Last week I was just at ground zero of the mobile wallet battle, the National Retail Federation annual convention in NYC. It was a great opportunity to see what the folks from MCX, ISIS, PayPal and Google were telling the audience of 25,000+ retailers.
No one has won the war, but a few winners emerged at the skirmishes I witnessed:
- Best Tradeshow Branding: ISIS absolutely owned the show in terms of branded impressions. They had their name on the bags (inset), on the registration desk, at two lounges and at their purple booth. Congrats to its Seattle-based marketing/PR team who made quite a splash with that six-figure buy.
- Best Product Launch: Google was the only one of the four which launched a new product, its digital coupon/POS initiative, Zavers. The new service isn't solely a mobile wallet, and the Google Wallet is a key piece of enabling technology. Although its booth was buried in the back, Google had a lot of traffic when I stopped by on day two.
- Best Partnering: PayPal was the clear winner, announcing a huge partnership with NCR. (NCR, which owned the front of the show floor, seemed to have a huge buzz going at all times, and I don't think it was a coincidence that the color scheme of the whole show seemed to revolve around the NCR booth). See the post at our Finovate blog for a summary of the deal making.
- Retailer BFF award: The MCX panel featured execs from Walmart, Gap Inc., Lowe's, Dunkin Donuts, and WaWa doing some serious bonding for an hour. It made me want to become a retailer, just so I could join MCX. It was impressive.
- AWOL award: The bank networks, Visa and MasterCard, had virtually no presence, neither exhibiting nor speaking. Square was not represented either, unless you count the keynote by Howard Schultz of Starbucks, which owns a small chunk of the startup.
Bottom line: Things are still wide open and it's impossible to see the winners yet to emerge. Silicon Valley remains enthralled with Square (which is partly owned by Visa), valuing it at around USD3 billion. NFC technology is hotly debated, and so far ignored by Apple, PayPal and MCX. There are 280 mobile payment startups hoping to become relevant. And all eyes are on PayPal and Google to further their partnerships with Discover.