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Apple has more disruptive shot at mobile payments than others: SAS Institute

Passbook aggregates loyalty cards

NEW YORK – An SAS Institute executive at the NRF 102nd Annual Convention & Expo said that if Apple adds near-field technology to its next generation of mobile devices, the tech titan could have a huge leg-up with both consumers and retailers.

Executives from SAS Interactive and Brennan Group discussed how the world’s biggest tech companies are taking over the mobile space during the “The Tech Titans’ War for Mobile Dominance – How Amazon, Apple, eBay, Facebook and Google are Shaping Our Mobile World” session. Additionally, the session gave examples of retailers that have a firm understanding of how mobile fits into its marketing mix.

“When it comes to mobile payment, Apple has a very different – but potentially more disruptive – shot at this market,” said Lori Schafer SAS Institute, Ponte Vedra, FL.

“When Apple adds in NFC, it will have two advantages over everyone else,” she said. “First, the iTunes database is huge with over 400 million people already signed up. Second, the iPod touch and iPads are fast gaining traction as the next generation of cash registers, and a number of retailers are now starting to roll them out to their associates in-store instead of using the traditional cash register.”

“This sets up Apple to potentially own both sides of millions of transactions.”

Force to reckon with
During Ms. Schafer’s portion of the session, the executive broke down the five companies’ strategies by explaining how each company has broadened its scope in order to be a leader in mobile.

Amazon for instance is aiming to take ahold of both the publishing and hardware industries with its Kindle Fire device. Although Amazon has positioned its Kindle Fire as a cheaper alternative to Apple’s iPad, the goal behind the company is to have a wider reach with its app store to dominate digital sales of books, music and media.

On the other hand, eBay has transitioned its PayPal service from online to mobile for both bricks-and-mortar stores such as Home Depot and online retailers. Additionally, its PayPal Here is a direct hit on mobile payment company Sqaure with a service lets merchants accept transactions via a thumb-sized device that plugs into a mobile device.

Facebook has one billion users, representing one-seventh of the world’s population, per Ms. Shafer.

More importantly, Facebook has a trove of data on its users to help marketers target their mobile initiatives. The company is using this advantage with separate ad formats specifically for mobile.

In 2013, the war between Apple and Google will continue to heat up. With mobile payments, mapping and its Android mobile operating system, Google’s mobile focus is clear.

“Do you consider these titans friend or foe?,” Ms. Shafer said.

“Regardless, you can’t ignore them as they forever change the retail landscape, and it’s definitely a new world out there with the five tech titans,” she said. “They continue to fuel thousands of new companies and entirely new industries while they will decimate many others.”

Retail advantage
According to Bernie Brennan, managing director at Brennan Group, Ponte Vedra, FL, the trick for retailers is to find ways to leverage the tech titans in order to position themselves better in mobile.

Walmart in particular, ramped up its mobile strategy in 2012. The company has specifically gone after the in-store experience with features including its scan service that lets consumers check-out and bag purchases themselves while in-store.

Other leaders in the space include Starbucks and Walgreens, which have also carved out unique places in mobile.

For example, Starbucks’ My Rewards program that lets consumers buy drink and food items via their mobile devices is partly successful because it targets high-frequency users and offers rewards for paying via a mobile device.

“Mobile sites and mobile applications have to be unique, simple, easy to navigate and simply merchandised with offers,” Mr. Brennan said.

“If you are in showrooming, don’t turn the lights off – you have to have Wi-Fi in the stores,” he said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York