Commentary

'Frictionless' Purchasing And Marketing Opportunity

By now, just about everyone has read about Apple Pay and how this time things will be different – people will actually have the ability to easily use their phones to pay for products and services everywhere, and the masses will finally embrace “plastic-free” (or “frictionless”) transactions. I agree with those who think Apple Pay will be a game-changer – because of the security it provides, the partnerships with major banks and credit cards, and the scale only Apple can offer. 

The truth is, though, that frictionless transactions have actually been increasing (and increasingly available) for some time – and just as it did with social media, travel has helped lead the way with this technology. For example, take a look at a business trip I took a few weeks ago. After going through security in my hometown airport, I did the following: 

  • Grabbed a coffee 
  • Boarded my flight
  • Hailed a car
  • Checked into my room 

(And yes, I know coffee isn’t directly related to travel – but it’s directly related to pretty much everything in my life, so I included it here.) 

Pretty normal travel experience, right? Well, yes and no. What’s fascinating in retrospect is that I never opened my wallet during that entire time – a period of several hours spanning a flight check-in and three separate transactions. How? 

  • Grabbed a coffee – paid via Starbucks app
  • Boarded my flight – checked in with my mobile phone
  • Hailed a car – paid via Uber app
  • Checked into my room – booked and prepaid via Airbnb app

What’s even more fascinating is that many travelers (and everyday consumers) like me already take transactions like these for granted – and get frustrated with other travel or retail or other companies don’t offer the same functionality. The promise of Apple Pay – if it’s as seamless a user experience as we’ve come to expect from Apple – is that it can make so many more transactions as easy and frictionless as those I mentioned above. The challenge is that if it works, customer expectations for frictionless transactions and experiences will rise dramatically – and companies that don’t adapt quickly will find themselves watching helplessly while those who do adapt gain increasing amounts of their market share. 

A shift to more mobile transactions means more digital customer touchpoints as well. Detailed e-receipts or transaction histories will become much more common (why would you provide a print receipt for a completely digital transaction?) Push and SMS for timely, valuable communications will become more prevalent (just don’t overdo it – make sure you’re providing utility through your messages, versus constantly bombarding them with more marketing). And cross-channel – true cross-channel, with email communications integrating with app engagement and “real-life” activity – will become essential. 

We marketers tend to be easily distracted by shiny new objects and strategies – myself included – but Apple Pay has a fantastic chance of not only becoming commonplace, but changing the way we communicate with our customers as well. With 10 million Apple Pay-enabled iPhone 6s sold in the first weekend alone and Apple Watch also on the way, we should be seeing some very interesting use cases a year from now that show the true potential impact of this product. Be ready – examine where Apple Pay might impact your customer experience from booking through the travel itself and the post-travel experience, and develop plans to optimize and enhance your communications to make the most of it.

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