Interview with Abdelkrim Azzouza
Abdelkrim Azzouza is Product Manager for in-store mobile payments, as well as terminals and other in-store payment methods, in our Global Business Line Merchant Services & Terminals. He joined us in 2008 after working for Alcatel Space as Product Manager.
How has the mobile payments industry evolved in the last few years?
The industry has evolved by leaps and bounds in the last few years. When I joined Worldline in 2008, the NFC card was being presented as the revolutionary method that would change our payment behaviors. As we know now, this method took quite some time to take off but, with the success and fast adoption of smartphones, consumers have adapted their behaviors and are now doing almost everything on their smartphones. Therefore, pushing a mobile payment solution on smartphones which does not need NFC as a prerequisite is relevant, and Worldline makes it easy to achieve.
There are a few key events in recent years that have really made an impact on this industry, one of them being the announcement and release of the first digital wallets, such as BCMC Mobile and MasterCard MasterPass. Other wallets have been released since and even smartphones manufacturers have entered the market with their device-specific wallets. Mobile payments have become a reality with secure solutions that consumers can trust.
How are consumers impacted by these changes?
They are impacted positively. They were already familiar with online banking on computers, at first, and then on smartphones, a few years later, so the next logical, and easy to adapt to, evolution was digital wallets and mobile payments. Because of their daily smartphone usage and the understanding brought on by online and mobile banking, consumers were actually waiting for mobile payments, and digital wallets, to become a reality in order to be able to pay online and in stores with their smartphones.
What are the impacts on merchants?
What is important for merchants is the ability to provide a wide array of accepted payment methods to their customers. In order to do so, they need to adapt to the expanding landscape of possible payment methods, which include mobile payments. In this context, merchants can be impacted by having to re-invest in a brand new and costly infrastructure. Another potential impact is the need for the merchants to educate their customers if the payment experience in their stores is not the same as the one that customers are used to. Finally, a third impact on merchants is their cost per transaction and how it differs from transactional costs linked to more established payment methods, like credit cards. Therefore, successful mobile payment solutions are the ones that take into account these impacts on merchants.
How does Worldline help both consumers and merchants navigate these changes?
Our responsibility as one of the major players in the payments industry in Europe is to deliver transparent and easy-to-use solutions. In order to that, we constantly keep track of technological evolutions and innovations and work on concrete ways to bring these efficiently to the market.
What is Smartpay and how does it help with these evolutions?
Smartpay is our end-to-end in-store mobile payment solution. This solution was first developed for online mobile payments. It allows consumers to pay for online purchases by scanning a QR code with their smartphones. With Smartpay, we wanted to take this revolutionary solution and adapt it for mobile payments in physical stores. In order to be successful in doing so, we had to keep in mind that the user experience should be as close as possible to the experience consumers were already used to. In addition, we had to make sure that this solution could be easily integrated into the already established payment infrastructures available in merchants’ stores.
With Smartpay, merchants just need a software upgrade to their existing payment infrastructure and consumers can just scan a QR code, displayed on the merchant's payment terminal, through our dedicated app to make their payments, the same way they have been accustomed to for online payments.
How do you see this industry evolving in the coming years?
Mobile payments have been garnering interest from a lot of different players from within and from outside of the industry. The incumbent payment issuers, such as the banks and the schemes, will want to maintain their current strong position on the market with their offers but they will be challenged by new players, whose core business is not payments, such as smartphones manufacturers. Their arrival in this industry is not far-fetched as mobile payments do require smartphones in order to work.
What will remain essential, in my opinion, for a mobile payment solution to be successful is its ease-of-use for any and all consumers, throughout their buying journeys, whether it is online or in physical stores.
Thank you for your time today, Abdelkrim. I will leave you with one final question: if you could invent a new innovative solution to help with one of your daily tasks, in your professional and/or private life, what would it be and why?
The solution I envision would benefit both our professional and personal lives. It would be a small device, maybe an ear piece, which would transmit my thoughts and ideas wirelessly to my smartphone when I go on walks and runs, because that is when I get my best ideas as I am generally very busy at work. A thought recorder!