Wear it like you mean it

As technology moves forward, it becomes easier for consumers to make payments.

Frictionless is an often-used buzzword when talking about financial technology. While moves had been made in this space previously, the game-changer was the introduction of contactless solutions.

From near-field communication (NFC) on payment cards to host card emulation (HCE) on mobile phones, contactless is making itself known in every sector.

This has now coincided with the wearables trend. From wristbands to gloves, and even eyewear, it seems that every item of a consumers’ ensemble will be able to make payments in the near future. Why has this taken the industry by storm?

Engaging with something new
Speaking to EPI, Balazs Vinnai, digital channel general manager at Misys, says: “At this moment, financial life is full of different frustrations. Not just going into the [bank branch], but using old-school digital solutions which, sometimes, are really frustrating.

“One of the reasons some people feel this frustration is because people don’t compare banking solutions to other banking solutions. If they are using a digital banking solution, they compare it to Google or another web service; something they use on a daily basis.

“That’s why we need to harmonise our solutions better, because of the level of service that companies such as Google or Facebook provide. The wearables can be an important part of this.”

Barclaycard has made several strides into wearable technology, primarily through its bPay arm. Launched in July 2015, bPay offers NFC-enabled wristbands, key fobs and stickers to make payments across the UK, as well as utilising it on Transport for London’s (TfL) network.

This has led to more experimental and fashionable concepts, including contactless gloves, a contactless jacket in partnership with fashion company Lyle & Scott, and a range of products with Topshop.

This move has seen ‘great engagement’, according to Barclaycard. Since launch, there have been 250,000 transactions for travel alone.

Tami Hargreaves, commercial director of digital consumer payments at Barclaycard, tells EPI: “While the trends we’ve seen in wearables have been significant globally, I think there’s a lot more promise in the industry today about new technology.

“Technology is now becoming huge with other functional devices; whether it’s fashion, and smart clothing, or fitness, there are a significant number of trends which are about bringing together relevant and practical functional features that make people’s lives a bit easier.

“We’ve had some great early adopters; that youthful, tech-savvy market. Having said that, the appeal is broad. It really does reach from the ages of 12 to 84 in terms of our customer base,” Hargreaves adds.

Interestingly, we do get feedback around the different customer preferences around the range. I think we’ve been able to offer them a choice, and a choice on how to pay differently has been very appealing.

“It’s not necessarily for everyone in the market today, but those who have adopted have found it sticking.”

CaixaBank has also found success with its work in wearable technology. After months of testing and simulations, it was the first bank in Europe to create Visa contactless bracelets in August 2014.

A spokesperson from the bank tells EPI: “At the end of 2015, CaixaBank has more than 80,000 users of wearable technology, which means a remarkable result for an emerging technology.
“But wearable devices are only just beginning to emerge from the market, and are far from being in widespread use. Thus, this innovation stands out for its qualitative  rather than quantitative value.

“Feedback from clients is very positive; making contactless payment the most used system by the client. The main advantages the clients underline are comfort, ease and security, because clients receive a push notification in their smartphone every time they use the bracelet.”

“Moreover, clients who use this payment system have increased their use of electronic payments. In CaixaBank, we keep betting on innovation to serve clients,” the spokesperson explains.

While this new solution is gaining traction, work is needed for it to become a mainstream option for consumers. One aspect of this is to improve the technology.

Vinnai believes this lies in two aspects: proximity payments and voice command.

He says: “Today, voice command can be a frustration, but if you remember what touchscreens used to be before smartphones, they were also a frustration.

“If voice recognition is unable to understand your language or accent, then it is a frustration, but it is getting better.”

However, the mentality within financial institutions also needs to change. The attitude has to shift to truly consider wearable technology.

Vinnai adds: “The general issues are that digital transformation is not just a new, sexy user interface on existing solutions.

Developers need to change the paradigm of what they are thinking.

“We believe that all of the thinking needs to start from the customers’ eyes and, of course, this is not a new thing.

“[Banks] are always talking about it, but, honestly, in the last 15 years, even if they talk about CRM or Big Data, they don’t do that much. This isn’t just a technology thing, but also a transformation issue and how banks are able to change their processes to provide or give a better service on the digital front,” Vinnai continues.

“If you look at some of the examples in the banking market, the real disrupters are already there: Fidor, Mondo, or any of these types of services mainly based on mobile services or a mobile strategy.

“This side of customer experience already exists in the market. For banks that already have the legacy, it is much more difficult to change in this direction.”