In 2017, and as a global society, we constantly look for simplicity alongside security and convenience measures when it comes to making payments easy. The question for media, then, is how do we make paying for our subscriptions, e-commerce offerings, and similar features a frictionless and seamless experience for readers, customers, and advertisers?

Coins, banknotes, and debit/credit cards have all been brought to our markets with the ultimate aim of making payment easier. Mobile payment technology now gives these more traditional methods a run for their money by offering consumers this convenient and frictionless experience to which I refer.

Customers seek frictionless experiences, and mobile payments is one area in which media companies can meet this desire.
Customers seek frictionless experiences, and mobile payments is one area in which media companies can meet this desire.

There has been a dramatic rise in activity in the mobile payment arena over the past couple of years. Android Pay, Apple Pay, and Samsung Pay have all played a key role in generating consumer awareness and driving adoption. As it all accelerates in the years to come, it’s crucial to keep up to speed with the technologies and trends shaping mobile innovation.

As mobile payments begin to enter the mainstream (think Starbucks mobile loyalty cards, for instance), much of the talk and promotional effort is focussed on the convenience and simplicity brought to the payment system. 

For many industry bodies, there is also a focus on delivering a better experience to the consumer. As can be seen with the more successful mobile efforts (e.g. Starbucks again), their intelligent, data-led, value-added service is the key to establishing a rewarding reason for use by the public at large.

Media, take note!

Machine-learning and future-focussed, predictive data/analytics are another way the likes of banks, retailers, and media can build a better, buying experience. Mobile apps can utilise huge amounts of customer data to deliver smart and useful recommendations.

Overlaid on this, technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR) are now starting to enable consumers to study product information and read other customers’ reviews, sometimes at the point of sale and in real time as opposed to having to research at home before venturing outside.

Over the next few years, consumers will expect a lot more than just convenience from their mobile payment options, but success will be dependent on the integration of value-added elements. If there is a tangible benefit to users, they will use it.

In addition, biometrics (such as thumbprints and facial ID, as per the new iPhone) are emerging as a new way to increase consumer usage through an extra layer of security. This increasing presence of biometric technology within consumer payment ecosystems has been driven mainly by the mPay platforms. Android Pay supports various biometric authenticating methods, from fingerprints to facial recognition, already.

The involvement of key technical industry participants (media included, be it via reporting/mass awareness or physical adoption) is critical to the deployment of biometric technologies, within a payment context. But, again, despite the progress thus far, there are still some issues to contend with. For example, only the most expensive, high-end devices have the functionality to support biometrics, which limits adoption.

But that will change with rapid tech advances and cost reductions in the operating space. Over the next five years, I predict biometrics are likely to advance considerably. Ongoing device and software upgrades plus new product launches are likely to increase the number of devices that support biometric methods.

I also expect to see an expansion on technologies such as iris/eye recognition, heartbeat analysis, and even “vein mapping.” These are being touted as possible alternatives to bring about better accuracy, efficiency, and security. All can be seamlessly integrated into payment systems to maximise consumer convenience (that “better experience” I mentioned earlier).

The rise of the wearables will also affect this whole payment environment. Smartphones are currently the dominant method. but the continued development of the wearables market suggests the idea of “everything important to me on a smartphone” could soon be questioned as we begin to think about what “mobile” means.

Is it a device, or is it a connection? Or maybe it’s a behaviour? The latter opens up our minds to the possibilities on what mobile can/will be, especially in an era of Amazon Echo, Apple watches, and the like.

The current market is kind of based on single application devices, like health and fitness trackers. That drives adoption in the corresponding markets as consumers are given a clear and single reason to purchase the product.

Manufacturers, however, are now working to incorporate additional features to drive a much wider adoption rate and repositioning of wearables as an everyday, essential item. Again, think about the Apple Watch, for instance, where the latest version doesn’t need an iPhone to tether to.

Wearables on a consumer mean efficiency regarding contactless transactions. Indeed, wearable payment mechanisms (as devices such as the Apple Watch will inevitably become) offer a real point-of-difference compared to contactless cards and smartphones, as there is no need to search your trouser pocket or handbag.

It’s all frictionless. That’s the winning, killer attribute.

As the wearables market continues to evolve and increasing numbers of sophisticated and powerful devices become available, wearable tech is predicted to account for a significant portion of the future mobile payments market. The media industry must be aware of this shift and ensure future reader and advertiser solutions and offerings take into account wearable technology.

Does this even register in your current thinking?

It is hard to predict the exact direction the mobile payment industry will take over the coming years. But, what we know for sure is that the introduction of new technologies is changing our landscape, presenting many new opportunities (and a few challenges, for sure).

The pace of change means planning and preparing for the future is vital. By doing this, and by implementing growth strategies with simplification and better experiences in mind, media can find success in the coming world of mobile payments.

And if all this sounds a little like science fiction, it’s not. It’s happening already. It’s coming to your marketplace. With the speed at which tech advances, it could come faster than a steam train!