The Turning Point
 
Some of us are still surprised by mobile applications and how fast they’ve transitioned from being bells and whistles to becoming tools that are instrumental in our everyday lives. Back when the very first smartphone was introduced, however, most people knew that the world was about to change forever. The retailers themselves saw it as a great opportunity, so much so that they quickly realized that not only would those apps turn out to be fresh and exciting for the public, but that they would also become essential for increasing customer engagement.
 
According to research by McKinsey & Company, in 2017, mobile applications accounted for more than 30 percent of total digital commerce volume globally. Their number, of course, is expected to snowball in all regions over the next few years. Most likely, we are about to witness yet another stage in the evolution of mobile apps, the beginning of which is taking place right now. We have already started to make apps a lot simpler in terms of use, packed with features that go way beyond just new offers, product catalogs, and store locators. Plus, these days, many apps are created with a single goal in mind—to help people save time.
 
Mobile Payments 2.0
 
Multiple apps provided by retailers work as extensions of loyalty programs, meaning that they only allow users to collect loyalty points and receive special offers as a result of buying a product. However, customers usually only run these applications after they make a purchase—and that feels like a missed opportunity. To induce an increase in use and drive better business results, retailers are now turning to mobile payment functionalities—features that can make the shopping experience more seamless and help companies enter brand new marketing territories at the same time.
  
Thanks to mobile payments, customers are no longer required to pay with cash or a physical credit card. Providing state-of-the-art security, new apps enable customers to store payment information (credit cards, gift cards, PayPal, Google Pay) within the applications themselves. Customers can then secure access with biometric fingerprint or facial recognition authentication methods. Customers can also trigger mobile payments by having their loyalty cards scanned at the cash register or by scanning a QR code during checkout.
 
Designed to complement loyalty programs, mobile payments are now helping retailers present their clients with personalized content at the right time and place and be more successful at attracting attention from their target customers. Mobile payments work perfectly in scenarios where users pay for their monthly subscriptions (Netflix, Amazon Prime) or purchase points and then use them as “in-game” currency (the Starbucks Rewards program).
 
Similar scenarios will proliferate because technology providers are continually finding new ways of using mobile payments to help their business partners engage their customers. For example, Comarch is currently working on several oil and gas projects, the goal of which is to shorten the time of car refueling by using an app that features a mobile payment option. The technology incorporated in the app enables a customer to make a reservation at a gas station for any service, perform the preauthorization to block necessary funds, and proceed with the payment automatically once the service is complete. While the customer is using the application, he or she can be presented with various loyalty offers or coupons that can be used at the selected gas station.
 
From a technical standpoint, the level of difficulty concerning the implementation of mobile payment technology generally depends on the chosen model. One of the most natural methods is integration with vendors who provide ready-to-use software development kits (SDKs), e.g., Stripe. These kinds of solutions make mobile payments PCI-compliant, while such vendors also provide a wide range of payment options that are accepted in multiple countries for a fee of 3 to 5 percent per single transaction.
 
So, Are the New Mobile Payment Features Important for Loyalty Programs?
 
Seeing how popular mobile payment technologies are becoming, it seems quite apparent that there is no turning back from where we are headed. This also means that companies focused on gaining competitive advantage need to use whatever means necessary to get their customers’ attention—and that includes using all mobile features, including mobile payments. Plus, if everyone is using apps to pay for products or services and you can use that process to promote your brand, why would you not do that? 
 

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