Mobile retail and banking applications have failed again and again, says Bevan Ducasse of WiGroup – and the reason is shortsighted strategies that involve exclusive deals and attempts to lock consumers in to single products. 
Speaking at a recent seminar on mobile strategy, Ducasse says no mobile transaction app can work without the close involvement of retailers – and no retailer should risk investing in an app that consumers may reject or that could become rapidly obsolete.
“For the retailer, accepting mobile payments and vouchers means integrating new technology at every till or point of sale (POS) — and that is an expensive and time-consuming operation. From their perspective, it makes no sense at all to go to all that trouble just to support a single app that only a minority of their customers will use.”
Ducasse says that WiGroup is now seeing retailers paying increasing attention to future-proof mobile strategies.
“Retailers are recognising that they need to give consumers choice about the mobile tools they use, and accommodate a variety of different phone types and operating systems. They also need to give themselves the ability to design and launch campaigns with any partner they want.”
Constant uncertainty about what new technologies will become popular in the future is another important driver, he says.
“Right now everyone is predicting that near-field communications (NFC), which will enable people to pay for their purchases just by tapping their phones, is the next big thing and wiGroup already has a solution to enable this in an open and consumer centric fashion. But we have no real idea what’s coming after that — except that it will be sooner than we’d like.”
The solution, says Ducasse, is for retailers to embrace interoperability. “What you want is an open platform that you can implement and integrate to once – then use to turn on any mobile transaction application you want, now or in the future.”
Ducasse is betting his company that this is the way of the future, having, a number of years ago, turned WiGroup from a single mobile wallet provider among many into an open and strategically important platform play that is already seeing success with major retailers.
“18 months ago, we had just 5 000 mobile transactions a month through WiPlatform,” he says. “By February 2013 that was up to 390 000 transactions and still growing rapidly. We’re seeing a strong demonstration of the value of being part of an open system that gives both retailers and their customer’s choice and flexibility.”