The recent phenomenon known as mobile payments has caused me to start looking at some possible casualties in that all-important process known as the business transaction.
There are several factors at play, not the least of which is speed and that thing known as “convenience,” which customers always appreciate.
In assessing the future of how consumers shop and pay for their products, it has inspired me to look at the current state of not only cash and checks, but credit card companies MasterCard and Visa.
What I’ve realized is that not only are their prospects becoming more in doubt, but it may not be out of the realm of possibility they may be killed off by tech giants Apple and Google.
But it doesn’t end there. There is one other company (among others) that needs to start panicking — payment processing giant VeriFone.
Consumers can’t ever be without their cellphones. This is a known fact. With that, vendors such as Starbucks and McDonald’s, which recently formed partnerships with and eBay’s PayPal , are becoming more open to the idea of adopting mobile payments. These payments are expected to become the world’s currency by 2016.
Making matters worse is the fact that Wal-MartStores, the world’s largest retailer, has started to look for ways to utilize Apple’s iPhone to help lower its $12 million per second in cashier expenses at its U.S. stores.
If Wal-Mart is pleased with its recent Apple trials and moves forward with mobile payments, it would force other retailers, including Target and BestBuy, to follow suit — particularly Best Buy , as it is now looking for ways to increase profitability.
This would present a pretty significant chunk of VeriFone’s revenue, which it may never again see.
What this means is that VeriFone has four years before 2016 and the dominance of mobile payments to adapt or die. But its recent quarter inspired very little confidence that it can avoid extinction.
I’ve always thought the stock was expensive and it has done little to change that sentiment as it recently reported a miss. What’s more, the company has to now work to regain the trust of investors to whom it failed to disclose damage caused by a fire in a facility in Brazil that hurt its revenue by an estimated $10 million.
While that may not be a significant amount to a company of its stature, the negative investor sentiment it caused may end up hurting VeriFone more in the long term. Nonetheless, retailers are not going to wait for it to get its house in order. Though VeriFone terminals may be ubiquitous now, the need to offer convenience and minimize long delays during checkout is proving to be a top priority among merchants.
To that end, businesses that once relied upon VeriFone are now trying to find the right mix to offer ease and expediency to consumers without the back-end headaches often associated with synergizing hardware and software. This is what makes Apple, Google, and even Square so appealing, not only to startup businesses, but those that are mature and well-established.
The only question is which company will step up and define the mobile payment market?
Does VerfiFone have the ability to do it? Perhaps. But it risks cannibalizing its existing business. It is hard to not envision that one day its revenue will be sucked out completely by the fact that people will no longer carry wallets.
One day there will be nothing except an iPhone mobile wallet standing in the way between a consumer and the product he or she wants to buy. VeriFone can only hope for some sort of delay, or that it has more than four years to figure things out.
—By TheStreet.com Contributor Richard Saintvilus
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At the time of publication, Richard Saintvilus was long Apple’s shares and held no position in any of the other stocks mentioned.