Digital Dollars: A look at technology and the way you buy

using technology to purchase

It seems that there has been a lot of focus lately on digital, high tech forms of money transfer –ISIS Mobile Wallet and Google Wallet have both debuted new service offerings, and there has been a lot of buzz around Coin, a small startup company with a sleek, high tech credit card substitute. While all of these are an interesting technological exercise, one big question that I have about all of this relates, of course, to the end User’s experience. How do these technologies end up affecting your experience, and what are benefits and drawbacks of such experiences?

Whenever I am involved in testing material around high security interactions like financial data, I always start with a few key questions. These are based out of feedback that comes back to us again and again in high security areas like this:

  1. How transparent is the process to the end User?
  2. Do the security protocols around the experience make the User feel safe enough?
  3. Does the entity offering the interaction provide a high level of professional service to the end User?

The first point is a really pervasive one, and must be addressed both in the interaction itself and within the other two key points. It is crucial that the end User really understands the experience being presented. This seems like a no-brainer, but for financial transactions it is really imperative – no one wants their money disappearing into a black hole. The interesting twist to this requirement is that different Users will require different levels of transparency to feel confident in using the service. Some early Users of ISIS Mobile Wallet, for instance, were very frustrated that service requires a special NFC SIM card, a fact that was not often called out in articles and information around the service in the early releases. Quite a number of Users view this as a non-starter for the service.

The second point, building on the first, is the visibility and robustness of security within the service. This requirement is a double-edged sword – if the security protocols are so robust that they hamper use of the service, Users will complain but if the service doesn’t provide adequate security they won’t feel comfortable using it. Kanishk Parashar, the CEO of Coin, said in a recent interview that he was surprised by the huge volume of feedback he received about the product, and that it has prompted the addition of extra security features to the service. While they have obviously received a great deal of interest in the service offered by their product, it’s clear that their User base is also very interested in maintaining the security of their financial data.

The final point, professional service, is a more nebulous concept than the first two requirements, but important just the same. By ‘professional service’ I mean that the service is both presented and supported in a way that makes Users feel that there is a high level of customer service available in case something goes awry. Users perceive this professionalism in different ways; some may believe that Google Wallet’s new debit card offering is a professional service because of the ubiquity and general acceptance of Google’s other product offerings. Some may believe that ISIS Mobile Wallet is a professional service because it has a partnership with American Express, a financial entity with a reputation they already trust. There are a variety of ways to project professionalism in a service, and Users are very quick to pick up on deficiencies in this area.

While there are a lot of interesting and varied technological developments in this space, I think it’s important for anyone doing work in this area to step back and ask themselves those three questions about transparency, security, and professionalism. These three tenets are key to a successful User experience in high-security transactions, and unless you address these requirements in a way that satisfies your Users’ concerns then you will be short-selling your product before it is launched.

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