Will Starbucks Launch Us Into Mobile Payments Land?

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/krisvandesande/

It’s safe that say that current advancements in technology have happened quickly. As in, there’s an app for almost anything. Now, consumers do much more than simply talk on their phones — they email, plan, and browse social media on them — but some analysts are surprised by what has been slow to make itself popular. Namely, mobile payments.

Many companies and retailers allow their customers to make payments with their mobile devices using apps, but most consumers still use credit cards, and no technology company offering a mobile payment service has emerged as a leader.

Despite the delay in the action, though, certain industry sources believe that the absence of mobile payment popularity is about to change, and Forbes’s Gene Marks is one of them. In a report published Monday morning, he argued that Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) will be the soon be the new ringleader of the mobile industry, and he based his forecast on an organizational shift that occurred last week at the company.

According to Forbes, Starbucks said in a statement last week that CEO Howard Schultz will expand his role in product innovation and digital retailing as a part of a shuffling of senior executives aimed largely at adjusting to technology-driven shifts in the industry. Schultz will work closely with Chief Digital Officer Adam Brotman and Chief Strategy Officer Matt on what he called “next generation (of) retailing and payments initiatives,” per the publication.

Marks interprets that restructuring as a sign that Starbucks’s newest priority is an advancement in the coffee chain’s technology and its ability to offer consumers the choice of mobile payment. It’s not a complete surprise that the company is interested in streamlining its payment options, as it now operates close to 18,000 stores in more than 50 countries. However, it still will be interesting to see if Starbucks can pull off something that even Apple (NASDAQ:APPL), Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), and PayPal (NASDAQ:EBAY) have yet to accomplish.

The thing about Starbucks is that it already offers consumers the option of paying with mobile devices via its mobile app — however, many customers choose not to use it. That suggests the chain needs to further simplify its app and make it even faster, but that’s something Starbucks has yet to do. Marks believes that the coffee company could easily spearhead the initiative to launch even more accessible mobile payment apps, motivating many other big chains to follow, but as Forbes reports, the mobile payments industry has yet to find a big company that can effectively adopt and standardize a process.

Nonetheless, Marks believes that Starbucks will invest in existing technology to make the leap and eventually roll out a system that will result in the eventual disappearance of credit cards. More than 20 percent of payments are already being conducted with a mobile device using popular apps, but that figure will rise even more if Starbucks decides to make the call that Marks thinks they will. He said in Forbes: “They have reorganized themselves at the very top to do this. They are going to determine how we will be using our devices to buy coffee. And as a result they will determine how other retailers will sell us jeans, orange juice, and move tickets too.”

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