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Cashing In On Mobile Money Opportunities

Long gone are the days of shopping exclusively in stores and spending only money that's in your wallet. Sure, we've all got PayPal accounts these days, and purchasing goods and digital content from pretty much anywhere has never been easier. But the sheer number of mobile devices in consumers' hands magnifies the effect, and Juniper Research has recently released a report on just how big the mobile payments space has become.

Mobile Money Goes Mainstream is a whitepaper extract from Mobile Payment Strategies--Opportunities & Markets 2011–2015, from Juniper Research. When I was first approached about taking a look at the report, I was a bit underwhelmed in that I thought I was in tune with all things mobile, and that people shopping through their iPhones hardly rises to the level of news. As I dug in on the piece, I realized that I am pretty much a bumpkin on the topic.

Big numbers are meant to impress, so let's get right to the one that matters: Juniper estimates that by 2015, the global mobile payments market will be worth almost $700 million dollars. Given that much of that occurs in increments of somewhere under a $1 to about $20, it is pretty thought-provoking from the perspective of volume of transactions. But what is really fascinating to the uninitiated is the clinical breakdown of payment schemes, exactly what methods are being used to spend these dollars from mobile devices in various parts of the world, and how money spent is spread across both digital and physical goods and funds transfers. This is where the report packs its punch.

It’s not oversimplifying the point to say that phones are supplanting cash in some countries, where “near field communications” amount to the wave of a device that makes money change accounts. Then there are in-app billing mechanisms--my phone talking to yours directly for person-to-person payments, and a handful of other classifications of mobile payment schemes. There are definitely preferred ways of mobile shopping as you travel the world, implications for lower-tech countries, and a lot of food for thought for those looking to make revenue off of the opportunities afforded by new ways of getting customers to part with their money. Those with a stake in the mobile payment realm are likely going to want to give this one a read.

As I ponder the implications after digesting the whitepaper summary, I feel the familiar left brain-right brain conflict kick in--the one that frequently pops up when analyzing current IT trends. In this case, I truly appreciate the innovative, technically progressive ways in which those wanting to can shop for content or material items without needing to fork over dollar bills, pounds, pesos or yuan. At the same time, when it comes to spending money, ease isn't always a good thing, especially for those who don't manage their finances well to begin with. I fully realize that the genie is out of the bottle on mobile payment. Now, hopefully, somebody will come up with an “Uh, do you really need that thing you’re thinking about buying just because it’s so easy to buy that that thing?” app.