Loyalty & Rewards

Nine Ways Mobile Is Changing Everything We Do

Today Americans are giving thanks—they are thankful for their families, their bountiful Thanksgiving feasts, their football games and the beginning of another holiday season. However grateful they are though, few Americans today will likely remember to give thanks for the life and work of Martin Cooper, largely because most Americans have no idea who Martin Cooper is.

Without Martin Cooper much of what we identify as normal life for the last two decades would not have been possible, as without his invention we would still be looking for pay phones, dropping off film to be developed, printing out boarding passes and contemplating a future where a plastic rectangle was the height of payments technology.

While I might ask “have you guessed who Martin Cooper is yet,” I don’t have to, because I know anyone reading this has a phone with internet access which means no one has to guess – with a few taps on a smartphone most readers who didn’t already know were able to find out that Martin Cooper invented the handheld mobile phone – and by so doing changed the lives of not just Americans, but people all over the world.

Think we’re overstating this? Think it’s just a portable phone combined with a tiny computer screen?  It’s probably because mobile has integrated so seamlessly into your life that you didn’t realize it was changing everything youdo.  But that’s okay, PYMNTs is here to keep track for you with a handy-dandy top ten list of all of the ways that mobile has improved life for us all.

  1. We All Get To Know Everything All The Time

There was once a time that having an extensive knowledge of trivia was a generally accepted skill.  Now it just means one owns a smartphone.

But the universe of data at consumers’ fingers is useful far beyond its ability to quickly settle barroom disputes about what the most popular food in America really is.   The impulse buy is a thing of the past because consumers just don’t buy on impulse as much anymore.

“A new intentionality has taken hold of shopping. Many Americans have the money and the will to spend. But they are time-pressed and deal savvy, visiting stores only when they run out of items like cereal or toilet paper and after doing extensive research on purchases online and with friends. They buy what they came for—and then leave," The Wall Street Journal.

Plus consumers are harder to fool, they know if they are being overcharged because they can look it up in real time while they are in the showroom.

Having that level of knowledge means  …

  1. Full Price Is A Notion Utterly Without Meaning

Walmart will match in real time any lower price this holiday season, including the ones seen online.  All one has to do is pull up proof of price on a smartphone.  Amazon started its “Black Friday” sales a week early, Target showed some restraint and starting Black Friday sales Wednesday - and both have been regularly pinging customers via Twitter about flash deals.

Then there are sites like Groupon, LivingSocial and a thousand imitators offer coupons pretty much across every retailer that mean no matter where one is shopping or eating they’re probably a few button taps away from paying less for they type of service they are out for.  And then there are the retailer rewards programs--all bent on giving consumers more stuff for free--as long as they use their mobile coupons.

It isn’t that full price has gone down--it is actually that full price as a concept has ceased to exist meaningfully for most consumers who increasingly never pay it.

This is best illustrated by those who sought to abuse the system to score some cheap Play Station 4’s. As it turns out creating an ad with an artificially low price is pretty easy for anyone with a registered Amazon selling account, given that they can create an authentic looking page and list items for sale online at any price they dream up.

This inventive fraud illustrates yet another facet of the newly mobile world

  1. We All Think Way More About Privacy And Digital Security Than We Used To

Twenty years ago one’s largest security concern was probably that their home or car would be broken into, followed closely by their wallet being stolen.  Now we wait for Russian cybercriminals to steal our cards by hacking into POS systems and lifting the data.  Or for cybercriminals to hack our phones and upload naked pictures of us to the internet (celebrity readers only). Or for Nigerian princes to trick our grandparents into wiring them money.  In short, while we still fear for our physical possessions as much as we ever did, the mobile world gave us something entirely new to worry about - the integrity of our data and who could use our phones, cards and email accounts as a backdoor into our entire personal and financial lives.

And we’ve also learned to worry about data harvesting from both criminals, who definitely don’t have any good uses for it in mind, and from legitimate retailers who gather it, aggregate it and do...well that’s the problem.  Some, like Apple promise to do nothing, while others, like Google, affirm they plan to do nothing evil with it.

Interestingly while there is more to worry about, consumers seem to have become somewhat less...well worried.   Target and Home Depot, the two most breached retailers in the last year, both reported profitable third quarters.(Well, it was a pretty rough road for Target over the last year.)

“In the end, the market’s behaving completely rationally,” says Avivah Litan, a security analyst for Gartner. “It’s still a pain in the neck for everyone, but there’s very little actual fraud committed as a result of these breaches.”

That’s a good development since …


  1. We Want It All, And We Want It Now

Pop quiz, how many ways can you pay on or with a phone that you’ve read about in PYMNTS in the last 14 days? Answer - 10  Google Wallet, Apple Pay, MasterPass, PayPal, Wanelo, Buy With Twitter, Buy With Snapchat, Visa Checkout, Loop and LevelUp.  And we’re just getting started.

