The biggest obstacle to mobile wallets may not be technology or integrations but changing consumer habits.
Credit cards currently have a stranglehold over mobile payments, and asking consumers to break their habits isn’t an easy task. According to a 2015 Accenture survey, 52% of people are extremely aware of mobile payments, but only 18% of North American shoppers make mobile payments regularly. A more telling statistic is the preference consumers have to credit cards over mobile payments. “67% of consumers continue to prefer traditional card providers for mobile payments over all other providers,” concludes the report.
Consumers have concerns over security and others aren’t comfortable enough with the technology yet to use a mobile wallet. Using a credit card is just easy. Nothing is simpler than swiping a credit card while checking out at a retail location.
As there’s significantly more road ahead along the move from to digital payments, different solutions have been developed to address this interim stage we’re at. One such answer comes from Curve, a London based startup founded in 2015 by Shachar Bialick, Tom Foster-Carter, and Ann Mostyn-Williams.
Bialick, who serves as CEO, sees mobile wallets as the future, but currently limited by low maximum payment sizes and outdated hardware at retailers. “There is a huge gap in infrastructure and it prevents mobile wallets from functioning perfectly, plus users need an incentive to change because the plastic works,” said Bialick.
Curve takes a simple approach to bridging the behavioral gap, combining a mobile wallet with a physical credit card. After signing up for Curve, customers get sent a special MasterCard/Curve card issued by Wirecard in the mail. Although it looks like a run-of-the-mill credit card, the Curve card is actually a smart card connected to a mobile app.
After users input all their credit and debit cards into the mobile app, they choose one card to be active, which is placed virtually on top of the Curve card. Every time a user swipes, the merchant receives active card information instead of the Curve card. Any time a user wants to change a method of payment, he just logs into the app to change the active card. Customers also get a history of all their payments through the app, allowing users to keep track of budgeting and spending habits.
According to Bialick, Curve is planning on releasing a SDK in September that allows users to grant access to their information to third parties, like personal finance apps. “Budgeting and personal finance apps have the requirement of manual entry, and if the user forgets even one, they loose track of their budget,” he remarked. “We’ll allow users to push data into personal finance and expense management apps, helping companies provide a better service and users to have a better experience.”
The thought of a central platform bringing in third party apps is an intriguing proposition for consumers. Mobile wallets from companies like Apple, Google, and Samsung have already consolidated payment options, and the next step would be to incorporate other financial services. By rebundling financial services in a more personalized manner, consumers will be able to keep track of all their financials in one place and have a better handle on their financial health.
“The unbundling revolution isn’t for the user,” Bialick said. “It’s something that was created as an intermediate stage where everything was at the bank before. We don’t see a better bank coming back, but rather something different, a platform that will connect all financial services. We envision one platform that connects you to everything money.”
As the proposition of a personal finance hub becomes more popular, mobile wallets, banking apps, and technology platforms will compete for market share. Companies like Apple, Google, and incumbent financial institutions are likely to be the most popular platforms, while young technology companies like Curve may be able to live on by forming early loyalties with customers.
Regardless of how many platforms end up rising to the top, customers ultimately win with better options to consolidate, compare, and monitor their financial services.