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'NFC? No F... Clue!'

We ran two rather unusual focus groups this weekend, discussing mobile payments.

The first group was represented by "blue color" mainstream and "circumstantial" techno-ignorant late adopters - unbankable, migrants, no (higher) education and low-waged social groups. The second group was represented by the "Home alone"/PG audience (12-14 year olds). 

The subject was simple - "Do you need mobile payments?" (The original subject was "What do you think of mobile payments?", but since people often don't eat what they preach, we changed the angle).

The outcome of both discussions was in line with our expectations. Below are some of the non-confidential highlights I can share with you here.

The first group did not give a toss about technology (see the title of this post). They didn't care how innovative or advanced a particular solution was - these days most of the high-tech tricks are taken for granted. Everyone liked the products/applications that were easy to understand, simple to use and, most importantly, that didn't require any change of the existing modus operandi. NFC/contactless was definitely ticking very few boxes there.

The anti-tech attitude was further aggravated by security concerns - one doesn't have to be tech-savvy to be aware of the payment frauds since media is doing a great job highlighting every faux pas of mobile payments. "It all can be broken, isn't it?" [sic] - that was the general view on security of mobile payments. Curiously, security concerns did not extend to the entity offering a particular solution - that group said they would (dis)trust any bank or operator as much as a hot startup (with certain things they would trust a startup more).

Most interestingly, that second group did not see (at all!) why they would need mobile payments. None of the benefits - potential or real - were of any tangible value (with a few consistent exceptions which I cannot share here). "Card/cash is fine" and "I don't need cards on my phone because they can be stolen" was the main theme. The counterargument "if you keep your cards in your wallet, they can be lost or stolen too" drew blank stares...

However, when shown a particular feature based on the existing/familiar "user journey", the heads were nodding. That confirmed our expectations that were summed up by Steve Jobs back in 1998: "It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them."

Here's a suggestion for an experiment (I hope I am not giving away too many secrets here): follow the Maker's 46 rules - (a) don't use the words "NFC", "contactless" and "new", and (b) don't ask the users to drop their cards or even wallets when offering them mobile payments. But do make them feel - in an unobtrusive way - safe and 100% in control. You'll win them all (well, if you have the "fifth element" too...)

The second focus group was "boring" and bored. All the participants grasped the concepts before we could even finish describing them, immediately chose the one(s) they liked - there was no "most" there, but categorical "either/or" which was typical for that audience - explaining their choice with "Are you stupid or what?" looks, and summed it all up with "We got it, we like it, what's the problem?" 

Both sessions ended with "When can we get it?" - "Soon".

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This post is from a series of posts in the group:

Innovation in Financial Services

A discussion of trends in innovation management within financial institutions, and the key processes, technology and cultural shifts driving innovation.


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