Ho hum, yawn… yes, I know. You can stop that right now.
I’m always talking about wallets because I LOVE wallets! Big wallets, small wallets, smart wallets, you get the idea.
I was flipping through my considerable inbox the other day, and I ran across this article from TechCrunch about the wallet becoming the next tech platform.
As a stack, we have hardware — your mobile phone — at the top and bank accounts holding the actual treasure at the very bottom. But it’s better to think of this “stack” as really a system of pointers, in this case downwards. And the goal for businesses is finding and occupying a defensible position in this stack that allows them to intercept payments, capturing and controlling value to become that ultimate financial platform.
Yeah, I know, kind of dry, especially for TC. But hey, the part that caught my eye was where they mentioned PayByTouch, a company that some of you may remember picking up a few of the leftover iBill employees after that implosion, which led to another – you guessed it if you knew those guys – implosion!
Which made me take a little walk down memory lane and one thing led to another, and here we are.
Now, most county fairs are nothing but a bunch of tired old games, rigged so that the player never wins, and I think that’s still an accurate description of your wallet at this moment.
Everyone wants a piece of it – whether it’s Apple, Google, Samsung, Paypal, BofA, Chase, or goodness knows how many other players that I cannot even be bothered to keep straight.
And someone is going to get it. Eventually you’ll give it up, you’ll have no choice. The convenience factor, the implied cost savings, the ability to do magical things with payments and rewards and free ice cream cones will overcome everything else in your world when you see all your friends, neighbors and co-workers doing it.
Just like email, everyone will do it. If that seems like an odd comparison, I still get a chuckle out of all the people back in 1995 or so that told me email was a passing fad. So much for their opinions. Although my mother never did have email. Heck I don’t think she saw the internet more than a few times in her life. She was stubborn, but when she realized that you could Google song lyrics and find the most obscure YouTube videos of gospel singers performing equally obscure songs with grainy footage and dicey audio, well, I think she’d have changed her mind and gotten an iPad if she’d lived longer.
So right now the race to the moon (yes, we just watched The Right Stuff a couple of weeks ago) is on, and the whole world is trying to build a rocket ship that will take your wallet and put your data into their hands. The real value is in the data, not so much in the processing or the transactions themselves, at least not in my way of looking at it.
The guy who figures out what you’re likely to buy next and can nudge you in the direction of where you might best acquire it, well, that guy is going to be walking around his house barefooted, on tiles made of solid gold.
The last hurdle is a big one though; people are going to have to be convinced that the transition of the wallet from a piece of nice leather in your back pocket to a techno-gadgetry piece of kit that knows all your dirty little secrets is worth transiting. There’s no real problem to solve here – cash and credit cards work just as well as they always have.
The idea of a general purpose, revolving balance credit card didn’t even get going until the 1960s – and look where we are today. For all intents and purposes, Visa alone does more banking business than any number of countries do in a years time. And people said those little plastic cards would never catch on!
The biggest benefit to making the transition to a digital wallet early is that you’ll get in on the ground floor of all the deals. Merchants, banks, software companies, hardware makers, everyone (including us) is currently throwing every piece of ammunition they have at the situation to try and kick start the transition as rapidly as possible.
It’s a buyers market, right now. Yep.