Mobile Payments, Mobile Commerce, Mobile POS – What do they all mean?

Mobile payments, mobile commerce, mobile POS – three of many new, yet commonly used terms, in the payments ecosystem today. With recent entries into the payments space from companies like Google, Intuit, Square and LevelUp, mobile transactions are quickly becoming a mainstream news story, creating a myriad of new terms, some with varying definitions.

Mobile Payment: In its most simplistic definition mobile payment is the payment for an item or service from or via a mobile device. While many today associate mobile payments primarily with ‘contactless’ payments like near-field communication (NFC) or bar and QR codes, such as those used by Starbucks and LevelUp, SMS, mobile web payments and direct mobile billing are also included in its broader definition.

Mobile Payment AcceptanceSquare, Intuit’s GoPayment, and PayPal Here all find themselves in the mobile payments conversation. But, is there a difference between the ability to accept payments from a mobile device versus accepting payments on mobile device? Yes. Unlike the broader term of mobile payment, mobile payment acceptance signifies the ability to accept payments on a mobile device, whether it is a Smartphone or tablet. The typical set-up includes a free or low cost attachment that allows for the swiping of traditional credit and debit cards. The device is connected, through the Smartphone or tablet to a credit card processing application.

Mobile Commerce: While some interchange the terms mobile payment and mobile commerce, the latter has its own, distinctive definition. Mobile commerce encompasses mobile payment, but also includes a variety of mobile-based activities including content purchase and delivery, money transfer, auctions, browsing, marketing and advertising, and location based-services.

Mobile POS: Mobile point-of-sale (POS) is predicted to be the future standard, even among Tier 1 retailers. Many leaders, including Nordstrom, are investing in mobile POS, hand-held checkout devices that serve as a payment extension to the company’s larger POS system. While these new mobile POS devices have some of the same characteristics as mobile payment acceptance devices, they are much more robust in terms of features and reliability. These new devices will include the ability to accept mobile gift, NFC, QR/bar code, and include integrated loyalty and reward.

Tablet POS: In today’s marketplace, more and more point-of-sale developers are focused on iPad and tablet development versus traditional systems. These new platforms afford developers with more options, more capability and a lower cost alternative while retailers receive parallel benefits in terms of features and functionality, portability and reduced cost. In fact, tablet based POS systems open up a new opportunity for smaller retailers that, due to high cost, were not able to leverage POS in the past for their business. Innovative new solutions from companies like Lightspeed, Clover, and Gopago, to name a few, continue to enter the market and gain market share.

There’s no doubt that the payments space is changing, creating an exciting, yet confusing, time for everyone in the ecosystem. From traditional ISOs and agents to developers, resellers, and merchants, we are all focused on how we accept and process payments, how we deliver incremental value to our customers, and how we grow our respective businesses.