Following the launch of iOS6 and iPhone5, drowning out the problems with iOS maps, the buzz at the moment is all about mobile loyalty and the Passbook.  Could we be on the verge of not having to carry wallets full of loyalty cards around with us in our pockets?  I sure hope so…
Its obvious that mobile loyalty offers a huge opportunity for marketers and retailers.  But what if I was to say that it could be the gateway to mobile payment being the mainstream?

Mobile payment has been around for years already – lets get that point straight for starters! Its just the adoption in many mainstream markets just hasn’t taken off – whether down to technology limitations or consumer uptake.

  • In Japan it is already a way of life – 7.6million consumers have made a mobile purchase in a store with a massive 47 million (40%) Japanese having adopted tap-and-go phones in the last 3 years alone.
  • M-Pesa, a text phone based banking and payment service, took off in Kenya back in 2007 – by the end of 2011 there was a reported 17 million M-Pesa accounts in Kenya alone.  It has since branched out to other African nations, Afghanistan and India.

So what is halting the rest of the world from taking on this type of payment?  Services like Square and Google Wallet are trying and growing steadily but i’m still not seeing the tipping point anywhere close on the horizon.  For example, i’m pretty knowledgable about the latest tech and have seen Square in use but i’d have no idea where in Singapore I could use it to pay for something.

Back to my point about loyalty being the the route in
So its obviously not the technology that is the blocker, the technology is available in abundance – ready to be used by both the consumer and retailer – and can be ‘easily’ integrated in some form or another.  Granted there is probably a mountain of bureaucracy and legacy systems to climb over within big retailers to embed such services into their EPOS landscape but small independents should not have a problem.

I say this because I’ve seen it in action here in Singapore – with the added integration of Social media sharing! I was privy a couple of months back, during a visit to Singapore, to a demo of Taggo (http://www.taggo.me/) a loyalty fan-club integrated in with Facebook and Paypal as the payment provider.  Although at the time it felt a little clunky being still in beta, the process felt natural enough and I got my discount for sharing that I had eaten at a certain Singaporean burger joint to my Facebook friends.  Win-Win as they say.

The process was pretty simple:
1. Like the Burger Chains Facebook page, and access a tab on their page
2. Register your paypal account and mobile number – this is used to verify your payment details.
At the Till in the restaurant:
3. The cashier enters your mobile number to check you are a fan
4. The cashier applies a discount, takes payment for your meal, sends you a text with the amount, and shares on your Facebook wall that you have ‘just enjoyed a burger at xyz’

Here it is in action – again still early days, they were using an android tablet to manage the link between the chains EPOS solution and Paypal as can be seen in the second photo.  Even so, the process felt smooth and as natural as it could, being the first time.

Taggo in action!

I am now living here in Singapore and have since discovered another service which prompted this post – Perx.
Perx is starting to come my new best friend, feeding my love for burritos! Perx isn’t a mobile payment solution… yet!  But it sure could be i’m sure.  Perx (https://www.getperx.com/) is a digital loyalty wallet that works across certain retailers in Singapore – so an established version of the iOS Passbook in Singapore only.  You can search for your nearest store that support Perx ‘Chops’ (their loyalty domination) and whilst in-store you scan a QR code from behind the counter for your ‘Chop’.  Get a certain number of Chops and you get a freebie – simple.  Again some pictures below of it in action:

perx is action!

Although Perx is a great platform, and getting ‘chops’ is already pretty addictive – at the till it feels that there is something missing.  I do everything with my mobile, and then have to reach for my cash card – i found myself juggling both whilst trying to pick up my nacho’s 🙂  For me it was an eye-opener that it would feel much more natural and transient to just pay with my phone at the stage of scanning the QR code for my loyalty reward.

So.. could loyalty be the way to bring mobile payment into the mainstream?  As I said earlier in the post – there needs to be a ‘win-win’ scenario.  Current solutions offer next to zero benefit to the consumer to take on a mobile payment solution (apart from the coolness factor), and retailers must give up a percentage of their hard-earned profit to use it in-store.  With loyalty included in the equation both win.