I must admit that I find the term “mobile wallet” a little silly. After all, wallets have always been mobile, right? At the same time, I am not at all averse to the idea of making transactions with my phone. I’m getting the hang of accessing coupons in stores, and I felt pretty cool the first time I got into the movies by having the ticket-taker scan my phone. I’m sure I will continue to move in this direction, although I consider myself mainstream rather than an early adopter in the area of financial technology (aka FinTech).
Pundits have been talking about the pros and cons of mobile wallets for several years now. Overall, these payment systems still face obstacles and adoption has been slow. Only 22 percent of American mobile phone users regularly pay for products by scanning, tapping, or passing their devices in stores, according to recent research conducted by GfK Consumer Life 2016.
At the same time, other types of digital payment are entering the playing field, such as the UPI system introduced in India last year, which moves funds directly from the consumer’s financial account to the merchant’s without a middleman. India will be an important market to watch in terms of the shakeout among digital payment systems following demonetization. Indeed, developing markets such as India and Nigeria will be testing grounds for FinTech in general, as indicated by the growing use of biometric identification ranging from fingerprints to facial recognition and palm veins.
The AmazonGo concept, currently in test mode in Seattle (where else?) goes beyond the financial transaction itself to tackle other deterrents of in-store shopping. The idea is this: You scan your phone as you enter the store and go along your merry way grabbing the items you want. Then you walk out of the store, and your Amazon account is automatically charged for your purchase.
Some may like the idea of avoiding checkout lines or the need to swipe/insert/tap/scan their payment device of choice and wait for approval. But what tickles my fancy is the prospect of cutting a couple of steps out of the usual tedious process of putting things in a cart, taking them out of the cart, putting them back in the cart, putting them in the car and taking them out of the car.
If this idea catches on, I will be on board with it much faster than I am with self-checkout, which I personally find no improvement over regular checkout aisles. In the case of AmazonGo, the potential is not merely a streamlined financial transaction, but a streamlined shopping experience.
Ultimately, consumers will adopt FinTech to the extent that it makes their lives easier. Being different for novelty’s sake will only draw in the earliest adopters; the rest of us need to be sold on more practical benefits.