Mastercard's Masterpass.

LAS VEGAS — While new cars, drones, TVs, smartwatches and even nail art machines were on view at this week’s CES conference here, it’s arguably the smartphone that’s still making the biggest digital impression.

And rather than serve as only another hurdle for retailers, the shift to mobile usage is an opportunity to offer something extra to customers.

That, at least, is according to Craig Wigginton, vice chairman of Deloitte & Touche. He led a discussion about how smartphones have provided a new way to shop with mobile payments experts Sherri Haymond, executive vice president of digital partnerships North America at MasterCard, Eddie Garcia, vice president of member experiences at, and Michael Vaughan, chief operating officer at Venmo.

Using a phone for payment is less about replacing a physical wallet, and more about creating an experience, said Vaughan, who pointed out that mobile usage has led to new companies such as Venmo and Uber. “It created the entire experience, of which payment is a big part,” Vaughan said. “Mobile usage has enabled experiences that are unique. We weren’t trying to solve a payment problem.”

He focused on the improved experience of sharing money with friends as the key focus for Venmo, with the actual payment fading into the background. “Mobile creates an experience that is new and unique,” he said.

At Sam’s Club, for example, Garcia described a new offering in 650 stores that lets customers scan items in the store with their smartphone to pay and skip the line, called “Scan and Go.” He said this ability is driving real growth among mobile app users.

Garcia encouraged retailers to not think about just replacing the credit card with the phone but rather to use the opportunity to solve problems. He also said the mobile web — rather than mobile applications — offered the biggest opportunity for retailers. Garcia said mobile device usage can also help stores better understand inventory management or act as a shopping assistant.

According to a global mobile consumer survey from Deloitte, the average U.S consumer checks their device 47 times a day, and that number climbs to more than 80 for the 18 to 24 segment. Winnington said that shopping is the number-one category of smartphone usage when consumers are “out and about.”

At MasterCard, Haymond said, smartphones offer enhanced authentication and security options through tokenization, which has led to increased conversions and decreased fraud, she said.

To that end, Vaughan said mobile payments, which are uniquely connected to the user, are arguably more secure than cash or payments made on a desktop computer.

In the next year, Haymond did not predict a “cashless society,” but further capitalization on the connectivity of devices and tech such as artificial intelligence to “meet the consumer where they want to be met,” such as chatbots online or in-store robots that greet customers or help them check out in a store.

“They help consumers have great experiences and help businesses learn about consumers,” Haymond said. “It’s not a war on cash, is a world beyond cash.”