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Getting a Gauge on Payment App Season

Payment app season

Dear Mark, this is a 100% true story (and a solid ‘Ranting’ to boot). As you know, I just returned from a lovely and relaxing vacation (or as our European colleagues call it, holiday). And as I got into my car this morning—for the first time in more than a week—I realized the gas tank was near-empty and that my low-tire indicator light was on… and I needed to get my daughter to camp en route to coming into the office.

You’d think this a minor inconvenience, right? Well…

I drove to my nearest and most favorite petrol station, where I utilize their app to save on gas!! And wouldn’t you know it, they were recovering from a power outage. So, onto the next closest and second-most favorite petrol station, which has the same fuel-saving app. Before I went to the pump, I had to fill up the tires. The tire thingy device only accepts quarters and credit cards. I had an Alexander Hamilton in my wallet and didn’t wanna use my credit card, on account of all of the scary skimming stories at gas stations that we’ve seen and/or read. I walked into the petrol convenience store, a lovely store, I might add, although the queue was 10 people deep and I lacked the luxury of time. I threw caution to the wind and paid for the air with my credit card.

Now before you go bananas about paying for air or commenting on skimming, I encountered further issues. There was a landscaping crew leaf blowing near the tire thingy device and the air compressor reader was partially blocked. I know I’m rambling a bit, but I needed my daughter to tell me when the air pressure was at the correct levels because the device sound/beep was overpowered by the leaf blower and because I couldn’t see the levels on the device. I was halfway through the first tire when a bee flew into the car, freaking out my daughter, who literally jumped out like she was being chased by a bear. Tire filling became futile. But I digress slightly, because it got me to thinking about apps (and not of the delicious ‘chicken finger’ variety, but rather of the ‘paying for chicken finger or air or anything else’ variety).

Dan Ring: So let’s talk about killer (or useful) apps for the fall/winter/2018 season.

Mark Ranta: Dan, not sure what or where your story was heading but there’s A LOT in there (also I am happy to hear you did not have any Petrol station sushi!) But apps, payments and the all-important Consumer Experience—how about we start there.

I find it interesting that you note the great gas app you have on your mobile, but what does it say about the brand in question that you can only use it at the pump?!? The designer of the app clearly isn’t thinking about your love of roadside tube steaks, or the aforementioned “peripheral” services like Air Supply (not the 80s band) or the vacuum stand with those tiny pine tree shaped air fresheners. The complete experience clearly wasn’t considered.

BUT the fact that you have a gas saving or rewards app shows me how far we have come in this discussion, and even more impressive is your new-found fear of random credit card swipes not asking for chip/PIN/signature/other. Bravo!

So onto the app discussion. The killer payment apps to keep your eyes on:

  • My first choice is something of a cop out… actually, it’s a total cop out. But Starbucks still holds the top spot in my heart for payments and loyalty. I am personally a “Dunk’s” drinker and think they have done wonderful things in this space (and get you to the “free” quicker when all is said and done), but there is no comparing to the reach of the Starbucks app.
  • For my second and third choices, I want to stay a bit more generic in description, because there are a lot of moving pieces and I honestly can’t say WHO the provider will be. But I can state the genres we are looking at;
  • The first is the “merchant pay” app. I think there are some great examples already in the market, but for the most part, they have been in tinkering mode. They are testing in a relatively unannounced way, so they can figure out what works, what doesn’t, and how to integrate the full experience – spanning the in-store versus mComm discussion. For me, there is A LOT at play, especially given some of the aggressive growth from the eComm giant(s) out there.
  • The second is the “bank pay” app. I think this will likely take off as the rollout and uptake of Zelle takes off… oddly enough you could use that animal comparison to say this is the herd of predators following the fast-moving animal leading the charge; as Zelle goes, so too will the bank pay app (in the US at least)!
  • My fourth and final one is the “Hardware/Software Pay” apps. I have said this before and I will say it again, I am in the group of folks awed by how quickly mobile payments has taken off. We are sitting on the third anniversary of the Apple Pay launch and look at how widely it is used! Are we at total market penetration? Of course not, but it’s only been three years! How many years did it take for the Credit Card to get to the saturation we are seeing now in the mobile payments space? I am honestly asking… I have no idea what that penetration curve looked/looks like…!!

Now to the bigger question? How much weight did you gain on vacation?

DR: Let’s just say my favorite linen shorts are a little tighter… and it ain’t because they shrank in the wash!