As you might remember, I am somewhat skeptical about ISIS, the joint venture between the Big Boys of communications and the Big Boys of payments processing. A recent article in Mobile Commerce Daily reported that customers in Salt Lake City were following merchants after they had left the store and that 65 percent of customers were using the ISIS digital wallet five or six times a week. All good, and even more promising, lots of customers are using their cards on the transit network.
Excellent, I thought. Brilliant. Plus, it supports my thesis that mobile wallets and NFC are so much bigger than the payments cul-de-sac down which we have pushed it. Transport, shopping, following merchants, that is where it is happening.
When customers sign up to ISIS in the trial cities, they get coupons and vouchers and more credit when they add a card to their wallet and, oh, they get free transport if they use the ISIS wallet. Forgive me, but I am back to cynical again. I do not know the inhabitants of Salt Lake City, but I live in Scotland and I know that if you give free anything, say transit, to customers if they used a particular app, they would travel all day just to get the most out of it. And then drop it like a stone when the free period was up.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of NFC but I remain completely convinced that NFC is the glue that fills in the gaps where other things do not work. Transit in Salt Lake City – perfect, they do not have Oyster cards, like they do in London or Hong Kong. Mobile payments in the ‘West’? Unlikely, we have credit cards and PayPal and as Andrea Jacobs, payments practice leader at comScore says “relatively speaking, the way we pay for items today really hasn’t changed a whole lot since cash and plastic came into existence. Changing that kind of behavior won’t happen overnight.” The Mobile Commerce article reports on a consumer survey that says that PayPal rules the wallet world, and the awareness of the rest is pretty poor. Google’s wallet did not score 50 percent in the awareness rankings.
As I have said before, this is not the year of the digital wallet, but it might just be the beginning of a realization of the true value of NFC.