Among the many obstacles for mobile payments, the most daunting is getting shoppers to change behavior.
The fact is that plastic cards have worked quite well for a very long time and consumers are quite used to them. To get consumers to change decades-old habits is far from easy.
One creative mobile payment effort in the U.K. is experimenting with a way around this dilemma: to pitch this to the youngest shoppers in an attempt to teach mobile payments before they have become subjected to magstripe madness or EMV enslavement.
The effort comes in the form of a mobile payment service called Yoyo, from a company called JustYoyo, and it currently exists within only 20 university campuses throughout the U.K. The year-old effortwhich says it is now processing more than 100,000 transactions a monthplans to expand to major London-area retailers during the second-half of this year, with an eye on a U.S. retail launch by early 2016, said CEO and co-founder Alain Falys.
Falys stresses that the system, which has users scanning product bar codes into the app and then displaying a QR code at the point of sale, pushes loyalty and automated rewards.
"Loyalty, as we know it today, does not work," he said. "What's going to move the needle is the ability to collect points, to issue rewards" and that will require deep POS and CRM integration, with two-way communication between the POS and the mobile app. (After the POS analyzes the purchases, a message might be beamed to the mobile: "Would you like to purchase a fourth cereal for an extra $1?" and the yes/no response would be transmitted back.) But mastering the shopper psychology that need to be addressed for mobile payments to succeed is also critical. The college testing environment happens to address several key issues.
Beyond focusing on a young demographic to try and do an end-run around the behavioral change problem, the universities involved are a closed environment. That means that every opportunity to make a payment in that university communitycollege bookstore, tavern, school meal plan, apparel shop, coffee place, sporting event, etc.will accept Yoyo.
That delivers some marketing advantages to Yoyo.
One of the problems with many mobile payment trials in the U.S. has been a lack of reinforcement. For example, mobile payment system 1234 launches a trial in an urban area. At best, it will have a handful of cooperating retailers, representing a minuscule percentage of all of the POS systems in that community. That means that if a user tries it and happens to like it, that shopper will be very unlikely to run into another chance to use that mobile payment system (outside of returning to the initial store) any time soon.
But with Yoyo's university deployments, if a student has a good experience at the local pub, that student will have a chance to try it again when buying breakfast or getting a last-minute book and then can try it again when purchasing a sweatshirt. By giving the happy user repeated chances to reinforce an initial favorable experience, it can reinforce those positive feelings and potentially build a habit. Even better, the awkwardness of a new mobile method melts away if it's used often enough in many different iterations of a student's favorite haunts.
Secondly, the fact that school officials are supporting the payment method throughout the campus addresses another mobile payment hurdle: credibility and trust. One of the first acts with almost any mobile payment system is the initial setup, which is where the shopper either associates the mobile app with existing payment mechanisms or loads money into a stored-value account.
And yet when the system is unfamiliar to shoppers, they are likely to hesitate and potentially abort the setup. To an extent, the university's support implies that the app has been vetted by the university, making users more comfortable turning over the keys to their financial accounts.
What will happen to Yoyo once it moves beyond universities into the world of retail is, of course, unknown, but the interesting question is whether testing its app in this kind of closed environment will give the company far better information and create far more loyal customers. That then morphs into the frightening question: Even armed with that better data and students with that better reinforced experience, will that help Yoyo do better in those harsher retail stores in the outside?
If done as a very long-term investment, Yoyo's strategy allows the company to wait for those tens of thousands of students to graduate and to move back into the community at large, where those consumers might become mobile payment ambassadors.