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Consumers use their smartphones in-store for research, not payment

by David MacQueen | Mar 21, 2013

I often think of the mobile space as being consumer led, particularly when it comes to media and services. The "next big thing" often seems to crop up out of nowhere, blindsiding the bulk of the mobile industry which often has its blinkered eyes fixed on pushing some new technology rather than listening to consumers and seeing what they are doing.

Mobile TV was one such great white hope, and it hit the market to a collective shrug of the shoulders from consumers, who had all moved on to using on-demand video services and had lost interest in traditional broadcast TV. Sure, it was a spectrally effecient way of distributing video content, but it wasn't the content they wanted when they wanted it, and I've yet to meet the average Joe who gives two hoots about spectral efficiency.

Seems to me like history is repeating itself with mobile payments. "You can replace your credit cards with your mobile!" So what? Where's the real advantage to the consumer in doing that? What consumers are doing in stores, right now, is that 67% of them are using their smartphones for researching products and comparing prices. That's what they want to do. They want to use the capabilities of that device to do something practical and useful for them. Compare that to the 1% using contactless payments.

This time, unlike mobile TV, it's not mutually exclusive. But mobile payments in isolation aren't going to make a compelling proposition. As I said in the press release for the report, "bricks and mortar retailers are not waiting for carriers or OEMs to roll out mobile payments and are leveraging mobile solutions already in the market, such as mobile advertising, couponing, loyalty cards and alternative payments, to drive footfall in stores, and convert that footfall into revenues." So far, it's looking like while the mobile industry beavers about trying to insert itself into the payments value chain through NFC technology, companies profiled in the report like Starbucks that are building the consumer relationships necessary for success. It's the mobile industry that needs to wake up and smell the coffee.

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