(Im)mobile wallets?

Mobile wallets have been heralded for the past several years as a paradigmatic change in payment technology. While new technology that was to bring it closer to fruition has been continually announced the empirical evidence for traction is thin at best. That does not seem to deter retailers and merchants as more dollars pour into ventures such as MCX (Merchant Customer Exchange) announced last month.

The foregoing "innovations", however,  seem to have left most consumers cold with a majority choosing to hold on to their traditional wallets. The Wall Street Journal has a remarkable story on how the "owner of Mini's Cupcakes in Salt Lake City installed a device that can accept mobile payments" for her customers to be able to pay for their sweet treats with a smartphone instead of cash or plastic. In over eight months there has not been a single customer who used a smartphone to sate their sweet tooth.

The WSJ reports notes that the cupcake store owner's situation is typical of the "many hurdles facing widespread adoption of mobile
payments. Banks, merchants and technology companies have bet billions of
dollars on the technology, but those investments likely will take years
to pay off" . Surprisingly, even "early-stage winners in the race to devise a new
standard for mobile payments, such as Google Inc., 
have barely made a dent in what is expected to be a giant market later this decade."

The skepticism for mobile wallets is centered around purported security concerns of the consumer to the plethora of mobile wallet systems on tap ranging from ISIS to Google Wallet to Square with, at the moment,  none of them even countenancing cross-platform collaborative efforts.That has left customers in most any field not only bewildered but also unhappy; a discontentment that extends even to storied Apple's venture in the field called Passbook which was panned by in at least one review as being "great for collating some ad hoc apps but less so for actually paying for things with a credit card, debit card or bank account."  Perhaps like any phenomenon that evokes the term disruptive technology, there will be a shake out before a winner emerges. What is certain, given the vast sums invested by a variety of tech giants and the alluring convenience it promises, mobile wallets will eventually become de rigueur for payments around the world.


Published by

Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.