For something that hasn't changed much over time, in 2013 the payments industry will accelerate the momentum we have seen in 2012 in changing the way people exchange and spend their money.
This last year has been filled with companies launching innovative new solutions to enable digital payments at their favorite shops and stores worldwide. Even in an economic downturn there's one consumer insight that remains robustly true - people love shopping but hate paying.
At PayPal we have an end-to-end view of the industry that others don't and I would argue that payments at point of sale alone is not a problem that needs to be solved. The real opportunity for technology is to solve deep customer needs in new ways. That's what PayPal did 14 years ago when it allowed all of us to purchase items quickly and easily online.
With that in mind, I wanted to share some thought starters, perhaps predictions, for 2013:
1. NFC will fail to gain mass adoption
The NFC payments debate will slowly die in 2013. Is tapping a phone on a terminal any easier than swiping a credit card? I don't think so - it's not solving a real consumer problem and its not providing additional value to encourage me (or anyone else for that matter) to change my behavior.
2. The payments, loyalty and coupons businesses will merge
The digital wallet must offer more than another way to pay. It needs to remove complexity from your life, not increase it. For sure, the technology needs to be great, and simple, but then it should get out of your way and let you focus on the things you most want - loyalty points or rewards for example. In 2013 payments will finally merge with loyalty and rewards. These three separate businesses will converge to make it easy for consumers and merchants to automatically leverage appropriate coupons and offers.
3. The cash register will go mobile
In the old retail model, customers browsed in the aisle and paid at the register. This was partly because the registers were hard-wired to phone lines to gain the necessary authorizations. As we move to a world where even the transactions in a shop are transmitted on the back end via the Internet, sales associates will be free to roam the stores and help their customers check out and pay from the aisle or even the changing room... and if they don't have the right size or color in stock, they'll order it for you on the spot to be delivered direct to your home.
4. The rise of new experiences beyond check in
To me, new location-based experiences will revolutionize more than just shopping. The power to be fed just what you want, when you want it, was still a science fiction fantasy in 2011. It is only just now coming to light in 2012 in its most basic form with solutions like Apple's Passbook. I think that location aware, and context-relevant shopping and payments experiences will be one of those technologies that changes much much more for the consumer than even the hard working technologists in Silicon Valley can imagine today.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.