We may still be a few years away from the mainstream adoption of mobile payments, but that hasn’t stopped a whirlwind of buzz and product development from going on in the space. Some of the biggest players in tech, telecommunications and finance are all working on solutions that will enable people to pay for everyday items using only their phones.
So what’s the hold up? For one, there are technical challenges. Technologies like NFC are not yet ubiquitous in handsets, and smartphone adoption itself is still growing. Few and far between are the retailers who have the infrastructure in place to support accepting payments this way. Another issue is consumer demand and trust. Only 23% would be willing to us their mobile device to pay for things, according to a recent report from KPMG.
Branding, Privacy and Security are Key
One reason for the lack of public support for mobile payments could be that most consumers outside the tech space are simply not aware of the technology and its capabilities. Another issue, as the KPMG survey outlined, is consumer trust. Many people just aren’t comfortable with the security and privacy implications of using their phone to pay for things. Is the data secure? What if one’s phone is lost or stolen? If you thought losing your phone is a nightmare now, just wait until it’s also your wallet.
The institutions most trusted by consumers to administer mobile payments are, not surprisingly, banks. These are the organizations through which they’ve always managed their money, including via branded smartphone apps. The brand and reputation of any mobile payments service provider is paramount to gaining the trust of consumers, according to 73% of those surveyed. A majority also think disclosure of privacy and security practices is a must.
For as bad of a PR black eye as many banks have received since the 2008 financial crisis and its aftermath, banks are stuff trusted by consumers to manage their money. Companies like Google are entrusted with a trove of data about our lives, but have never before been so close to the contents of our bank accounts. This isn’t to say that the necessary trust can’t be gained, but it’s not a slam dunk.
Driving Public Awareness of Mobile Payments
If marketed and operated properly, programs like Google Wallet can help build consumer confidence in mobile payments. If Apple does in fact include NFC in the iPhone 5 this year, that will help propel the technology toward mainstream consciousness, just as Siri introduced everyday consumers to voice-controlled artificial intelligence (even if Apple’s implementation was not the first of its kind).
These early efforts of Apple, Google, PayPal and financial firms can also fill in another blank: awareness. As people see television commercials espousing mobile payment technology and see it being used more in the wild, there’s no doubt they’ll grow more comfortable with the idea.