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Slack Consumer Demand Top Hurdle for Mobile Wallet

Thu, 10/11/2012 - 11:11am
Maisie Ramsay

SAN DIEGO - Consumer adoptions remains the single greatest hurdle to mobile payments, a group of panelists reported on the final day of CTIA’s fall conference.

As Mike Love, chief technology officer at Mozido pointed out, the current credit card system works pretty well, so there’s “no pain point” pushing consumers to look for alternatives. 

“People can use cards pretty effectively so why would they adopt a mobile wallet?” Love said. “Getting them to adopt mobile payments is one of the biggest challenges.” 

Dodd Roberts of the Merchant Customer Exchange said consumers need to be shown the benefits of mobile payments before they’ll drop their leather wallet in favor of the smartphone alternative. 

“The average consumer doesn’t know that their experience engaging in commerce could be so much better than it is right now,” he said, point out that if Henry Ford had asked consumers at the turn of the century what they wanted out of transportation, they’d have requested a faster horse. “It’s not so much about solving a problem as enhancing the solution.” 

As the panelists pointed out, the problem right now is that mobile payments don’t offer consumers much in the way of enhancements. The mobile wallet is fragmented, NFC-based payments are far from reaching maturity and existing solutions only work at a handful of stores. 

The result: consumer confusion, not consumer adoption. 

“The more we can clarify things for consumers, the better,” Roberts said. 

Right now the payment-related apps most commonly used by consumers are apps like Shopkick, which give consumers rewards for shopping with specific businesses. Loyalty apps provide clear value to both consumers and retailers, something the mobile wallet solutions must replicate to succeed. 

“You’ve got to put together an ecosystem… and make sure the partners focus on the business model even more than the technology,” Love said. “Don’t presume that consumer adoption is just going to happen.” 

Isis is one of the companies working to put together that ecosystem. The startup is a three-way joint venture between AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA, a business the operators hope will provide them with an entry point to the potentially lucrative mobile payments market.

Pulling the different parts of the ecosystem together has proved a complicated and time-consuming task for Isis, which delayed the launch of its pilot program for NFC-based mobile payments last month and has not said when it will go live. Isis is juggling carriers, retailers, payment networks, app developers and smartphone manufacturers.

Ryan Hughes, chief marketing officer for Isis, participated in the roundtable discussion but did not mention Isis’ difficulties coming to market. 

However, he did concede that consumers will need to be coaxed into adopting the mobile wallet.  

“Consumers are going to tell you they’re fairly wedded to the payment of choice today in their leather wallet,” he said. 

Changing that will require collaboration across every sector that touches the mobile wallet, from retailers to financial institutions. “There are a lot of companies that need to come together in a way that causes the consumer to say, ‘I get that, I’m going to move forward.’”

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