“Invisible” Mobile Payments Key to Future

May 17, 2017         By: Steven Anderson

Way, way back in 1999, when we were all still enjoying modern-era swing tunes and Surge could still be found in stores, IBM brought out a commercial that epitomized mobile payments.

It featured a gent that personified the term “shady”, including trenchcoat and preposterous sideburns, inserting items into his coat. On the way out of the store, he’s stopped by a security guard…who notes that the shady gent has forgotten his receipt.

Fast forward almost 20 years later, and it’s just that kind of experience that many are calling on to make mobile payments truly worthwhile.

Amazon Go got this particular ball rolling, offering a store that features no cashiers at all, just some equipment that allowed for ultra-fast, seamless, contactless mobile payments. A PwC Global study from 2016 called such ease at the checkout “the most attractive feature to enhance their (shoppers’) shopping experience.”

Those who have been developing and adding integrated mobile shopping experiences, meanwhile, have found conversion rates on the rise, four to five times higher than similar drive-to-the-store operations.

Some have even turned to adding gamification elements—elements like randomized discounts for the next shopping trip offered in the form of an online “scratch card” or “slot machine” or the like—which help make the shopping experience that much more fun and exciting.

We’ve already seen some ideas come into play, like the idea of using a mobile payments system tied to a smartphone as a portable checkout station.

This is huge for places like home improvement stores, where getting larger, bulkier items like plywood panels or drywall or stand-based tools to a checkout stand is a major operation, and a bit embarrassing besides; no one wants to be the center of attention that way.

We can likewise augment the experience in the same way the old IBM commercial once did, and make mobile payments so smooth and so easy to use that we don’t even notice they’re working.

That kind of development might just take mobile payments to a whole new level, and give brick-and-mortar shopping a valuable new shot of novelty that it needs to get some of its own back from the ecommerce market. How quickly we’ll see this happen, though, remains to be seen.