Mobile Payments: The opportunity to do better

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I remember the first time I used the debit card to buy something in a shop. This was 6 years ago. It was a whole new world for me, and I got quickly weaned off carrying cash around. However, going back to Nigeria with that mentality even in 2013 turns out to be very harmful. Running about in the blazing sun looking for an ATM is not funny.

Now, one could argue that this makes the case for ‘Mobile payments’ I did have my phone with me, but it wasn’t charged (thank you NEPA), again you begin to see the benefits of having cash, which is quite mobile as well as the bank cards. The important thing is we understand all these methods have limitations and contexts they apply in.

When it comes to our monies we need 3 main things; Control, Security and Ease of transaction (paying, receiving, transferring, saving, investing) The perception that any of these is lacking or absent can be very frustrating.

I came across this article yesterday Why I’m Worried About the Future of Mobile Payments and it really expanded some of the thoughts I’d been having earlier this year.

From the User perspective

It’s good to have options but without the disjointed feeling that comes with having lots of options from different companies with differing variables.

From the user’s point of view the obstacles are equally severe, from different (and often confusing procedures) to the need for different brands of smartphones. Ideally for the user a single method would be the optimum. Perhaps one payment vehicle (linked to his/her bank account) and one wallet application (stored value on the mobile).

If there are too many payment apps, their use is going to lead to frustration. Frustration will lead to abandonment and abandonment will lead to failure. And that would be a pity.

We need to take a step back and consider these questions again, who are we solving this need for? What do people want to do with their money?

A Way Forward

For some fifty years now the credit card has reigned supreme as a payment mechanism simply because of a standardized numbering convention which has allowed the bulk of cards to be processed via a single merchant/ end user input point. The banks and clearing houses have taken care of all the other financial “plumbing” in the background, far beyond the sight (or the care) of either the retailer or the consumer. To both the credit card has become a seamless payment mechanism. That is what needs to happen to mobile payments.

If mobile payments are to succeed, a single, simple, uniform and universal method (read app) has to be the solution.

Having to manage more than one bank account sometimes is an uphill task, having one single, simple uniform method to control and make payments will be great. The implication is that corporations need to stop seeing each other as ‘the other’ and form partnerships which enable this to happen. I wonder if it will also disrupt currencies as we know it? Not too sure as they hold some cultural value but will be interesting to see.


The next post on mobile payments will describe my thinking on how this single, uniform payments app will work.

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