Where’s the Love? Let’s talk MCX / CurrentC…

I’ve been in the emerging tech space for 20+ years. So often, I have sided with the “underdog” who uses technology to try to beat the status quo incumbents in a market. I’m a believer in new technologies pushing incumbents, creating new paradigms, and better experiences for consumers in the market. (Thank you, Uber!)

So, why is it that so many of us are sensing negativity towards MCX? After all, isn’t THAT what they are doing? …Pushing the status quo of the payments market through technology?

I was sifting through the hundreds of tweets from Dekkers’ recent Money2020 and something struck me. If the tweets overall represented an unbiased account of what people were hearing, it appeared that Dekkers was presenting CurrentC as a consumer value proposition, saying the consumer would choose the winner. But if that were the case, why would there be forced exclusivity arrangements by the member retailers not to take other mobile payments options? Where’s the consumer choice there?

To be fair, Apple is taking a closed approach as well. So far, any payments issuer who wants to play on the iPhone 6 and beyond needs to be part of ApplePay (and it appears PayPal is NOT allowed in at the moment.)

…So, why does the negativity skew so heavily on MCX? Let’s assume for a moment the consumer experience were comparable (which it looks like it won’t be). Let’s assume the value proposition is as high for the consumer as it is for the retailer (which it looks like it won’t be.) And let’s assume the consumer has just as many choices to pay the way they want to pay (which it… you get the point.) Set all these aside for a moment…

Is it possible that, because Apple has one of the strongest consumer brands in the world on the very device we need for the service, MCX got very unlucky by choosing the wrong enemy?

Think about it… Would anyone care as much if it were a war between the big box retailers and our not-so-beloved mobile operator brands? I doubt it. In fact, consumers might sit back, throw back some popcorn, and enjoy the fight…

But something seems different here. Apple users are outraged (and will continue to be outraged) that their favorite brand is being scoffed by the retailers.

Let’s assume MCX can fix CurrentC’s potential consumer experience issues (why is this a war of handshake technologies, anyway?!) …But to strong-arm a consumer’s favorite and beloved Apple brand? Well, some day, in the not-so-distant future, MCX retailers may look like the bad guys that don’t take ApplePay. And that’s when defections will happen… And THAT could be MCX’s downfall.

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One response to “Where’s the Love? Let’s talk MCX / CurrentC…

  1. M– I agree, somewhat. I too started a bit predisposed to MCX, and pushed back when the many in the payments world (and beyond) demised their chances for success.

    I was less than sanguine, though, the more I became convinced it was being driven by finance folks whose motivation was to hurt Visa. Key to make mobile proximity payments work is user experience, and finance folks rarely have the skills for that.

    So when I heard the stories (remember we’ve not seen anything yet) about 30-40 seconds to transact, I was dismayed but not surprised. However they have strong motivation, and I’d not be surprised held off launching until they improve what they do in comparison to Apple Pay.

    I suspect some of the scorn comes from the same navel-gazing focus that often afflict groups— the belief that no one outside the group can figure things out. Granted, Apple is not a payments firms. But their embrace of NFC (purely practical, imho, rather than a preference) plus the buzz that Apple gets gives them legitimacy. A coalition of merchants? Ah, they could never understand what we do!

    We’ll see. On reflection is strikes me that MCX could be a great compliment to Apple Pay, so long as Apple maintained something to distinguish their hardware. Think about it– many merchants, multiple communication tools between mobile and POS, and loyalty programs.

    Don’t believe it will happen, but since MCX want to bypass the legacy payments world, and Apple just wants to sell more hardware, on paper it makes sense.

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