Thursday, September 11, 2014

Wallet Wars

Mobile wallets continue to be a hot topic and now the latest round of rumours has Apple, Facebook, Visa, MasterCard, and others set to leverage their global footprint to control our wallets into the future. While the battle grounds are drawn in the mobile wallet wars perhaps it’s time for the rest of us to have a recap covering the basics of mobile wallets where they have come from and where they are going. This brief article will try to cover the what, how, why, and who of mobile wallets.

What is a mobile wallet?
Mobile wallets mean many things to many people and can cover a variety of use-cases and feature sets. Take a second to think about what is in your wallet. You probably have credit cards, store cards, loyalty cards, vouchers, cash, and identification. In fact most of these features have been considered and are already included by one solution or another. In addition Mobile Wallets commonly target:
  • Gift cards
  • Alternate payment methods (PayPal, Bit coins, store credit)
  • Advertising
  • Event tickets
  • Boarding passes
  • Unbanked / Branchless Banking
  • Account Top-Up 
How do mobile wallets work?
Mobile wallets can act as a replacement for one or all of the features described above. Typically this is done by storing a secure electronic copy of the physical cards that they replace. For example, rather than carry physical loyalty cards have a software application store your unique id and points balance. Technically this can be achieved a number of ways:
  • Store the secure information directly in the application (locally on the device)
  • Store the secure information in the cloud and relay access when required.
At the point of sale use your mobile wallet (often an application on a mobile phone) rather than the physical card. Technically this can be achieved a number of ways:
  • Bar Code (The application displays a bar code on screen that is read by the store’s bar code scanner)
  • NFC (Near Field Communication is becoming increasingly popular)
  • SMS (Favoured on older mobile phones) 
Why have mobile wallets?
Convenience is often touted as the primary reason. How much easier would life be if you didn’t need to carry a fat wallet around with lots of cards in it? Most people are already carrying around a smart phone anyway so wouldn’t it be simpler to just be able to identify and pay with your phone? Of course there are some other great reasons for the vendors and suppliers of mobile wallets including:
  • Reduced costs (physical cards, new channels of payment)
  • Increasing customer base (such as emerging markets or unbanked)
  • Advertising
  • Loyalty
  • Big Data & Analytics
Currently when you purchase something by credit card the payment passes through a number of hands and this process typically incurs some costs. Mobile payments enable new channels for payment that could be for example direct between the consumer, merchant, and bank and bypass the card companies and the acquirer.

Why haven’t mobile wallets already taken over?
Let’s face it; wallets have been used for thousands of years. They are already “mobile” they are already pretty “convenient” and they handle cash, coins, government identification, etc. People are used to them and will therefore need the mobile wallet equivalent to be more than equally convenient. Additionally challenges include:

  • Completeness of features (mobile wallets offer some but not all features in one product, leading to the need for multiple wallets)
  • Regulations & Standards (different countries, banks, vendors, security)
  • Perception , Change & Uptake (A critical mass of support by vendors and consumers)

In Australia NFC has really taken off and most point of sale locations now offer contactless payment from credit cards. Some banks are already providing NFC based mobile applications. However NFC is certainly not popular in all geographies. Additionally for many countries POS systems are not ubiquitous and cash and cheques are still the primary method of payment.

With mobile wallets and associated payments opening the gate to bypass traditional players in the market there is also some obvious resistance to change.

Who is providing mobile wallets?
There are a plethora of providers for mobile wallet / payment solutions. These include:

  • Financial Institutions
  • Card Companies & Payment Brokers
  • Phone & Hardware manufacturers (e.g. Coin
  • Telecommunications Providers
  • Software Companies
  • Merchants

As the associated technology has matured, providers of mobile wallet solutions have targeted their own customer base with features that add value to them and their customers. Now mobile wallets are already providing functionality to many people around the world. When it comes to mobile wallets what the world needs now (other than love sweet love) is a mobile wallet that allows more convenience and acceptance than the existing leather “mobile” wallet.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Sticky Not Tricky

In many recent technology success stories a key component is the “stickiness factor”. These super sticky websites and applications grew their user base virally and exponentially. If you haven’t caught on yet don’t worry the concept itself isn’t tricky. In this context sticky describes when users stay longer, and keep returning to use software. In the case of the web, the browser’s homepage (and to a lesser degree favourites) helps a site to be sticky. Increasingly however mobile applications with their installation process, accessibility, and features, have better opportunities to be sticky.

Most people think of stickiness as purely for consumer facing applications. Enterprise applications can make use of sticky techniques to increase usage and drive employee behaviours. The carrot and stick need to be appropriately considered depending on your relationship with your users, organisational culture, and appetite for risk. For example you don’t want to drive the wrong behaviour in your employees by encouraging them to play with their phone rather than doing their job.

So what features make an application sticky? Gamification techniques are often favoured. Some examples of these include achievements, point scoring, leader boards, time/daily based challenges, and obsolescence. (For further information on gamification please refer to the article “Enterprise Gamification is it a thing?”). Additionally providing time sensitive information such as news updates, enabling chat features, and importantly social networking techniques can encourage users to return to your application. Along with the social and gamification possibilities to be truly sticky the application must be usable and as simple as practical.

Why worry about sticky? Stickiness is a key contributing factor to user uptake. Gone are the days of build it and they will come, with user expectations continuing to increase. Let’s face it you want users to be excited and motivated to use your mobile application. Consider marketing and messaging reinforcement, every page view and every second that a user is interacting with you impacts brand loyalty and provides additional opportunities. Leverage your crowd. No matter if you have millions or just hundreds of users. Can you consider a way that you can help them to help you?

Sticky Concepts for Enterprise Mobility
Consider the KPIs that you are driving and factoring these via sticky/gamification techniques into mobile applications. For example imagine a service organisation with a mobile application to capture work events. This organisation is keen for each employee to capture customer success stories. You could simply add a survey to the application; however it might be much more effective to enable your employee to capture a video of the customer’s reaction to their service. Allow employees to reach their KPI in an interactive way and reward the best videos with extra recognition.

Different types of business may be able to offer specific features that make their applications stickier. For example in the financial sector some examples could include:
  • Providing an application feature like balance without log-in could encourage users to keep an app running and refer back to it more often. 
  • Goal tracking for personal finances is a logical way to provide added value that keeps users returning to track their progress.
  • Providing up-to date stock or currency conversion information
In a supply chain business some examples could include:
  • Providing top performer lists and associate rewards
  • Setting real-time watch lists for key events and/or status of key orders or incidents
  • Adding features like online chat for service. 

Sales and Call-centre/help-desk business process have clear targets and readily available statistics that can leverage gamification techniques. If your organisational culture has a competitive streak then adding gamification features like a scoreboard can provide a real talking point. Perhaps the top 5 sales people could be shown in an easily accessible way. In addition adding social type interactions such as “liking” or “sharing” key events can drive stickiness.

For enterprise mobile applications (regardless of whether they are B2E, B2B, or B2C) a user base that is motivated to engage is important to success. Don’t rush in but carefully consider your goals and the culture, along with appropriate techniques and rewards in formulating a useful sticky mobile application.