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Business Bytes

Pay it forward

It can be hard to adjust to new technology, particularly if you’re old enough to have lived through, rather than studied, the Korean War.  Sometimes, though, the technology of the future takes way longer to arrive than it seems that it should.

In the days before sliding a finger to answer the phone, a touch screen was a cool trick.  Now it is so ubiquitous, the transition, to most, seems hardly worthy of a comment.

Mobile payments, thought, from the consumer perspective are so late the clean up crew from the party has already filed its hours.  Trading something physical for something else physical as a component of a transaction has long since passed.  The purchaser holds onto the credit card, the seller trusts in eventually receiving payment.  Paying on the internet should seem even less secure: there’s no face to face contact and there is an even greater delay between purchase and completing the transaction than with a credit card.  Yet, even my grandmother, whose husband served in the Korean War, will buy presents for her grandchildren online, without any fuss.

There is an ever-growing sense that we should be able to use our smart phones to make payments.  And often, when people uses phrases that include “should” their concern is less a matter of greater ease of use and more that some “right” has been withheld.

The hold-up then, is less that people aren’t ready for technology and the simple fact that companies are a bit skittish. Companies, no matter their market-cap can be a bit like woodland creatures, nudging something new, ready to scamper away if need be.  This can be a fine strategy for a company’s bottom line: research and development is a high up-front cost and new technology may not necessarily sell.  High cost and high risk hardly make for a wining proposition in many board rooms.

Specific to mobile payments, there are several different platforms and types of infrastructure already developed.  The challenge is of the Catch-22 variety: no one knows which technology platform will ultimately succeed, so no one make any move to adopt, so nothing succeeds.  Apple’s Passbook is strikingly conservative.  Rather than take a risk on mobile payment, they created a virtual coupon drawer that makes buying tickets easer.  Fandango already has an app.

That Apple chose not to include NFC in their new iphone shows that company’s reluctance to adopt and the ensuing frenzy only underscores my point.

What the industry needs is a mobile payment platform that works with existing technology without the need for infrastructure investment.  Such a model would mean minimal investment for the business and a low switching cost.

Lo and behold, such a model actually exists in Paydiant, which has a platform that works with the very familiar barcodes and ATMs, online shopping carts, and NFC.

Paydiant plays well with others, which, when dealing with metaphoric woodland creatures, often pays.

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