Will social help or hurt mobile payments?
With companies such as Venmo adding social elements to mobile payments, it remains to be seen whether or not consumers are completely comfortable with merging the two spheres of social and payments on mobile.
There is definitely a place for social in mobile commerce, especially in terms of discovery and search, but consumers seem to be hesitant to add a social element to the actual payment process. Consumers may be concerned about security, and they also may not necessarily want to publicize a certain payment.
“I think social and payments are tricky,” said Alex Jacobs, associate media director at Digitas, San Francisco.
“From an ability to drive consideration and even purchase, I think social recommendation is an extremely valuable way to do that,” he said. “In terms of payments themselves and socializing what you are buying, what money you may be transferring on Venmo or other platforms like Venmo, I think that there’s a certain level of privacy and really a propensity to keep those types of things private.
“When it comes to a lot of transactions, a very small percentage of transactions are going to be ones that you are proud of, people tend to keep their personal finances close to the vest.”
It is widely known that social sharing is one of the best digital advertising platforms for a brand.
If someone posts on Facebook that she just bought a pair of new boots that she loves, her friends may see it and want to go purchase the boots themselves. This combination of social and purchase is already common.
However, if someone posts on Venmo that she paid her friend for dinner, it becomes questionable whether her friends will “Like” the payment, comment on it or act on the post somehow.
Venmo lets consumers pay friends online or via its mobile app. Consumers connect their Venmo account to a bank account, credit card or debit card, and they can then pay another Venmo user in just a few clicks.
The company also offers a newsfeed, similar to Twitter, that lets users like or comment on a payment.
Mr. Jacobs is skeptical that social mobile payments sites and apps such as Venmo will catch on.
“It’s kind of oil and water at the moment when you mix social data and banking data,” he said. “There’s a perceptual hurdle there that people are not quite comfortable with yet that over time people may care less about or overcome.”
Consumers tend to be private about their actual payments, so they may not rush to tell all of their friends that they paid their rent.
“Because of financial and privacy regulations, social and mobile payments are a difficult obstacle for the industry,” said Jocelyn Bull, marketing director at Somo Global, Haymarket, London. “However, some companies have found a way to overcome that. Venmo is a great example of social making its way into mobile.”
Another question is whether or not popular social networks such as Facebook and Twitter will try to incorporate payments into their own platforms.
“It is unclear what role social media will play in the adoption of mobile payments, as consumers generally do not like to share what they bought and for how much,” said Wilson Kerr, vice president of business development and sales at Unbound Commerce, Framingham, MA. “The intent to buy on Facebook, for example, was grossly overestimated, as evidenced by the failure of Facebook Stores to gain traction.”
While Facebook Stores failed to catch on, Facebook is now experimenting with a Facebook currency and digital wallet.
Yet, Mr. Kerr does not think that the intent to buy on Facebook is there. He does, however see some potential with Pinterest since product allegiances are at the center of their model.
Twitter may also be looking to enter the commerce sector with its recent hire of the company’s first ever head of commerce (see story).
“Social media will play a roll, but mostly as a way for people to be rewarded for advocating for products they love,” Mr. Kerr said.
“Bridging the gap to sharing actual purchases or prices paid and by what method is one that offers promise, but that is very cloudy in terms of the understanding of consumers’ willingness to do so,” he said.
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York