Retailers To Mobile Payment Players: What's In It For Us?

We were hoping this week to find out when Isis will finally launch its mobile payment trials in Salt Lake City and Austin. No such luck: "Imminently" is all Isis Chief Commerce Officer Ed Busby would say at a presentation in New York on Wednesday (Oct. 10). But Busby did pass along a comment that crystallizes the problem chains have with the mobile-operator consortium, as well as with Google Wallet and PayPal: "I have a friend over at Banana Republic. He always tells me, 'Ed, why is it everybody is knocking on my door all the time saying they can give my gross margin away faster than everybody else?'"

That's how chains see Isis and its rivals? No wonder retailers aren't pushing mobile payments at POS. Coupons and promotions (which the mobile payments guys love) eat margins. Mobile payments aren't offering much-hoped-for interchange relief, either. That suggests mobile payments players need to start scrambling. Should they help enable loyalty first and ride payments on loyalty's coattails? Or make it easier to use phones as in-store customer trackers? Or promise to give chains more and better CRM data? We don't know. But without something serious in it for retailers to encourage a serious retailer push, there won't be any mobile payments—Isis or not.