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World Retail Congress 2014: The Future Is Now!

The first morning of World Retail Congress 2014 in Paris featured a one-on-one interview conducted by the event’s founder and chairman, Ian McGarrigle, with Anne Cairns, president, International Markets at MasterCard.

The title for the interview was ‘The Future Is Now, Are You Ready?’ Cairns began by highlighting just a few of the areas that have seen a rapid pace of change. Africa is seeing growth, with Cairns citing the pace of digital development in South Africa, as well as work in Nigeria that has seen 13 million people enrolled in a digital pilot project. Shopping patterns are driving digital payment. Cairns noted research that found that Nigerians were the biggest spenders per head at luxury store Harrods, while China now has 100 million citizens that are travelling abroad and shopping. This new global shopping spree from Chinese citizens has left many looking at the issue of tax rebates around their roaming purchases, and Cairns noted that MasterCard has recently launched a tax product in China for this reason.

Cairns made the point that all of these changes are happening simultaneously, and that these are just a few snapshots of what is happening around the world. When it comes to analysing the data, she advised how it is important to look at cities and trade corridors rather than focussing purely on country information. Cairns explained how MasterCard has a concept of ‘Priceless Cities’, where consumers can go and have ‘money can’t buy’ experiences, while research is generated from this cross-border spending flow. The information generated when a card buys a plane ticket, and then when is purchased on that trip, can be used to build a picture of the consumer. This can allow retailers the chance to figure out their catchment audience of the future, as well as better understanding what they can offer to their audience domestically before they travel.

Much of this data is generated in the MasterCard SpendingPulse reports, which deliver real-time information on what consumers are doing and present the whole consumer buying pattern. Understanding the way that consumers think about payments in their daily lives should inform retailers of the ways in which they can add value to the experience. As Cairns put it, you don’t wake up thinking ‘I want to make a payment’, rather you are thinking about the item that you want to buy. People also adapt very quickly to new ways of transacting that make their lives easier, with Cairns pointing to the London public transport system where well over one million journeys have been made using contactless payment cards since the infrastructure to allow this was implemented earlier this month.

Looking at that type of behavioural phenomena, Cairns had a look into her crystal ball for where the next wave of change for the industry will come from, and had two clear predictions for the future. The first related to the mobile space. For a very long time there has been speculation about when and how Apple would enter the payments space, and earlier this month we had our answer, Apple Pay. Cairns was happy that this effectively piggybacks on MasterCard technology, as Apple Pay incorporates EMV, and has the reach that card networks have globally. She expects that the speed of development in this space will now rapidly increase, as natural rivals to Apple, such as Google and Samsung, respond with their own offerings. While Apple Pay is big news, it is important to remember that Android devices hold a greater market share in the mobile space than the iPhone.

Cairns signed off by highlighting the other next wave of change in the industry – that of security. Noting the public concern of recent high profile data breaches, she commented that safety and security are paramount to the future of the industry. While MasterCard is committed to investing in cyber security, Cairns pointed out that all stakeholders in the payments industry should be discussing this issue together on a regular basis, as it is critical to the entire business. 



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