For a technology still in the midst of evolving, mobile payments attract an overwhelming amount of interest. Competition between payment systems is intense as the Wall Street Journal recently noted, AngelLists mobile payments startup roster includes more than 640 players.
But while tech companies are lining up to be the big thing in mobile, its important to remember that payments are only one component of mainstream mobile wallet adoption. There are several other factors, such as standardization, security and simplicity, that will play critical roles in the ability of this technology to reach its full potential.
Standardization is one such factor. Have mobile wallets been slow to take off because not enough retailers offer contactless terminals, or have retailers dragged their feet on installing contactless terminals because of slow mobile wallet adoption? To extricate both sides from this catch-22, retailers should move firstespecially when it opens up new a channel for them to receive customer data. The issue is which technology to invest in: NFC, proprietary Square readers, Bluetooth Low Energy retailers need an industry standard before making their move.
Security, as it applies to mobile wallets, involves several issues. Theres the concern of protecting users data from theft, but since a mobile wallet tracks every transaction a user makes, there are concerns about privacy and use of data by the organizations being transacted with. Getting a promotion via text as you pass by a store could seem enticingly futuristic, or like Big Brother. To allay consumer fears, businesses will have to set up clear boundaries and opt-in permissions for targeted or location-based offers.
Simplicity will also be a key driver. For a new technology to take over legacy payment paradigms, it has to offer enhanced capability, but be as simple to use as what it hopes to replace. This is the area where adding loyalty programs to mobile wallets can have a positive impact. Because collectors are already comfortable with earning and storing digital currencies like points and miles, loyalty can be the bridge that helps them cross confidently into full mobile wallet usage.
None of these obstacles seems insurmountable, and anyone with an eye on the news is used to daily developments and advances in mobile payment technology. Those who are on board with a mobile future know its only a matter of time. For those who remain unconvinced, there are hundreds of players vying to smooth out the bumps along the way.
Ben Kaye manages product marketing at Points.