Familiarity will make mobile payment feel more secure

It is a strangely common occurrence at Marketing Week that our analysis articles coincide, completely unplanned, with big news developments in the areas we’re covering. The last few weeks have been no different, as Barclaycard and O2 have made announcements relating to mobile payment technology.


Barclaycard released a new ‘mobile’ payment card that sticks onto the back of a phone, to be used at contactless payment terminals in shops. And O2 launched O2 Wallet, an app that allows customers to transfer money to one another’s mobiles.

These stories came at the same time that we received new research into the current state of mobile commerce, which shows a significant rise in the number of people using their phones to shop. But this week’s ‘trends’ feature, published tomorrow (2 May), will also point out that consumers remain unconvinced about data security on the mobile web.

Security is the principal worry holding consumers back from making more purchases on their smartphones, with 42% saying they would shop more this way if security were improved.

Some of that nervousness can be accounted for simply by unfamiliarity. Security is not really the reason, but rather the retrospective explanation, for some people’s vague suspicions about a technology they haven’t quite got to grips with yet.

Yet the fact that security is always the reason people reach for first should make marketers think. It is symptomatic of repeated data security failures in a variety of different organisation, in numerous different contexts. And mobile payment too has already shown itself to have vulnerabilities.

Google Wallet, the technology company’s contactless payment system, has been available in certain US retailers for over seven months. In February two security flaws were revealed that could allow hackers or thieves to access mobile owners’ money.

Those bugs were quickly fixed, but there will undoubtedly be more. The risk posed to consumers is unlikely to be any greater than they face from fraud using other everyday payment methods, however, and once the phone and card companies working on this technology are satisfied it is as safe as it can be, the best way to reassure consumers will be to get them used to using it.

That doesn’t mean the industry shouldn’t give consumers more information on mobile security. It’s just that high-profile ads that claim everything’s OK are more likely to make people worried about what the problem could have been in the first place.

Instead, we should see more marketing of the kind Google and the Citizens Advice Bureau engaged in earlier this year in the UK, telling consumers what they can do to keep themselves safer. That includes using PIN codes and passwords that are hard to guess but easy to remember, and ensuring they use secure websites where the URL is prefaced with https rather than http.

Once things like this become second nature, consumers will feel more comfortable using their phones as wallets.

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