With the explosion of mobile adoption, the landscape of how we shop and buy things is changing rapidly. More and more, we expect to be able to pay for things quickly and easily… without even having to pull out a physical wallet.
According to MediaPost, more than 4.8 billion people were using a mobile phone by the end of last year. The demand for mobile payment processing and other financial technology, or fintech as it’s commonly called, continues to increase. By 2020, 90% of smartphone users will have made a mobile payment according to TechCrunch.
So what does that mean for brands? Here is a brief snapshot of some of the current technologies and companies paving the way for mobile payments.
Near Field Communication (NFC)
NFC is a short-range wireless technology that uses magnetic fields to communicate between devices. In layman’s terms, this enables the “tap and go” style of payment that is already very popular, thanks to its ease-of-use and accessibility.
For mobile payments powered by NFC, payment data stored on one’s mobile device lets a consumer to purchase goods with a simple tap. Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay all use NFC to operate. And if there’s any doubt as to the current popularity, as of March 2016, Apple Pay claimed 12 million monthly users. Android Pay boasted 1.5 million new registrations a month back in May of last year, and Samsung Pay celebrated nearly 100 million transactions this past August. While some might say these systems are just starting to establish themselves, this style of payment shows no signs of waning, as banks and major retailers rush to cash in on this technology for themselves. Also keep an eye out for wearables that offer mobile payment capabilities in the near future as well.
In fact, “Tappy” smart rings debuted recently at CES 2017 and lets the wearer pay for items just by putting their ring finger next to a payment machine.
We’ve seen payments being processed with a thumbprint (notably on Apple devices). But this technology will soon expand to iris recognition, voice activation, and even vein patterns in one’s palm to make a purchase. MasterCard has already launched its facial recognition-driven app in Europe where all you have to do to pay is take a selfie.
Not just for tracking lost pets, radio-frequency identification (RFID) uses electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and track tags attached to objects. This is the main technology powering the concept of new Amazon Go, a prototype store now open where to check out, you simply walk out.
As a shopper makes their rounds up and down the aisles, items they select are tracked and added to their virtual cart. If you change your mind and put something back, the RFID system tracks that too. When your list is complete, you just leave. No standing in a line or self checkout. A sensor system tracks when your visit is done and your account is automatically billed.
Peer-to-peer money transfer / Social media + messaging apps
A simple eTransfer is so 2016. The new players on the block want to make sharing money more fun and more social. Services like Zelle, Venmo and WeChatPay integrate the social element of sending money and are making significant inroads with younger shoppers. Think sending a friend money for some concert tickets, splitting a bill, or treating your study group to a round of drinks when you couldn’t make it.
Of course, not everything is cut and dried with these new technological advancements in payment technology. Some are worried about the privacy and security of how biometric information is being stored as well as how it’s being used by a company internally, or whether it’s being sold at profit. Another concern is the ability to track real-time consumer data in a much deeper way, leading to a plethora of ethical questions we’ve grown accustomed to asking in the digital age.
One thing is clear — as brands move to reduce the friction of payment, people will spend more (Dun and Bradstreet says people already spend up to 18% more when they use cards over cash) and brands will get even deeper insights into purchasing patterns.