The Green Sheet Online Edition
January 28, 2013 • Issue 13:01:02
Is m-commerce at a cultural tipping point?
As we begin 2013, I'm struck by a paradox in the adoption of mobile POS and mobile commerce (m-commerce) solutions. The industry has made good progress in creating a wide array of robust mobile POS and m-commerce solutions. Yet, small to midsize businesses (SMBs) lag behind the curve in adopting what's available.
Our job is to provide the solution, the education and the moment of insight for the SMB owner who, for whatever reason, has not decided to take the plunge into m-commerce.
So often, it seems the decision to wait isn't made rationally. Rather, it is driven by the most human of reasons: discomfort with and uncertainty about change, as well as affection for what is familiar - even when the familiar is, well, inferior. These human foibles are not static; what people are comfortable with and what they consider familiar change constantly. And as they change, merchants will become more comfortable with m-commerce opportunities.
Evolution of a technophobe
I was thinking about this lately, and watching my wife, Tracy, as her attitudes toward technology evolve. She's of an age to have grown up without computers, and she started using them only in the past decade.
She still resists social media. She is not yet comfortable with Facebook and Twitter. Tracy is reluctant to post her picture online. As a latecomer to the technology playground, she probably shares many characteristics with the business owners we payment professionals are talking with.
But here's the thing. In spite of all the hurdles I've described, Tracy has made dramatic leaps forward in the past year in her comfort with the technology that surrounds us. For example, she got an iPad. And within a few weeks, it seemed to become her constant companion. Now, she takes it with her everywhere. As a big football fan, Tracy uses her iPad to track the sport. She uses it for other aspects of her daily existence, as well.
A few days ago, prime example of the change in her attitude toward online media came into focus. Tracy tends to dislike and resist the commercialization of Christmas and Hanukkah. This year, in planning for our family's Secret Santa gift exchange, we determined that Tracy would buy the exchange gift for our son-in-law, Ryan.
Before I knew it, she was on the phone with our daughter Aubrey, who guided Tracy - iPad in hand - to the men's section of Macys.com and pointed out a particular shirt that Ryan liked. Tracy bought it instantaneously. After the gift arrived three days later, she came to me with a big smile and said, "Now that's how you Christmas shop!" I had never thought I'd hear those words from Tracy.
From personal to business use
A few days later, we were about to go to the bank to deposit a check. Instead, Tracy whipped out her iPhone, took photos of both sides of the check and pushed a button. Presto, deposit completed!
She even looked at the balance before and after, confirming that it had been updated to reflect the check and the proper balance. For Tracy, the technology had come to seem safe, secure, quick and comfortable.
And as I see this happening in my wife, I can't help but wonder if something similar is happening with merchants. Is a tipping point being reached as those responsible for making payment technology decisions become familiar with new technology in their private lives? Familiarity may help them make the leap and to ultimately become receptive to these technologies for their businesses.
I think this is happening now. We are seeing more and more that SMB owners are beginning to pull the trigger. I don't see the same resistance that we saw in the past. Momentum is building. No longer is m-commerce seen as something exotic. Increasingly, merchants use it in their private lives, in one way or another. They understand it better than they did even a year ago. Now, it's familiar to them, even comfortable.
Mainstream ready for m-commerce
Boarding merchants with m-commerce will never be a slam-dunk. You've got to think it through and offer the right solutions for specific niches. Big areas of opportunity are pay-at-the-table solutions for restaurants, line busting at quick-serve restaurants, self-service kiosk sales, and inventory control and line-busting at traditional retailers.
It's all about the quality of the experience you provide. And increasingly, customers are not only going to be delighted by the enhanced experience; they are going to demand it. Why? Because it's become familiar and more comfortable to them.
If you want to ride the wave of mobile commerce adoption, now is the time. M-commerce is here to stay, in one iteration or another. E-wallets and other options are coming. Mobile payment has become a part of our lives, and other aspects of m-commerce will gradually become - say it with me - familiar and comfortable.
Rick Berry is the President of ABC Mobile Pay Inc., a Valencia, Calif.-based company specializing in providing affordable, software-as-a-service POS solutions. Rick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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