Don’t get too smart on payments by phone
Research by two of the UK’s leading experts on the social impact of technology shows that slick smartphone payment systems may boomerang on retailers.
Dr Mark Perry of Brunel University London and Professor Sriram Subramanian of the University of Bristol have been looking at the UK’s largest alternative local currency – the Bristol pound – which allows mobile payments.
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Dr Perry concluded: “The perceived wisdom is that payments via a mobile device should be designed and marketed as being ever faster, simpler and effortless.
“But the evidence from Bristol which uses a slightly clunky system is that there is value in the social interactions at the point of sale for both customer and supplier.
“The risk is that by making the payment part of the sale too slick retailers who rely on building and maintaining customer loyalty may find that part of the shopping experience is left on the shelf by the technology.
“I think what’s really interesting and unexpected in our data is the way that the Bristol Pound is not just used for functional purposes – as a form of payment – but that it also offers opportunities for playfulness and sociability… It’s not just a currency that’s used locally, it’s also a means of building richer, deeper connections across local communities. There’s so much this can tell us about how building financial technologies that aren’t just platforms for consumerism, but which make our environments more sustainable, interesting and connected”
The study, which is part of the 3DaRoC project, explored mobile payment systems to find out the effects of online, mobile, embedded, and tangible technologies on the consumer financial sector. Part of the project explored the way that the Bristol Pound operates. The Bristol Pound is one of the largest alternative currencies to sterling in the UK and enables consumers to pay for goods and services over text messages using TXT2PAY.
The research into the Bristol Pound focused on the interactions between people using mobile phone payments and its effects on social and community connectivity.
The study found that the Bristol Pound has a beneficial effect on both social and community bonds by changing the ways that people interact and transact with each other, and fostering trust between users as they make payments.
While these social and community bonds shape the kinds of interactions that become possible, they also promote social cohesion by encouraging consumers to support their local businesses.
Prof Subramanian, Professor of Human-Computer Interaction in the Bristol Interaction and Graphics (BIG) group, said: “TXT2PAY may not be the most fluid or robust mobile phone payment, yet our findings show TXT2PAY supports people in making connections to other people, to their communities, to the places they move through, to their environment and to what they spend. These interactions that could have significant implications for the design of future payment systems.”
“The near collapse of the UK and world financial sector have made understanding and innovating new and more sustainable approaches to financial services a critical topic. Mobile multimedia technologies offer new platforms for offering financial services over the internet. These new forms of digital connectivity provide opportunities to do banking and payment in radically different ways.
“While the impact of these new digital financial services is yet to be fully known, they have huge potential to transform financial services for ordinary users. So far, little is understood about how technical infrastructures impact on the ways that people make sense of the financial services that they use, or on how these might be designed more effectively.”
Paper ‘Spending Time with Money: from shared values to social connectivity’ by Jennifer Ferreira, Mark Perry and Sriram Subramanian in Proceedings of ACM CSCW’15.
About CSCW 2015
CSCW is the premier venue for presenting research in the design and use of technologies that affect groups, organisations, communities, and networks. Bringing together top researchers and practitioners from academia and industry who are interested in the area of social computing, CSCW encompasses both the technical and social challenges encountered when supporting collaboration. The development and application of new technologies continues to enable new ways of working together and coordinating activities. Although work is an important area of focus for the conference, CSCW also embraces research and technologies supporting a wide variety of recreational and social activities using a diverse range of devices.
The 18th ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW 2015) will be held from 14-18 March 2015 in Vancouver, Canada.
About the User Centred Design group at Brunel’s Centre for Software and Systems
The core activities of the User-Centred Design group involve research into the design and use of interactive systems. Key themes are: examining the role of individual differences, developing systems requirements for widening information access, and user studies around the use of socio-technical systems. Our primary aim is to make systems easier and more efficient so that we can create a satisfying experience for the end-user. People are at the heart of our research activities that range from the analysis of cognitive processes to understand how the brain translates system information, to how social interactions within the real-world can contribute to the design of current and emerging technologies.