want to see what their customers are going to be demanding that they use.
I do think all the different technologies out there, not everybody's going to win. There is going to be some inevitable shakeout in the types of technologies that are being deployed.
There are a lot of open questions -- what's Apple going to do? Is Apple going to put an NFC chip in their iPhone 6? If they do, obviously that will be a huge boost for NFC deployment. You've got the mobile network operators who are interested in payments, AT&T and Verizon and T-Mobile, which have partnered on ISIS, which is an NFC deployment.
You noted Starbucks, which is currently the most successful mobile payments platform ...
Koppenheffer: Incredible right?
Oxman: It's a coffee shop! And yet, they have the most widely used mobile payments app.
Now, for them, it's a little easier to deploy because they're a closed-loop system. You can't use the Starbucks app to pay anywhere other than at Starbucks. It's a little harder to deploy something ubiquitous that you can use at 8 million merchants in the U.S., as opposed to just one -- but the model obviously works.
Starbucks has announced that they're processing more than 10% of their revenue on the Starbucks app, and one of the reasons people like it is because it tracks your stars -- it tracks the number of drinks that you've purchased.
Koppenheffer: They love to gamify things.
Oxman: That's exactly right. It works out well; I don't have to carry the plastic card around to get it punched when I buy my coffee. That works very well.
Again, consumers will look at the different technologies out there and say, "I want something that's going to track my loyalty offers." "I want something that's going to give me location-based offers, based on where I am." My phone knows that I'm walking by my favorite store; maybe I'll get an offer for a coupon that's good for the next two hours at that store. That's something that my phone can enable, and maybe that's what I'm looking for in a mobile payments implementation.
But I think the technology diversification will be what drives additional adoption.
Matt Koppenheffer owns shares of AAPL. The Motley Fool recommends AAPL, GOOG, GOOGL, and SBUX. The Motley Fool owns shares of AAPL, GOOG, GOOGL, and SBUX. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.