Visa eyes ‘mainstream launch’ of mobile payments

Visa is preparing a cloud-based digital wallet service and expansion of NFC services this year as it looks to make the UK the leading contactless payments market across Europe.

Visa NFC

Speaking at this morning’s Westminster eForum event, Marc O’Brien, managing director of Visa UK & Ireland, told attendees Visa was making multiple efforts towards a “mainstream launch” of contactless and mobile payments in the UK with work underway with banking and telecoms partners.

Visa is currently working with leading Android device manufacturers as well as mobile operator groups Telefonica and Vodafone to establish security standards for mobile payments via NFC this year according to O’Brien.

This scheme follows a mobile payments trials conducted last year with fellow Olympics sponsors Lloyds and Samsung during the Olympic period where it gave NFC-enabled phones to sporting VIPs over the seven week period to encourage awareness.

“Building momentum from the Olympic Games, we’re looking to roll out of the [contactless payment] cards and handsets this year [2013],” he said. “We’re also working on a digital wallet for cloud-based e-commerce and that’s coming here [UK] too this year.”

Visa’s data suggests that 17 per cent of the UK’s mobile phones are NFC-enabled at present, this is expected to increase to 70+ per cent by 2017 and is a key indicator the payments provider will monitor to gauge how hard it will push such services.

Currently, the UK ranks second to Poland across Visa’s European footprint in terms of take-up of contactless payments, despite them being debuted here first, although the payments giant is planning a series of initiatives to reverse this trend in 2013.

“Our roll out of contactless in the UK was the first and we started with the coffee shops and what we found was that those are not the environment to drive huge scale. It’s the Boots, the McDonald’s and national brands that will drive and volume,” he said.

“The other markets across Europe have learnt from that lesson and in the UK we’re playing catch-up… We are second in terms of take-up and that’s not good enough. In 2013 we want to become the no.1 market again.”

During the session, he also told attendees of Visa’s work towards a including the introduction of contactless payments on the TfL network.

Contactless payments in the UK received a major push last year with Visa and rival providers including Barclaycard making major plays in the area in a bid to capitalise on the Olympics being hosted in London. However, a study published in the end of 2012 claimed a lack of marketing support from retailers is stifling uptake of  contactless payments.

ICM Research’s study revealed that out of 26 high street stores visited in a recent mystery shop, only eleven offered contactless payment facilities and of those that did only three visibly promoted use of the technology.


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