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Obama, Romney tap mobile to bolster fundraising

President Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney are using mobile payment service Square to drive fundraising efforts, signaling a shift in consumer behavior towards mobile payments.

Obama and Romney’s teams plan to equip staff members and volunteers with the payment reader at in-person events such as rallies. In the past couple of years, mobile has become the go-to channel for political figures.

“Online is still going to be the biggest deal for fundraising, but Square is a digital collection platform that can be used wherever candidates have an event,” said Jonathan Stark, vice president of application architecture at Mobiquity Inc., Wellesley, MA

“It is primarily a win in terms of in-persona transactions because not everyone carries cash with them, but everyone has a credit card on them,” he said.

Mr. Stark is not affiliated with Square. He commented based on his expertise on the subject.

Quick money
Romney is testing Square during Florida’s primary elections. The mobile payments service will continue to be used in future events if successful.

Obama is testing Square at select events across the country to see how consumers react to mobile payments. If they go over well, the president plans to integrate Square into an application that will let Obama supporters donate money wherever they are.

In order to make a donation, users will need to give their name, address and ZIP code.

This information can be used by the political candidates to build up their databases and target voters who have already donated and who are likely to be interested in donating more, as well as learning about the campaigns.

However, security will still be an issue for the politicians looking to bolster their fundraising, per Mr. Stark.

“Trust and identity are the main issues I worry about, but what we have seen is that people tend to be more willing to use their phones than expected for payments,” Mr. Stark said.

Mobile nation
After an increased use of digital in the 2008 elections, mobile is slated to become a big part of candidates overall strategies in 2012.

For example, Obama is also running mobile ads that users can tap on to donate via a mobile-optimized site.

Mobile video, SMS and apps are also expected to be hot channels for mobile in 2012.

In 2008, Obama’s campaign broke ground with its use of SMS, mobile advertising, mobile Web, advertising and video. The politician created an SMS database to target specific users and drive donations to his campaign and has since increased the program to include more specific and targeted messages.

The Square partnerships proves that consumers are beginning to use their mobile devices for more sophisticated features, and are willing to use their handset to buy items and make donations.

Similar to the Web, mobile payments will always have a security issue associated with them, but with more merchants and companies using mobile to bolster sales, it is clear that trust will eventually grow with consumers making mobile payments.

“I honestly think it is tough to put a date on when a complete mobile change will happen with payments, but I have no doubt that mobile will continue to be used,” Mr. Stark said.

“Companies that use mobile payments have a competitive edge over others and it completely changes spending habits,” he said.

“I am not sure if the tipping point will happen in 2012, but it is definitely coming.”

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York