A Computerworld report from MobileCon in San Diego warns that consumer adoption of mobile payment technologies such as NFC won’t happen nearly as quickly as some have predicted. Widespread uptake of mobile payment applications won’t occur for five to eight years “at best,” the head of Barclaycard US told attendees, adding that mobile payments in Japan didn’t take hold for the better part of a decade.
That’s particularly noteworthy because the the market for mobile payments in Japan was almost perfectly positioned, as I’ve written before: NFC was included in many handsets years ago, the country’s massive train system integrated a mobile payments system that has become the de facto standard and Japan’s biggest carriers all came into the fold. Those factors explain why Japan has become the global model for mobile payments.
But none of those factors apply here in the U.S.: NFC penetration has been painfully slow both in handsets and at the retail level, a wide range of competing systems have emerged, and no mass-transit system exists that could drive adoption nationwide. And as speakers on the MobileCon panel pointed out, U.S. consumers are wedded to credit cards and have little (or no) reason to switch to mobile payments right now.
That will change as payment providers, app developers and retailers learn to add value to mobile transactions with loyalty programs, coupons and other goodies. But those offerings will take years to develop, and changing consumer behavior is a huge endeavor. If mobile payments took eight years to truly take hold in Japan, they could take a lot longer here in the U.S.