Many mobile payment companies in this space have had their struggles. Amazon most recently joined the club with the abandonment of its six-month old mobile wallet.
The Amazon Wallet was launched in July 2014 and was sold pre-installed on the Fire smartphone. According to Tom Cook, a spokesperson for Amazon, the company learned a great deal from the Amazon Wallet beta program and will look for ways to apply these lessons in the future as we continue to innovate on behalf of our customers." While Cook did not describe what lessons Amazon learned, they are not hard to distinguish.
Thou shall not limit payment options. The Amazon Wallet allowed users to store gift, loyalty and membership cards, but not general-purpose credit and debit cards. Many thought this to be a temporary restriction for the Amazon Wallet, since a mobile wallet with no debit or credit card capabilities seems fatally flawed.
Though the Amazon Wallet didnt live long enough for that supposition to be proven, other wallets on the market still limit the type or brand of payment source that can be used. If the digital revolution has taught us anything, it should be that limiting choice is a recipe for encouraging consumers to look elsewhere for ways to spend their money.
Honor merchants of all kinds. If the merchants that the consumer wishes to use do not accept the mobile wallet or other digital payments type involved, then the consumer will lose interest in trying a new way to pay.
Many people shop on Amazon, but few shop exclusively on Amazon. The beauty of a network branded card is that most can be used nearly everywhere in the world that will accept cards for purchases. That includes merchants selling goods and services online. Unless the new way to pay we all keep talking about delivers wide acceptance online and in store with a high level of security, then all we are actually offering the consumer is the chance to introduce more complexity in their lives. It is very hard to sell complexity as a benefit.
Do not covet your own device or operating system. As it has continually been the focus of media hype, Apple Pay may be the best example of heretical behavior as concerns this commandment. Apple Pay only works with an iPhone 6 or one of the most recently introduced Apple iPads.
In other words, Apple Pay is tethered to the latest generation of the Apple devices and though many future generations of Apple devices seem likely to be enabled for Apple Pay, no one is seriously entertaining the possibility of a version that runs on anything other than iOS.
It is interesting to see hundreds of financial institutions racing to sign up for Apple Pay , even doing commercials that essentially promote Apples ability to give their customers what they cannot, while patently ignoring the needs of their Android customers. They would never do this in their digital banking channels but, alas, they are so blinded by the shiny Apple logo that these banks and credit unions are willing to pay Apple for the privilege of diluting their own brand. Hopefully this condition is temporary.
Vital to the success of digital payments in general and mobile wallets in particular is how well the interests of consumers, merchants and payment providers, especially the financial institutions that anchor those payments, are balanced. Many, if not most, of the offerings in this space today are struggling to balance these interests successfully. Addressing that balance means opening the wallet to any type of card a consumer wants to use, ensuring merchants have a tangible benefit, and not constricting the service to one device.
Notwithstanding the fact that they clearly covet their own devices and operating system, Apple has a number of things right, including enabling consumers to place multiple cards in the Apple Pay wallet and utilizing the NFC capability in much of the POS device population. Further, Apple makes a good start at addressing the basic table stakes that are required for success with digital payments, security, with its use of tokenization and biometrics.
Nonetheless, even Apple does not deliver on all that will be required to achieve widespread adoption of digital payments and the mobile wallets. Some believe that meeting this need for omnichannel, omnipayment capabilities on any device is akin to the Holy Grail; more legend than an attainable goal.
Maybe, but in these digital days, it is the consumers that rule. If the percentage of actual transactions being driven by digital payment technology is any indicator and it is, in fact, the only indicator that is material so far, consumers are largely unimpressed. Amazon is not the first or the last that will be forced to face that reality.
Michael Carter is CMO and Co-Founder of Prairie Cloudware