Guest Column | January 3, 2014

How To Partner To Deliver Best-Of-Breed M-Commerce Solutions

By Brian Sadowski, Senior Vice President for Information Technology, Apriva

Regardless of which market research firm you subscribe to, the growth of the mobile commerce sector is expected to escalate quickly. Some reports, in fact, estimate that this fledgling industry may top $15 billion in annual revenue by 2017. The evidence of this potential is all around us. There seems to be an endless stream of new services and products that continually enter the market, including a broad array of payment, marketing, customer service, and analytics technologies that are targeted to merchant services and retailers. The Wall Street and Silicon Valley financial communities have sat up and taken notice, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone that each is already knee-deep in potential investors looking to capitalize on this burgeoning opportunity.

For independent software vendors (ISVs), mobile commerce certainly offers an attractive proposition. It is in its nascent stage, is well capitalized, and possesses an almost inexhaustible thirst for new innovation. But like all industries, there are nuances, complications, and potential landmines that are indigenous to this space. For example, facilitating payments — a necessary evil for providers — requires strict adherence to complicated regulatory mandates that continue to evolve. Merchant and consumer preferences also shift in terms of devices, apps, partnerships, and every other possible type of service.

ISVs that are looking to penetrate the mobile commerce space may want to consider partnering with some of the established technology providers in this market to help navigate this complex landscape, accelerate time to market, and gain access to a very sophisticated customer base. While there are a number of providers that can assist developers, ISVs should evaluate several factors for finding the right partner. These include:

Technical flexibility. Partners that can only support a sub-set of technologies limit the potential for ISVs right out of the gate. With demand spread across iOS, Android, and Windows Phone platforms, along with a multitude of devices and apps, it is imperative that ISVs find a partner that enables developers to write in the language that gives them the tools to build apps and services in the manner that works best for them.

Peripheral support. With so many moving parts in the mobile commerce ecosystem, ISVs should also look for a partner that can extend support to the myriad of peripheral devices in the market. This is particularly important when considering security and data privacy requirements. Plugging into a partner that complies with PCI requirements and offers enhanced capabilities such as card swipe encryption — and is also capable of supporting new technologies like the upcoming rollout of EMV technology — removes a major headache for the ISV. Developers understand they need speed and efficiency to deliver solutions to the market. Finding partners that can reduce or eliminate their exposure to PCI requirements is essential for building an m-commerce business.

Emerging currencies. There is much debate on the potential viability of Bitcoin and other digital currencies. Even while the conversation rages on, it would be prudent for ISVs to work with technology providers that have the flexibility to support these currencies, if and when demand warrants it. One thing that successful developers have seen over the years is that new innovation often takes some time to find its niche, and this may well be the case with new currencies. ISVs should carefully evaluate platforms on their future proofing merits. No developer wants to be locked out of capitalizing on new trends. Flexible platforms give ISVs the peace of mind to know that their offerings can remain relevant even as the market evolves.

Addressable markets. The mobile commerce ecosystem is defined by layers of relationships. Merchant services providers and retailers each have their own preferences in terms of business partnerships, payment processors, wireless providers, endpoints, apps, and marketing, loyalty, and analytics services. With a market this fragmented, it would be a tremendous mistake for ISVs to limit their ability to become successful by aligning with a technology provider that does not have the experience and access to these varied interests. It’s all about connections. Developers should identify a technology partner that is already plugged into this vast community, and can push services out to the largest audience possible. Yes, it’s a huge market, but it is also incredibly fragmented. It just doesn’t make sense for a developer to use a platform that only reaches a subset of customers. ISVs should choose a partner that connects to all the varied participants that constitute the mobile commerce market. It’s clearly the most efficient route to success.

Developers see that the mobile commerce space has a blossoming market that offers significant revenue and growth potential. While this characterization is valid, ISVs should also recognize that this sector is full of complex relationships and industry-specific nuances that can make it difficult and time-consuming to gain traction. Software developers should consider aligning with providers that possess the foundational technology platforms and specific market expertise to help streamline and expedite time to market, and just as importantly, avoid the costly and time consuming missteps that can wreak havoc for the ISV.