Individual mobile payment apps are white hot, as indicated by the 64 percent of consumers who used their smartphone to make a payment in the past 12 months, according to Statista. That’s not taking into account the 150 million U.S. consumers — about 56 percent of the customer population — forecasted by Business Insider to adopt in-store mobile payment systems by 2020.

Although the digital wallet ecosystem hasn’t yet enjoyed mainstream adoption, industry experts say the platform’s benefits are too lucrative for retailers to overlook for long. The enhanced security features, faster checkout times and loyalty integration provided by mobile payment apps can be a plus for independent garden center merchants and shoppers alike.

“It’s the connectedness of today’s customer that’s driving these shifts,” says Daniel Csoka, managing director of consulting firm Mobile Money Matters. “People are already doing price comparisons with apps on their phone.”

On-the-go solutions such as Android Pay and PayPal must contend with consumers’ adherence to traditional payment methods, but Csoka believes that loyalty programs, in-app payments and other value-added features will result in a surge of mobile wallet usage in the coming years.

“Mobile engagement is the same type of engagement as a credit card, but it’s a different form factor,” Csoka said. “Instead of swiping a card, you’re using a mobile device to scan a QR code. It serves the same purpose as a card.”

Payment apps also offer an unprecedented value proposition, added Csoka. Amazon Pay, for example, has a camera function used to browse products in the real world. In theory, a garden retailer could emulate this feature in a way that uniquely engages its own customers.

“Someone who sees a beautiful lavender-colored flower could click an app’s camera icon, which pulls a purple hyacinth from the cloud that can be shipped by a nursery tomorrow,” says Csoka. “So, you’ve engaged with the consumer in a transformative way, providing tangible, useful information and making the payment process seamless.”

Using this app in-store could grant shoppers loyalty perks similar to Target’s Cartwheel savings program, which shares discounts with customers who use the Target app.

With so many apps on the market, a variety of functions are being explored. Wave, a Toronto-based provider of a merchant-friendly accounting and invoicing app, is planning an updated version of its platform that enables retailers to initiate customer payment anywhere in the store.

“It could be a card-reading device, or keyed in manually, or an image scan,” says Wave Vice President of Communications Rob Maurin of the app, which is still in development. “As a consumer at a garden center, I can pay on the spot and head right to my car.”

A mobile point-of-purchase option would be particularly valuable for a garden retailer, as customer interaction often takes place at the back of the shop, among the flowers and plants.

“Lots of retailers are face-to-face with consumers in a non-office setting,” said Maurin. “With our app, you can sell your begonias and jump right into accepting a credit card payment.”

Consumers will ultimately drive the market for the best mobile payment system, Csoka says. However, garden centers that understand the platform’s massive potential can be part of the digital revolution.

“In 36 months you’ll see AI-enabled transaction platforms across multiple industries,” Csoka says. “Independent garden centers must be primed for that.”

Douglas is a Cleveland Heights-based freelance writer and journalist. In addition to Garden Center, his work has been published by Midwest Energy News, Crain’s Cleveland Business and Fresh Water Cleveland.