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Many years of observation have revealed that my wife, Linda, is fairly representative of the average consumer when it pertains to the adoption of new technologies. If she likes something, it’s fairly predictable that masses will as well. If she doesn’t, you can generally count on it being a mass-market flop. 

I believe Linda’s tastes and reactions to technology are so indicative of consumer adoption patterns that I’ve dubbed her opinion the “Linda Factor." I’ve referenced the “Linda Factor” in many papers and speeches when discussing the prospective success or failure of a given technology. Linda’s views, opinions and observations of technology have always been dependable and have never let me down. 

In an attempt to leverage Linda’s insight for predicting technology’s winners and losers, I’ve documented what I believe are Linda’s criteria for vetting a new technology. The following is what I’ve observed to be the “essential truths” of Linda’s vetting process. Keep in mind that each new truth tends to build upon the previous truths. 

  • Outcome Oriented: Linda likes things where the value is intuitive. The technology must provide an absolutely clear and tangible benefit.
  • Simplicity Rules: Linda likes things simple. The technology must be simple to learn, simple to use and simple to fix when there is a problem. (Few features) 
  • Evolution not Revolution: Linda likes things that fit her existing behaviors. The technology must not require a profound change in how things are done. 
  • Familiarity: Linda likes things that fit her mental model of the world. The technology must seamlessly integrate with or closely simulate the real-world.
  • Self-Centered: Linda likes things that indulge her self-interests, e.g. financial reward, altruism, entertainment, etc. The technology must provide a value-add. 
  • Social: Linda likes things that her friends like. The technology must have social media extensions that enable her to learn of and share its benefits with friends. 
  • Complete: Linda likes things that are consistent and near ubiquitous. The technology must provide a common experience nearly everywhere.

I have observed that Linda’s criteria generally apply to the vast majority of consumers regardless of age or sex.  I have further observed that they apply whether the consumer is in front or behind the retail counter. It should be remembered that people are people whether they’re buying or selling.

How Does Today’s Mobile Wallet Stack Up To The "Linda Factor?"

When shown a current mobile wallet and then instructed on how to use it to pay for things, Linda’s reaction was quick and visceral. She said:  “Why would I use this?  I don’t understand the benefit. It seems like a big hassle. A credit card is easier.” I then explained that the wallet could help her more easily and securely organize and present her credit and loyalty cards at checkout. Her reaction: “Who cares? That’s not a problem for me. My existing wallet works fine.”  I further explained that she could use it for ready access to coupons and promotions.  This piqued her interest. "Any coupons?” she asked.  I explained that most wallets generally use e-coupons from participating retailers or brands. She said: “I want to be able to use any coupon. Forget it, I’m not really interested.”

Is The Industry Focused on the Right Things?

Much is being said about using mobile wallets to pay for things.  Much is also being said about the technology that makes it all possible. One has to wonder, however, whether enough is being said about the needs, habits and behaviors of the average consumer. Is enough emphasis being placed on understanding folks like Linda?

One Last Thought From Linda.

A short time after our mobile wallet discussion, Linda turned to me and said: 

If I were to design a mobile wallet, here’s what I’d want it to do: I’d like to pay for things like I do when I buy something online. When I go into a store and put things into my basket, I’d like them to automatically appear in my online (she meant mobile) shopping cart. I don’t want to scan anything, I just want to put items in my basket and have them automatically appear in my shopping cart. If I take them out, they go away. My shopping cart would tell me how much I’m spending so I’d immediately know when I go over budget. If I have a coupon for an item in my basket, I want my wallet to automatically apply that coupon to my shopping cart and show me what I’ve saved. When I’m finished shopping, I just want to click on a checkout button, enter my password and walk out of the store.

She went on to say: 

Anytime or anywhere I see a coupon, I just want to be able to just tap on it and have it automatically go into my wallet. If it’s about to expire, I want it to send me an alert to remind me to go shopping. When I’m in a store that accepts that coupon, I want it to remind me to use it. Now that would be a mobile wallet that I would use.

I told her that there are companies already working on elements of her vision.  She said: “Well, when they can do those things, I will use them.”

Summary Thoughts:

Most of the current wallet-buzz focuses on solutions that neither Linda nor her contemporaries will likely embrace.  Look carefully, however, and you’ll find that there are large infrastructure-oriented companies quietly working on things that have the potential to bring a Linda-like vision to reality.  If you want to catch a glimpse of the future, keep an eye on companies like NCR, SAP and IBM.  They have the expertise, resources, infrastructure, processes and pragmatic approach to technology to deliver a viable mobile wallet experience.

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Steven Gurley
Steve Gurley is broadly recognized as an industry expert and thought-leader in mobile and mobile content management solutions. He is a widely published author of numerous papers, articles and blogs on mobility and serves on numerous mobile advisory boards and committees, including serving as the current chairman of the Digital Screenmedia Association's committee on mobile. Steve is currently the President and CEO of Pyrim Technologies, a mobile business and new market development company.
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