Anyone with a phone in their pocket can, in one way or another, buy it on the spot.  Which has given rise to the push for same-day delivery, consumers who can buy it now, also want to be able to get it now, or as close to now as possible.  It’s also given rise to some truly novel delivery solutions such as car side delivery from DHL.

The delivery service and carmaker Volvo are working on a service that would let DHL remotely open Volvo cars to make the deliveries. DHL would only get access after the owner accepts delivery via text message. The program may be announced within weeks, and discussions with other carmakers are ongoing.

There may be consumers who are somehow uncomfortable with delivery personnel opening their car and don’t really have that burning a need for whatever it is, right now.  In fact, sometimes...

  1. We Also Want It Later

Maybe the consumer likes going to the store, enjoys the Christmas lights, wants to eat at a mall food court - they just don’t want to stand inline.  And now, through the magic of omnichannel commerce, they may not have to do.

Through the magic of mulit-device shopping an instore pick-up, consumers are increasingly getting used to finding something on their mobile, paying on their computer and picking up in store.  Or some combination thereof.  Beacon tech, which is on the rise, also allows customers to check-out wherever they are.

Mobile has made commerce less a race between the e-markets and the brick-and-mortars, and more a race to offer the most seamless commerce experience.  Mobile has taught ever one to care less about where they buy, and more about what the total buying experience is.

When we are still buying “things,” which as it turns out is a pretty 20th century idea because …

  1. We Pay For Access Instead Of Objects

Ten years ago when your family set about its early experiments in binge watching television with the first season of Lost, odds are everyone gathered round and watched a DVD set--or maybe a Blue Rayu, if your family happened to be full of early adopters.

This weekend, when entire families are sitting down to watch “How To Get Away With Murder,” more likely than not they are streaming it through Hulu.  Unless they don’t want to watch that, in which case, they are watching something else on  Netflix on their phone while sitting in the same room with their family. Unless of course this is a football family, in which case you are paying the NFL for access to every football game played everywhere in America tomorrow and a cable company to watch in in HD.

When it comes to media what we buy and how we buy it is changing, because we increasingly want to be able to watch it on the.  Consumers don’t necessarily want albums, what they want is Spotify on the go, especially if they can talk their phone provider into letting them stream it without docking their data usage.

Which just suggests that ….

  1. We Want To Use A Phone To Access Everything

It’s almost now quaint to refer to a time when phones were used primarily to talk.  With the rapidly emerging internet of things, it will soon be quaint to talk about a phone as a tool used primarily for communicating and shopping.

The smartphone is already heading toward being the key interface between connected devices and products (The Internet of Things) and their users. Among other things, people will use the device to remotely control household appliances, interact with screens and automatically adjust car settings to their preferences.

That suggests that more than anything …

  1. We Kinda Hope The Phone Might Keep Us Alive

With the release of Apple Pay, which PYMNTS covers a lot, also came the release of Apple Health that has widely been reported as ushering in the age of mobile device as wellness guru.  Smartphones can already help people lead healthier lives by providing information, recommendations and reminders based on data gathered through sensors embedded in users’ clothing (shoes, wristbands, etc.) or through other phone capabilities (motion detectors, cameras, etc.).

And, even if you don’t listen to your phone and put your health at risk, it will still probably save you.  Internet-enabled mobile devices are becoming important tools in broadening access to health care, diagnosing diseases and saving lives in crisis situations.

Regardless, I think we can all agree that smartphones are …

  1. Making Life A Lot Better For Everyone

Small merchants can do something now that they couldn’t do en masse twenty years ago - take credit card payments and use a tablet to do that and run their business.  With the emergence of mobile came Square, Stripe and literally thousands of the other mPOS solutions and platforms exploding all over the world.  This has not only changed the way these small businesses operate, it has changed their entire pitch to their customers.

In Kenya 40 percent of the country has a bank account, but 80 percent have achieved financial inclusion because of access to mobile money through the mPesa system (that number drops to around 23 percent if you factor out those with access to mobile money).

Mobile has made life easier for many consumers, but for some businesses and many people mobile has made mainstream financial participation possible.

So today when you give thanks, make some room for Martin Cooper because without him, you would assuredly enjoy the holiday season somewhat less.

Happy Thanksgiving.



The How We Shop Report, a PYMNTS collaboration with PayPal, aims to understand how consumers of all ages and incomes are shifting to shopping and paying online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research builds on a series of studies conducted since March, surveying more than 16,000 consumers on how their shopping habits and payments preferences are changing as the crisis continues. This report focuses on our latest survey of 2,163 respondents and examines how their increased appetite for online commerce and digital touchless methods, such as QR codes, contactless cards and digital wallets, is poised to shape the post-pandemic economy.

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