Focus on mobile apps Will Mobile Payment Prevail?

For mobile payment to become accepted across the board, payment apps not only need to look appealing, but also to feel the way users do. After all, the benefits of mobile payment are hardly tangible so far.

Humans are creatures of habit. In the past, they preferred to pay the traditional way. Cash was quick and easy. No wonder it took years for credit cards to become accepted. Therefore, the question today is: How fast can mobile payment gain ground?


Since the phone has become an all-in-one device over the last few years and is increasingly used as digital wallet, paying by smartphone is an obvious choice. Meanwhile, the technological possibilities (NFC, Bluetooth) are available and advanced enough to serve as a basis for services. Whether mobile payment is going to be a success depends on the human factor.

Success depends on added value for users

The benefits of mobile payment are hardly tangible. As a result, people tend to stick to the payment methods they are familiar with. To use mobile payment, they first of all have to overcome a few obstacles, e.g., they need to link their digital identity to their physical identity by means of an official ID if no customer relationship, such as a bank account, exists. While this additional step and the disclosure of personal information may be considered an obstacle, they are necessary for data protection.


To convince the widest possible range of users of mobile payment, one thing is required: real added value for applications. Added value is not simply created by mere functionality such as direct account connection or convenient payments to friends. In particular, providers of payment apps need to look into users' habits, payment behavior and patterns of thought.

What comes to mind before using the app

One thing is for sure: A new payment system needs to be simple for the user to accept it. The better the user's initial experience with such a system, the higher the chances are that he will continue to use it and make it his preferred method of payment.Therefore, it is essential to look into the different payment phases from the user's perspective and to analyze potential barriers.


A careful person who uses the payment app for the first time asks herself a few questions long before shopping. After all, he or she is not yet familiar with the process. The following questions may come to his or her mind:

  • Is my credit balance sufficient and, if not, can I use cash or my credit card instead?
  • Which shops provide mobile payment?
  • Who is going to help me if something doesn't work?
  • How crowded is the shop? Am I going to cause a queue? How will people behind me react?
  • How secure is payment or the credit balance on my device?
  • Will I have to disclose my identity when paying?

What happens at the cash register?

If the user decides to give mobile payment a try, the time will come when he puts his purchases on the conveyor belt, ready to pay. While cash payment is a no-brainer, the user now must communicate his intention to use the new method. More questions come to his mind:

  • How do I signal that I want to use my payment app (and that I'm not holding my smartphone in my hands to kill time googling or texting while standing in line)?
  • What do I need to do to trigger payment (like having card or cash ready; after all, I want to avoid waiting time for myself and others)?
  • How close do I need to hold the smartphone to the terminal?
  • Can I put the smartphone away right after paying in case I need both hands to pack my shopping?

When gaming or checking a train connection, the user's full attention is on the app. This is not the case for mobile payment. The user has to pay attention to the person at the cash register and the display – while packing his shopping at the same time.

Provide discrete support for users

So how can the user be convinced of the benefits payment apps have to offer? Over time, an app may change his habits and his individual payment behavior. The following are a number of success factors that are, on the one hand, generally accepted and, on the other, key when it comes to paying in a shop:

  • Provide a possibility for the user to prepare for the transaction (e.g., information on where to activate Bluetooth).
  • Hide technical complexity from the user (e.g., visualize QR code rather than describe it).
  • Reduce the number of interactions between customer and shop and the information load to a minimum.
  • Allow for direct feedback on success or failure of the transaction and provide solutions in case of failure.
  • Design instructions/status in a way to allow the user to read them instantly and clearly as the instruments of a cockpit.


Payment apps are facing the challenge of providing a pleasant user experience to the user by guiding him through the process as smoothly as possible and, at the same time, presenting him the benefits of mobile payment, such as integrated loyalty programs or automatic evaluation of transactions. If they succeed, mobile payment is likely to be accepted far more quickly than credit cards were and to become a viable alternative to cash.