No one could say that the world of Mobile Commerce isn’t developing and growing at a rapid rate, nor that consumers will not use it widely, en masse, at some point. All the signs are there already to say that consumers are very much ready to adopt it, as the number of people trying out new ways to shop and pay with their mobile phones grows every day in some part of the world. And it is true that that new innovations in this space do have a very strong case for offering retailers across all sectors new opportunities to reach their audiences and drive new incremental revenues across numerous existing, and new, channels that were not always possible a few years ago. Mobile commerce applications and methods also have tremendous benefits operationally for retailers beyond just the customer experience side.
I have worked directly for two major players in this space for the last three years, firstly with MPayMe with their Znap solution, and then over the past year with Powa Technologies’ PowaTag solution when they acquired MPayMe towards the middle of last year and integrated the two solutions into one product. So it would be highly hypocritical of me to say these types of mobile commerce solutions do not offer immense value to both retailers and brands when I myself took these solutions to the market and helped numerous businesses to understand how best to work with these new technologies. I didn’t sell it because I had to for my employers. I did it because I did, and still do, fully believe that the value they bring, and will still bring to the wider global market is going to ultimately become a mainstay of how people shop. As these products further mature, and the market and payments ecosystem begins to make the necessary changes to accept and make these solutions work for the wider consumers out there, the value they will bring to retailers and brands will start to be more and more evident. And when I say the above, I do not only mean PowaTag, but I say it for many of the hundreds of different solutions available in this space.
Not every solution is ideal for every sector. Some have cleverly focused on one or two specific sectors, such as QApp, Bar Pass, Zapper and a few others who work within the sports, leisure and hospitality sectors. Each of these provide specific solutions to existing pain-points experienced by retailers in these sectors. Some do it better than others, but they serve a purpose, albeit in its infancy today. Apple Pay is widely accepted by many retailers for a new payment method, but focuses on the payment side, with a new more secure method to pay at most “contactless” payment points, including London transport and the large coffee chains. They also have an in-app payment method to make paying for goods through retailer apps even more secure and seamless. Although the consumer base who can use it are only those on the latest iPhone handsets, or with the Apple Watch or iPad, there is still a significant value in retailers adopting this for their business, because consumers do actually want it. Again, as this matures into a more comprehensive solution with further features for consumers to enjoy, the benefits will grow over time for the retailers accepting it. The same will be the case for the likes of Samsung Pay and Android Pay. Even the big social media giants like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and other are starting to offer retailers and brands a new channel for consumers to shop with them, and these too will develop further over time.
Today, the media and experts around the world are all standing back and waiting to see how consumers will adopt the various solutions, and if they will adopt them at all. Whether the world is actually physically ready for such feature-rich solutions is debatable, and perhaps today it isn’t. That does not mean retailers should not work with these solutions. In fact very much the opposite, as it is an opportunity for retailers to help shape the customer journey and experience of the future by adopting exactly such solutions. What I can confidently speak to is the feedback from retailers and brands that I helped with Znap and PowaTag; they saw that their consumers absolutely loved it. Consumers are not as stupid as many people seem to think. They are well aware that any new technology will have its fair share of bugs and limitations when it first comes to market. Remember the issues consumers faced when they first bought the new iPhones? Apple had to issue an update with dozens of bug fixes to ensure the handsets and their iOS worked better than at launch. The same is the case with these new mobile commerce solutions. For any retailer or brand thinking the customer experience needs to be perfect from day one, that is naive. Every new technology innovation takes time to a) work seamlessly and perfectly as hoped, b) be adopted by consumers as they become more adventurous in terms of exploring new ways to shop, and c) have the market to understand the full potential of these solutions, and to accept that they too have to make changes in order for the full benefits to be realized.
Perhaps the biggest issue facing these new technologies is their marketing of the solutions as requiring no changes to existing systems and infrastructure or no investment from retailers in order to accept them. This was never, and will never be the case. Maybe in 10 or 20 years when every system on the planet becomes completely compatible and integrated with all others will there be no need for investment in infrastructure, but there will always be a need to invest in the right people to manage the solution internally, and for marketing the solution. Brands need to accept that the world is changing, and that the consumer is going to move and change with these changes in technology. I appreciate that it may be controversial to say this, but the reality is that giving value to consumers to entice them to shop with you is not about you, the retailer, but about the consumer and their ability to decide for themselves. I have heard all the arguments of disintermediation of one’s brand, and perhaps the reality is that many retailers are just not ready to accept change; their own strategy is to protect their brands. But this is how the market is today, and it is not how the market will be tomorrow. Consumers want these new innovations in their lives, and what they want even more is for the brands they trust and shop with to adopt these new innovations and allow them to use it.
