The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is to the average person’s electronics as Paris Fashion Week is to the average person’s closet: A few nuggets of real life surrounded by a dazzling display of over-the-top. The more outlandish ideas are of questionable necessity, at first, but the beauty of these offerings is that they give you permission to trust the incremental enhancements that add up to a better everyday experience. I may not need to dial my phone using a keypad projected onto my arm, but, if a company can pull that off, it’s likely I’ll trust it to improve my current dialing experience.
This phenomenon could have a meaningful impact on the growth of mobile payments. As CNET quotes from a 2013 CES panel, “mobile payments are the 3D TVs of the finance world—always on the cusp of popularity, never quite getting there.” Well, my parents just purchased a 3D TV, even though my mom still uses a flip phone, so I have hope for the future of mobile payments.
Recently, I became enamored with the ability to deposit checks using my smartphone. All I have to do is enter the amount, take a couple of photos and click “submit.” Anyone who knows me well may have just hit the floor—I’ve surely been segmented in someone’s database as a “safety-seeker,” one who faithfully unsubscribes from email lists during online purchases and removes the mailing address from boxes before throwing them out. However, any safety concerns I had were strongly outweighed by convenience and confidence in SunTrust Bank. This ability has allowed me to become so untethered to the brick-and-mortar bank that when I finally decided to legally change my last name, I had to confirm the process twice with a SunTrust representative: You mean I have to take the marriage certificate to the bank? As in, a branch? With real me and real you and real paper?
Mobile payments have been “on their way” in the US for a long time, but it feels like 2013 is going to be the tipping point. If a safety-seeker like me can become so comfortable with mobile banking through my bank’s app—I’ll call that basic mobile finance—and UK consumers will be able to send money using only their phone number and a text message next year—I’ll call that advanced mobile finance—then surely moderate mobile finance is no longer so far-fetched for the average consumer. Right?
Market Strategies has been researching, reading and writing about mobile payments for a while, and my own example highlights three of the findings from our 2011 study, which are further described in a post by my colleague, Alex Jones: I was worried about security, at least initially, but confidence in my own bank helped me overcome that concern. We’ve seen the same story play out in research on cloud computing, as Carolyn Ahlstrom summarizes.
However, one element that hasn’t gotten as much talk time and, almost certainly, affects behavior is anchoring, or the tendency to use the first piece of information you receive as your comparison point for all subsequent information. Just as the expensive car in front of the dealership makes the one you buy seem inexpensive by comparison, I hypothesize that the mobile payments scene will pass the tipping point through a combination of fixing real and perceived weaknesses of current offerings as well as by continuing to stretch those offerings.
You may not actually plan to wear a dress made of aluminum foil or send money via text message and a phone number, but presenting over-the-top ideas may stretch our willingness to try more “run-of-the-mill” advancements.