Even though there are more mobile devices than people, many retailers continue to scratch their heads as to why theres so much less enthusiasm behind mobile payments than overall mobile adoption.
As of today, there are only a few mobile payment success stories. Starbucks is one with its mobile payment and loyalty app generating over $1 billion in 2013, and Square brought the possibility of collecting mobile payments to over a million sellers worldwide.
But theres a big divide between the rise of mobile and its popularity as a payment mechanism. Smartphones only generated a 7% transaction volume from September to December last year and just 15% of U.S. mobile phone users made any type of mobile payment in 2012.
There are several reasons for the holdup, including security, consumer comfort, and perceived value.
The Federal Reserve reports 38% of mobile users cited concerns about the security of the technology as the primary reason for not using mobile payment services. There is additional unease with mobile devices because theyre rapidly evolving and not standardized in their security measures. To exacerbate matters, mobile devices are mostly connected to insecure and public wireless networks, whereas most desktop purchases are made from a secure, private connection.
Comfort with smartphones is also an issue for consumers. Despite major design and user experience improvements, entering large amounts of personal data into a relatively small device takes more time and effort than with a desktop computer. This explains why there is a much higher adoption of m-commerce payments on tablets than on smartphonestablets are larger and allow for more dexterity. From a point of sale and peer to peer standpoint, consumers are still unfamiliar and uncomfortable with the idea of using their mobile device as a digital wallet and are looking for real-life examples from their personal networks to lessen their perception of this ambiguous form of payment.
Consumers also dont see the value of making payments from a mobile device when there are more accepted, secure and convenient methods of payment like cash or credit cards.
How do we move things along?
If mobile payments arent currently perceived as more or equally convenient to traditional payment methods, providing additional value not possible with traditional payments can help move consumers toward higher adoption. As Accenture reports, more than half of those who currently make mobile payments said they would pay by phone more often if they could track receipts, were offered instant coupons, or could store reward points on their phone.
Marketing can also help. Retailers must communicate the benefits of mobile payments to customers, and second, retailers must make the technology more tangible and relatable by providing use cases for their mobile payment offerings. For the former, retailers are advised to reach out to shoppers in the most relevant way (email, advertising, social media) to provide information regarding their mobile payment capabilities, and for the latter, should explain how the technology is used while showcasing its end value. Doing so will help put the technology, along with its corresponding benefits, into context for shoppers and help promote adoption.
Mobile innovation will also improve user experience. Continued gains in technology, especially in addressing current pain points of security and convenience, will facilitate adoption. From a security standpoint, retailers and technology providers should focus on better data encryption functionality and additional investments into protecting shoppers privacy. In terms of convenience, more work can and should be done in delivering a seamless omni-channel experience, helping to provide more catered and personalized brand interactions from a shoppers mobile device, including payment history and methods.
Jason Woosley is vice president of product development at Volusion, Inc.in Austin, TX,