What are the big payments issues we’ll be talking about in 2015?

It seems only yesterday we were welcoming in the start of 2014, wondering which payment talking points would dominate the agenda during the months ahead. Yet now we’re starting to form our next batch of New Year’s resolutions – and putting a new set of payment predictions together – for 2015.

There are of course still two months remaining this year, and things can change quickly in the world of payments. However, we’ll be given an insight into some of 2015’s hot topics at the upcoming Cartes Secure Connexions event in France, which takes place between 4-6th November.

Digital dominates the programme at Cartes this year, which is no surprise considering the exponential rise of mobile usage within retail. Much of the discussions will be surrounding location technologies such as iBeacons and NFC; it will be interesting to hear the industry’s thoughts not just on how geo-based connectivity will transform consumer relationships, but how it will impact shoppers’ payment preferences.

The future of currency will also be under debate, focusing on cryptocurrencies and mobile wallets. Bitcoin is sure to provoke strong reactions – PayPal founder Peter Thiel recently proclaimed his scepticism towards it – while Apple’s announcement of its first mobile wallet has reignited concerns surrounding ‘tap to pay’ security.

On the subject of protecting customers’ payment information, recent breaches for major US retailers such as Home Depot and Kmart have put the issue of data security as a whole under the spotlight. It’s interesting, though, to note that most of the Cartes sessions focus on rebuilding and maintaining customer relationships, rather than how to minimise the risk of information compromise. This is a subject we have discussed at length in our online community, The Payments Network.

Though we’ll have to wait a few more weeks to see exactly what unfolds for the industry in 2015, the Cartes programme has highlighted one interesting issue regarding the future of payments: we might be reaching new levels of sophistication and digital interactivity, but at the same time we’re still trying to address age-old concerns.

How long will it be before cash becomes obsolete?

It seems wild to imagine a world without cash – up there with teleporting to work or going for a week’s trip to the moon. But paying for goods with coins and notes could soon become a thing of the past, if consumers’ appetite for card transactions continues to progress at its current rate.

According to the latest World Payments Report from Capgemini and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), card payments are expected to rise by another 10% this year, reaching 366 billion transactions worldwide. This won’t surprise the developed world, but much of the gains being made currently are in underdeveloped non-cash markets such as China.

The convergence of technology is also supporting plastic’s progress; Capgemini predicts mobile payments will grow by 60.8% in 2015, taking over online transactions as the most popular transaction format. New entries into the m-payment market such as Apple Pay and the enhancement of more established services such as Google Wallet will only accelerate this change, provided they offer a secure, user-friendly experience.

And herein lies the crux of this payment shift: as customers move from cash to card, the responsibility for safeguarding their details moves to the retailer. If shoppers are pickpocketed, they only have the perpetrator to blame; if their card details are breached, the retailer’s payments processing software comes under fire.

Naturally, industry bodies such as the PCI Security Standards Council are introducing new security standards to protect consumer data – just look at Target and Home Depot in the US to see the potential scale of payment information breaches – but in many cases, this has led to payments providers developing convoluted solutions that are beyond the comprehension of many businesses.

What retailers need right now is to find the most robust and straightforward way to encrypt and protect customer information. Whilst meeting the highest security standards before they are mandated might not be top on the list of priorities, card payments are an unstoppable force – and could quickly stop working in retailers’ favour should their systems be hacked.

As the saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry.