June 15, 2011 |
I recently came across an interesting idea that uses the mobile device to promote savings. This iPhone app from Putnam Investments sparked my interest because it is a step toward new thinking. Dubbed PriceCheck&Save, the app is available for participants in Putnam 401(k) plans. The idea plays on a combination of a consumer’s desire to spend with his or her need to save. Let’s say that I find a pair of must-have shoes at Macy’s. I scan the barcode (a limitation of shoes is that they often don’t have a barcode, but let’s say this pair does because it is a very exclusive pair) using my mobile device and the Putnam app. The app shows me the Macy’s price for the shoes and gives me the message that if I instead, “Put this in your 401K and you could have $XX more per month throughout your retirement.” Wow! $22.25 more per month? Honestly??
The other thing the app does is to give me a chance to look for a better deal. If I do that, I get a list of merchants who sell the shoes for less. When I pick the lower priced provider, the app shows me the net savings and allows me to save that net to my 401K account. Kind of like the “Keep the Change” concept from Bank of America, but with bigger dollars. Big ticket items obviously have the more significant play here in terms of their potential impact on my 401 savings, so maybe I should be looking at pricier items than shoes. And, there is the barcode factor – I won’t find those codes on many of my impulse or high ticket items. I’m also not crazy about the 401K limitation. What if my current focus is saving to my 529 Plan to send my kids to college?
In spite of these concerns, I do like Putnam’s idea because it helps make saving easy. It also conceptually combines both purchasing and savings activities. It does not, however, incorporate mobile payment, although comparison shop and savings features could certainly be components of a mobile payment wallet or application. From a mobile payments perspective, I think new ways to combine payments with other features will be essential to driving value for both the consumer and the merchant. We’ve heard a lot about mobile loyalty and couponing and also about geo-location as ways to augment the mobile purchasing experience, but there are less considered concepts, like this one from Putnam, that could – in the right combination – bring high value to end users.