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More mobile, more connected: As 5G evolves, payments will be crucial for merchant opportunities

5G. It’s not just about what you can do with your devices, and how fast you can do it. From ecosystems of providers and services to the evolution of security and opening up of new markets – here we look at how experiences, transactions and inclusion will change as connectivity reaches ever-higher levels.

As we’ve discussed in previous articles, 5G hasn’t made its dramatic worldwide entrance just yet. Perhaps unsurprisingly. We can blame the pandemic, the worldwide economic climate, or any number of other factors; there are multiple elements – technological, regulatory, and more – that need to fall into place to bring the promise of 5G to life.

But it’s approaching quickly. And it’ll be realised, at least in part, by the interconnected global ecosystem of merchants, providers and consumers that will emerge in its wake. The potential applications are enticing for all players, ready to capitalise on boosted bandwidth, lower latency and massive scalability, to drive new user experiences and services.

Mobility and opportunity

While making payments using smartphones is no new thing, enhanced connectivity and bandwidth through 5G will greatly improve these experiences, transforming the quality of transactions wherever and whenever they take place. On a practical level this means faster and more secure. But beyond that it also means more innovative as, for example, payments become increasingly integrated with technologies within retail and wider environments.

Speedier networks will play a big role in the continued rise of mCommerce, with the global mobile payments market set to reach $5.4 trillion by 2026 – a compound annual growth rate of 24.5% over the five-year forecast period. As part of this trend, the use of mobile wallets is also set to soar, to being a $3.5 trillion industry by 2023 (up from $756 billion in 2018).

Better alternative payments methods will enable new mCommerce experiences as merchants look at how they interact with consumers in more immediate, personalised ways. No more so than in the context of location-based engagement. This means utilising location data combined with existing consumer behaviour and purchasing information to target offers in the right place and right time through geotargeting, geofencing or beaconing.

Given the greater processing power and bandwidth available, another potential area of growth for merchants is the use of video to connect with shoppers. It’s highly visual, immersive and provides a wealth of information that’s not possible through normal product pages, photos and descriptions. For that reason, it’s a medium that can have a positive impact of purchasing decisions and accelerate the buying cycle.

In gaming, the use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) will be a huge driver for advanced mobile experiences. Again, it’s about immersive engagement, and how this captures the consumer’s imagination, transforms their interactions and presents marketing opportunities that drive loyalty.

In each of these scenarios, integrating flexible, consumer-friendly mobile payments solutions into the process will be key to translating the mobile engagement opportunity into revenue generation.

Advanced security in a connected world

As fast as companies innovate, bad actors innovate as well. This applies not just to merchants’ cybersecurity initiatives, but also to the ways they offer services and products to people, as we’ve talked about here.

With mCommerce booming and merchant–consumer engagement happening more frequently and in a greater number of physical and virtual environments, security becomes more critical than ever. Luckily, companies now have masses of data at their disposal – from infrastructure monitoring, cybersecurity tools, and merchant data – that will be key to combating the multiplying threats. It’s how that data is pooled and processed in real-time that will be the differentiator in any security strategy.

This includes applying Artificial Intelligence and deep learning to Know Your Customer based on context, location and behaviours. This will allow effective identification of fraud and also, importantly, stop the wrong decisions being made – such as false positives (something that costs merchants billions a year). The compute power we gain through the cloud combined with 5G will enable the multi-layered security that will combat fraud with increased sophistication, and lead to better decisions being made that bolster the bottom line.

Although debates around privacy will never be far from the table, the use of different types of data will likely become the norm and we’ll see movement beyond the standard security measures like passwords and personal identification numbers. Multiple types of authentication – biometric, behavioural and location-based – will enhance the security of transactions and support faster verification, credit checks and fraud screening to make consumers interactions safer and more seamless.

5G and payments driving inclusion

Perhaps one of the most exciting prospects with 5G is in emerging markets, and more rural and remote areas around the world that are significantly less physically connected. Enhanced connectivity in new geographies – and the ability to conduct mobile transactions in real-time enabled by mobile payments solutions – will allow businesses to offer products and services to a whole new set of customers. It will also increase financial inclusion, giving those without access to banks or traditional credit and debit cards a means of operating in the digital economy.

Driving alternative payment solutions through improved mobile connectivity has the potential to open up a new world of eCommerce for the unbanked and underbanked. But more than that, it breaks down barriers to fundamental banking services and creates opportunity for both challenger and traditional banks alike.

Potential aplenty, but payments are critical

There's much to ponder as 5G continues its rollout. As with every significant gear change in technology, its success depends on consumer buy-in, which relies on innovative providers creating unique applications using that technology. Of course, none of this happens in isolation.

Increased connectivity also means increased interconnections. Of consumers and companies enabled by data. Of payments providers and merchants through embedded solutions and open APIs.

And of previously excluded populations around the globe to fundamental digital services.

How and whether the potential of this interconnectivity is realised – how companies across the whole ecosystem respond and how user experiences shift as a result – remains to be seen over the next critical couple of years.