This is my first inaugural blog here at Javelin and I will be talking about the intersection of experience design and payments. “The payment experience”—it is, if you think about it, distinctively human. Bartering, trading, transacting—all arrangements establishing a platform for a payment experience.
Whether intentional or not, we have been designing this experience since, well, forever. Although John Biggins can be credited (pun) for designing the first credit card, or “Charg-It” card in 1946, Frank McNamara, the inventor of the Diners Club Card, was the first to realize and challenge the then current (1949) payment experience. Physically, he just created a piece of cardboard that was accepted at restaurants as an alternative to cash. But what he actually designed was a new, meaningful experience. What most people don’t realize is that all design is the process of evoking meaning. Quoting my DMBA Department Chair, “…meaning is the deepest connection that you can make with your audience, user, or consumer. It is established between people, between people and objects, between people and places, etc. And it is meaning that is the deepest part of those invisible connections.” Meaning is why by 1951 there were over 200,000 Diners Club Cards in circulation. The experience invoked both freedom and security. Although the platform was stable from a security perspective, the comfort of knowing that they had an acceptable, convenient alternative if they forgot their wallet or didn’t want to carry so much cash on them was such a credible (another glorious, unintentional pun) and meaningful experience to cardholders and is why the card (and the brand) has dominated the payments industry.
Who has challenged the payment experience today? (Of course) Apple Pay.As a note, I’m not going to talk about adoption rates, you can view them here. Simply put, it is fairly obvious that our infrastructure has to catch up to this product. I will be talking about why the product will be successful with those who are using it and how the experience of the product will affect users and non-users alike. Apple crafted a product that establishes a deep connection with its users. By marrying security and convenience, they have created a truly meaningful experience. The user authorization, the secure element, and the tokenization process all combined, offer users a deep sense of personal security. From an engineering perspective, it is secure, very, very secure. However, it is not just software engineering that helps create this sense of security—it is empathy. Let’s look at our existing, in-store, payment experience. You shop, you swipe, you pay. You shop, you tap, you pay. Whether mag stripe, EMV, or NFC, this system has become fairly robotic in nature. Yet, it is still very intimate—that two-by-something piece of plastic represents our earnings, what we work every day for, how we provide for our families, and in a way, what represents our sense of personal, social, and financial security. So as robotic as the payment experience has become, it is still, very intimate.
We saw this with the reactions to the Target and Home Depot security breaches—people felt violated and vulnerable and those feelings didn’t go away quickly. These were the sensitivities Apple designed for—and why users have responded so positively to the product. Onto usability. People have and always will respond to convenience. It is not convenient to be asked 6 questions after you have just spend two hours trying to weed your way through kid-filled carts and arguing couples at 11:00AM on a busy Sunday at Whole Foods or Safeway—especially on a small screen, with a small font, on a dark background. “Does the pen not work?” Just trying pushing it with your finger. “NO, no, I don’t want cash back.” It’s ok, just press zero. “Crap, I hit no.” Oh, you canceled it, go ahead and swipe your card again, you have to start over. That is a horrible experience. One touch. Processed. BOOM BAM. Yes, many other companies have used NFC technology (Paypal,Google) but the back-end was never as integrated and the front-end was never as convenient. This is what creates such a powerful experience for the user. The sense of security is the foundation, the seamless checkout is the convenience; the marriage of the two is the experience. And it is the design of this experience that will (if it hasn’t already) distinctively affect future expectations for payments.