Get Ready for the Mobile Pay Explosion

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Who is leading the mobile payment race? There are several players competing today. PayPal started the revolution 15 years ago, and Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay have joined the fray. Many newcomers are entering this space on a regular basis.

The traditional money space has undergone change with innovations like debit cards and ATM machines. Though they took a while to catch on, they eventually transformed the way we interact with banks and money.

Mobile Pay is expected to offer explosive growth opportunities. It grew from the online payment space PayPal carved out years ago. It is still a relatively new technology, but competition already is shaking things up.

After Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay and others jumped in to compete with PayPal, there was an expectation that mobile pay would transform the way consumers think about and relate to money. However, as with debit cards and ATM machines, adoption takes time.

PayPal launched around 15 years ago as an online payment company. In the early years, it was the new outlying company. It was good for buying things on the Internet before credit cards were readily accepted. It was clunky, but it attracted early adopters. Mainstream adoption, however, took time.

Today, PayPal is the grandfather of the new mobile payment space, and it is transforming itself and expanding into the mobile payment space.

The mobile pay revolution is starting to take hold. Today, it's possible to use a smartphone to make transactions that would have required cash or a credit card yesterday. Apple, Google, Samsung, Square and many others are vying for market share.

Since many users already were familiar with using PayPal, and since Apple, Google and Samsung were well known and trusted, there was an expectation that the marketplace would shift rapidly. That is not happening. The shift is taking time -- but that is typical with changes in money and banking.

The slow pace of the shift could benefit PayPal by giving it time to update and expand its brand and relationships with customers and merchants. That is one reason PayPal leads the mobile space today.

Although the first round in the mobile payment match goes to PayPal, the winner of the second round is not yet clear. The space will get more crowded, and the competition will get heavier. Expect Apple, Google and Samsung to ramp up growth. Expect MasterCard, Visa, Chase Pay and assorted credit card companies and banks to become players in this growing space as well. Expect retailers like Walmart, Target and many others to jump in.

The next several years will be very active, very noisy and very confusing. What will happen next depends on how well each player brands and markets itself, and how well it relates to customers. Attention to the customer experience and the ability to innovate will determine the leaders going forward.

PayPal is holding on to its leadership position in mobile pay as the marketplace begins to shift. It will be interesting to watch what happens over the next year or two as the mobile payments industry kicks into high gear. Who else will join the party? Expect plenty to show up.

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a wireless analyst, telecom analyst, industry analyst, consultant and speaker who has been sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry for 25 years. Email him at jeff@jeffKAGAN.com.

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