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Will 2014 be the year that mobile payments succeed?

2011...2012...2013… each have been touted as the year that mobile payments will reach a tipping point, yet it would seem that adoption is lagging behind the news hype, at least in the UK.

While mobile banking is now mainstream and accepted (even demanded for by some consumers), we just don’t seem to have taken to mobile payments at the point of sale as quickly. But is all this is about to change?

Consumers are definitely becoming more and more accustomed to using their mobiles - whether it’s for shopping, browsing or online banking – but how comfortable are they with using their Smartphones for making payments?

The general consumerisation of IT has seen the power shift from business providing services, to consumers demanding services, which they will inevitably continue to do. But when it comes to mobile payments, there are still big questions around technology and security, and consumers are smart enough to question how this capability will actually benefit them.

Technologically speaking, the payments industry is advancing faster than it ever has. Barclays’ mobile peer to peer payments app Pingit has recently reported significant success, with apparently 700-800k regular users. An exciting development last week was VocaLink’s announcement of its forthcoming mobile payment system Zapp, promising to allow consumers to check the balance in their bank accounts, access money in real time and pay at the point of sale using their phones in a secure way.

This is certainly a step in the right direction, and whilst this still relies on the buy-in from all the major banks, the industry finally appears to be showing signs of thinking about the underpinning service rather than just the device we use to deliver it, or the glossy front end.

The financial industry knows all too well that trust has to be earned, and for mobile payments to succeed, any service has to be built on solid ground. Mistakes upfront will stifle consumer adoption, causing users to shy away from emerging technologies regardless of the benefits promised. That’s why the investment we’re starting to see in reliable infrastructure will pay dividends, enabling that front-end innovation to continue advance.

It seems that 2013 is sowing the seeds for what we’ll see bloom next year, and I think the coming months will be very interesting.

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