By Colin Jowell 

And so it begins. Apple Pay has finally launched in Australia. You can now load up your American Express card on your wallet and enjoy the benefit of contactless payments on your mobile phone. This is not a new advance in technology - on the contrary, it’s been available in the US for over a year, with over a million cards signed on to the service within the first three days.

So why the dramatic title? Because the war to become your payments provider has just begun.  And the prize is your valuable shopping data. We will witness a once in a generation shift in how we pay for things, possibly more significant than the rise of the credit card which has been around in pretty much the same form for over 50 years.

It will be more significant because while there have been advances in security and features like tap and go, removing the card altogether and putting it on to your device opens up a whole new world of customer experience. Consumer habits can be hard to break, but if the incentive is a more personalized, more rewarding shopping experience, delivered in fun but frictionless ways, you can rest assured customers will change in a heartbeat. And as customers make new choices, so new victors will emerge, and some traditional powerhouses will lose relevance and disappear. 

Little wonder then that the local banks are not simply opening their arms to the new solution. It’s worth noting that the local offering is dramatically reduced, offering a limited number of American Express cards only, a far cry from the plethora of banks and card providers that are available in the US. For a change, the fragmented and often backwards US banking system could open the door to a leapfrog in innovation.

So what’s it going to take to win? Well if the US examples are anything to go by, there are some interesting developments. Will the acquisition of mobile loyalty provider Paydiant by Paypal signal an entirely different player in the bricks and mortar retail space?  CurrentC, running on the Paydiant platform is backed by retail coalition MCX. While some early reports on poor user experience suggest otherwise, it’s worth noting that with participants like WalMart, Target, Mobil and about 30 more, there is a scale you wouldn’t dismiss lightly.

From this, it's very clear that the integration of those other cards clogging your wallet will be critical: loyalty cards. The providers of loyalty cards have always battled with frequency. Whereas your bank card battles with engagement - you use it, but you don’t love it. It used to be a battle for “front of wallet”. Merging these offers in new and innovative ways will capture customer’s attention and make “mobile default” the desired territory. Little wonder then that Commbank just launched a feature in their app enabling you to scan loyalty cards. The functionality is a little clunky now, but it would be wrong to assume that it will always be.

It’s a very exciting time - the possibilities to reinvent customer experience now have never been greater. Time to rethink those assumptions, create fresh insight, and think more creatively about what experiences will become the new customer expectations. As Winston Churchill famously said when facing a very different kind of confrontation: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning”.