By: Dan Korzeniewski
Every time I’m stuck waiting in line for someone to write a check, I wonder when mobile wallet will really take off.
Mobile wallets are gaining popularity, but they’re not there yet. More and more consumers are using Smartphones, and in the same way as many people use their phone for their digital music device so as to not carry two devices, they’ll be using their phone to pay rather than carrying several cards with them (credit/debit cards, membership cards, gift cards, etc.).
There are two main problems with current solutions. First, there are several different types of mobile wallets. Second, not every merchant accepts the same mobile wallets or even mobile wallets at all. Both of these problems cause slow acceptance. It has to be easier to pay with a phone than it is to pay with a credit card. A good solution should make it really easy to load payment options (my cards), and it should be really easy to use those payment options at checkout.
NFC, or near field communication, is a standard for devices to communicate when in close proximity. In a mobile wallet application, the payment information is delivered by holding the phone or NFC enabled card close to an NFC device for payment. NFC doesn’t seem to be catching on, though. Why? One reason is probably the cost of setting up the equipment. Perhaps another is that Apple doesn’t support it in their devices. But, do we really need NFC? Most places have bar code or QR code scanners; can’t we use this existing equipment? Airports have scanners where I can scan a boarding pass from my phone and most times when I use Groupon, they can scan the code from my phone. Apple’s Passbook app is similar to this.
A third possible problem is that there’s not a huge incentive for people to switch other than those that would prefer to not carry credit cards, and people worried about security. How should people be incentivized? First, like I said earlier, it should be easier for people to use their phone than a credit card, so most or all places we buy things need to have some way of accepting any device. Second, some kind of discount or coupon could be offered. The problem with this is that there’s no incentive on the vendor’s side to offer this. However, consider that current solutions all are based on a credit or debit card transaction. This means there are several layers of processing that data has to go through and every layer has a cost associated that the vendor pays. What if that could be eliminated? Then there would be savings on the vendor side, and some of that could be passed on to the customer. Ultimately, there needs to be a new technology for processing the payments rather than just adding a layer to an existing multi-layer process.