Barclaycard's first range of wearable bPay devices never looked like they had a home on the fashion runway, but the issuer is betting the fashion brand TopShop can make it in vogue.
Barclaycard has long experimented in wearable payments and in June began selling bPay wristbands, stickers and keyfobs directly to consumers. The designs were somewhat lacking in variety; the band comes in two colors, "charcoal" and "light grey." Through its association with TopShop, the bank is able to extend its offering to an audience of fashionable young consumers that likely would not have purchased their jewelry — or even their payment services — from a bank website.
"A lot of the younger audience may bypass the bank and just go with something like [PayPal's] Venmo," said Nick Holland, an independent mobile and digital payments analyst.
An assortment of TopShop-designed accessories called the "Monster Fish Collection" will be available in U.K. stores by next week. Each item in the collection of wristbands, smartphone cases, keychains and stickers will be designed with a bPay Near Field Communication contactless chip for tap-and-go payments at 300,000 locations across the country.
There seems to be a thirst for high fashion and contactless payments in the U.K. as Visa Europe and British fashion designer Henry Holland displayed various rings and broaches with NFC contactless payment capabilities at a recent London Fashion Week event.
Barclaycard, which issues both Visa and MasterCard products, has been willing to take risks with the form factor of its wearable payment devices. Past tests have involved a payment-enabled glove, jacket and even a donkey saddle.
The agreement with TopShop serves as another testing ground for wearable payments, Nick Holland said. "It's a great idea for kids going out for the evening, to just tap a bracelet against the terminal, and girls may not have to carry a purse or wallet at all," he said.
Clearly, Barclaycard is looking to make payment methods fashionable to consumers of all walks of life.
"The collaboration shows how the worlds of fashion and technology can combine to create a stylish and easy new way for people to pay using contactless for everyday things, be it a morning coffee, a new lipstick or a bus trip across town," Tami Hargreaves, commercial director for digital consumer payments at Barclaycard, said in an e-mail to PaymentsSource.
The partnership marks the first time the bPay chip is being incorporated into a product range from a major fashion retailer, Hargreaves added.
While this collaboration seems to exclude older consumers, Barclaycard has taken an excellent approach to payments innovation, said Gareth Lodge, a London-based industry analyst with Celent.
"They are trying new things, acting more as an innovator," Lodge said. "They recognize that not everything has to be a hit, as long as you've learned from the process."
The fashion accessories collaboration is "potentially more interesting" than other contactless efforts on the market because "TopShop is a big hit with young people, exactly the core market [Barclays wants]," Lodge added.