Women Are a Force to Reckon with When it Comes to Wearable Payments
A few weeks ago, Visa unveiled a sunglass prototype with payment capabilities. The pair of shades, showcased at several tech events around the world, looked almost identical to non-tech models – with the exception of a tiny chip embedded on the side. To pay, a wearer simply taps them on a Visa near field communication (NFC) enabled terminal.
Payment-enabled sunglasses: PR stunt or the real thing?
Many will brush this off as a PR stunt, but the reality is that the payments industry is looking at the rise in contactless and alternative payments, and responding to market demand. The question is, are sunglasses the best vehicle for payments? Personally, I’m torn. I love the idea of sunbathing on a sunny beach and simply tapping my sunglasses on a payment terminal to pay for my cocktail. It feels glamorous and exciting! However the reality is, that the last time I took my sunglasses to an exotic beach they didn’t survive my snorkelling trip and ended up at the bottom of the ocean, somewhere off the coast of Costa Rica.
However, Visa is right that we should be looking at which everyday items can be enabled for payments through card tokenization. I believe there’s more thinking to be done around which items could be indispensable – in the same way as our mobile phones have become. Perhaps if I lived in Costa Rica year-round, my sunglasses would be an everyday essential, but as lovely as the Dutch weather is, it’s far from sunny 365 days a year. Additionally, I (like many women) have more than one pair of sunglasses, but how many payments-enabled gadgets do we really want?
The industry needs to spend more time understanding women and payments
The industry is placing bets on a whole range of new gadgets and devices with embedded payment technology, ranging from payment-enabled jewellery to wristbands and glasses. However, if I end up with a whole range of payments-enabled devices, I would probably also need some kind of mobile app to manage all these devices. And that brings its own security concerns.
I think that for any new NFC-enabled payments device to become ubiquitous it needs to be something we will always have with us. I always wear my wedding ring, but this isn’t a truly ubiquitous use case. It has to be something that feels as important as our wallet and mobile phone. In fact, researchers only recently coined a name for the condition of feeling stressed and anxious when leaving the house without a mobile phone - nomophobia!
I do think that payments with NFC-enabled everyday items will take off, as I also think that women in particular will be a force to reckon with in shaping (quite literally, in the case of design) payments-enabled wearables. After all, these wearables need to not only allow us to pay – they’re going to have look good at the same time as being items that we consider indispensable. Yes, it’s been pointed out to me that sunglasses purchased, worn (and regularly misplaced) by men as much as women, but I still see that women will lead the way in the blending of function and form in the world of wearables.
As they say, every woman’s handbag is a mystery, but I think most of us would find it useful if we no longer had to dig around in its depths to find our purse or smartphone in order to pay. Perhaps payments-enabled sunglasses will do the trick this summer, while waiting for a particularly fashionable ‘wave and pay’ scarf to appear for the winter season!
ACI Worldwide will be at Money 20/20 Europe. Join us for a breakfast meetup with the European Women in Payments Network and FemTech Leaders on Tuesday 27th June, 8:45 am – 9:45 am, at the smoothie bar. I look forward to meeting you there!
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