I am currently working with 6 of the top 50 brands and retailers who yesterday were all about their brands. Having run a number of workshops with their leadership teams, they have realized through actual experiences that consumers who shop with them, or buy their specific brands, do in many cases shop at alternative retailers, or buy alternative brands because the way they want to shop is not being made available by them. Through actual consumer trials with new technologies (that they were hesitant to promote at first), they received feedback from their customers that was exceptional. Sure, there were the odd poor experiences and grumpy customers, but you will get that every day whether through new technologies or your own existing business methods.
Your consumers are not your customers 24/7, unless of course you are a smartphone manufacturer. They do not belong to you, and they have loyalty and allegiance to hundreds of brands depending on what their immediate needs are. The explosion of the digital age has not actually made it easier for consumers to shop with retailers. It has made it infinitely more difficult. Most people will read that statement and tell me I am insane. But as a specialist in behavioral psychology, I have undertaken extensive research and studies over the years on this very subject. I realized that finding, exploring, learning, and shopping have been made “faster and simpler” through the internet and digital innovations such as smartphones and tablets and the variety of solutions made for those technology products; however, shoppers are now drowned by the multitude of choices in front of them or at their fingertips. And retailers are now not competing with 50 other retailers in a shopping mall, but rather with 5,000,000 other retailers all selling the same products online, and fighting each other to win that tiny space on the screen in front of the consumer. The way the human mind works is that it becomes less focused and more easily distracted when faced with hundreds of possible decisions to make. It panics, and then withdraws, causing indecision rather than rational decision making. The digital media landscape that offers consumers millions of different options actually makes consumers choose fewer rather than more potential brands in order to help their brains conceptualize and rationalize the plethora of decisions in front of them. And this is exactly where solutions such as PowaTag actually help you, the retailer, to overcome this very natural obstacle facing you. It is solely your choice of which solution you decide to adopt for your own business, but I would argue that it is a decision you should make. It may not always seem like it will bring that enormous shift in new revenues straight off the mark, but in time, your business will be more aligned to the consumer mind and allow them to focus on you.
Shoppers don’t shop exclusively at Tesco, or Sainsburys, or even M&S. They shop wherever they choose to depending on where they are at the time, possibly driven by special offers from various brands they want, or even the ways they are able to shop. Where many retailers, and other businesses fail, is that they try to own the customer experience exclusively, and that is only a sure ingredient for consumers to look elsewhere for retailers or brands that offer them the power to choose where and how they want to shop. They use this to get the best deal for themselves. That is just the reality of how it works. Just as retailers won’t ever get every consumer, neither too will each of these new mobile technologies. There will be several solutions adopted by consumers. This is where I advise my technology clients to work together to bring the various choices to consumers so that they have more value in adopting their technology. I have shown various third party mobile commerce apps how integrating with the likes of Apple Pay actually works in their benefit. Starbucks is a great example of this. They have created their own mobile solution, yet they also accept Apple Pay in store because they understand that is what their customers want. Sure, they are one of the exceptions of a single brand solution with their own product just for their own stores rather than the norm, but for the vast majority of retailers I always advise them to work with a solution that brings multiple brands and offers to consumers. The main goal for these mobile commerce companies is to initially get the consumer to adopt it. To do this, it needs to be more than just your product, because the consumer wants to use different methods to engage and pay. So the more variety of payment options you can offer, the better your product and proposition will be. The likes of PowaTag and PayPal and others are not better than the solutions like Apple Pay. They are completely different solutions altogether and consumers will want to use both, either separately or within one app. So to succeed in this market requires the bringing together of various payment options within apps to meet the needs of retailers and consumers alike.
Whatever mobile solutions retailers and brands choose to work with, I would strongly advise them to work with them closely to help develop a solution that will work for each individual retailer across the different sectors. Use as much or as little of the solution as you wish at first, but understand that to make it work as it is capable for your business, you will need to make some necessary and critical changes to your business. Dan Wagner made a statement recently that retailers need to take that leap of faith in adopting mobile commerce. I actually agree with him. Retailers do need to take that leap of faith, but not because someone tells you so and you should simply trust that their solution is best; rather, you should do this because this is the reality of how the world of payments and digital innovations will change over the coming year. Regardless of what solution you choose to adopt for your business, now is the time to start making those changes. By doing so, it allows you to understand what works for you and what doesn’t. Any business that will not invest in new ways to engage consumers in order to know what works for them simply does not actually want to be part of the changing world, and is holding on to past legacies that will not exist in the near future. When the world is fully ready for the new solutions that are starting to take flight, you need to be there ready and waiting with your solution partner by your side. Focus on your own business, and let these technology companies do what they do best. Invest in researching the market for the best solution for you. But make those changes now, otherwise you truly will be lost and forgotten in the enormous multiverse of the new digital age.