Mobile payments – do you buy it yet?

So 2012 and especially Mobile World Congress brings many new announcements about new mobile payment services designed to help us grow the economy (and the profits of the service providers) by spending more freely with our ever-increasingly best friend – the smartphone.

Amongst the news this week Visa has announced two big partnerships for their payWave mobile wallet service – a Global deal with Vodafone to integrate on their mobile phones and also with Samsung with what appears to be another variant of the app especially branded for the Olympic games.

This comes hot after a raft of other recent announcements:

  • Orange will now offer customers treats when they use their Quick Tap mobile payment service – partnered with Barclaycard – at selected retailers such as Eat
  • Facebook announced a new mobile payment initiative with AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile in the US with payments being taken from the customers mobile phone bill
  • Boku was one of doubtless many other smaller players to announce a new mobile payment app at MWC. The service looks simple but the go to market plans are not yet clear
  • Barclays Pingit is a new mobile payments system that is a bit different in that it allows you to easily make payments of £1-300 directly to another individual
  • Finally, one that has made me really interested is that the UK City of Bristol has actually introduced their own currency, Bristol Pounds that can be traded with local retailers with mobile payments

Of course, all these players will have to compete against a large number of other players such as Google Wallet and PayPal to be the service of choice for us to spend our hard earnt money from our smartphones.

But what have these services learnt about the need for offering us customers a really simple solution – not just in using the pretty mobile app but the whole experience.

Clearly it’s early days and many of these services have yet to properly launch but things I hope they are busy working on include:

  • Simple communication of benefitswhat are the benefits of me using my smartphone rather than my debit/credit card? why would I want to use mobile payment A vs. mobile payment B, C or D? Obviously this can be helped if you can offer customers value in the transactions such as the Orange Quick Tap discounts.
  • Great customer support – provide excellent service to manage customers’ issues such as any disputed payments and reassure customers against what will undoubtedly see a number of security cases. Remember first direct’s rise in internet banking was based upon their excellent service.
  • Let me spend my money anywhereplease learn from the failures of other ‘walled gardens’ such as ISP portals and don’t restrict customers to use only in your partner stores. Many people are still put off American Express because of this reason.
  • One app is all I want  – please don’t make me sift through a number of mobile payment apps depending on the type of payment I am trying to make or to different people to pay. I have enough apps already!
  • I want to pay in £/€/$even with the success of iTunes I trust Apple aren’t planning a mobile payment service in iDollar/iEuro and I definitely don’t want to pay in a Kingston-upon-Thames pound!

Somehow it all feels very inevitable that in the not too distant future we will all be flashing our smartphone around to pay for anything from a Facebook game to a new coat. However, to help get us wanting to do this more quickly and for any of these players to get a real market advantage this is surely a case for needing great simplexity in planning and execution.

As a final thought, any new disruptive service such as mobile payments always throws up new opportunities. In this case isn’t there a great opening for insurance companies to really address the growing need for people who will want protection and premium care service for their increasing valuable smartphones?


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