Wearables: Breakout Credit Union Mobile Opportunity?
Smartwatches are poised to become the next personal computing hub, according to Business Insider.
As credit unions plot their mobile payment strategy, it's challenging to forecast which innovative device will reach busy members on the go.
With some predicting the Apple Watch and Google Glass will replace smartphones and iPads, wearables are starting to come into fashion, according to industry experts.
The global wearables market reached 33 million units this year and is expected to reach 148 million units, with smartwatches poised to be the breakout item, according to a new report from Business Insider's research arm, BI Intelligence.
“It has become clear that smartwatches are poised to become the next personal computing hub,” according to a Nov. 11 article in Business Insider. “The road to ubiquity isn't without barriers, but smartwatches have what it will take to win.”
Some cooperatives, such as the $264 million, Lawrenceville, Ga.-based Peach State Federal Credit Union, are keeping a close eye on wearables.
“The combination of mobile payments and innovative new mobile devices may soon allow millions of credit union members to literally wear their CUs,” according to a post on Peach State's blog. “Advanced mobile payments technology and handy wearable devices could make a lot of sense.”
Mike Guarino, co-founder of Today's Credit Unions, which created the blog article for Peach State, said his team was inspired to write about wearables after reading a CU Times article about the rapid Apple adoption rate among cooperatives.
“With [credit unions] embracing this new form of payments, and wearables getting both more powerful and more popular, it is only a matter of time before wearables become an easy interface for [credit union] members to make super-fast and convenient mobile payments transactions,” Guarino wrote in an email to CU Times.
“Credit unions are taking the lead in embracing this new service and we see it as a very positive step for the credit union movement,” he added.
Kristen Patton, SVP of marketing and business development at Peach State, said the credit union will carefully explore the evolving wearable market in the same way it does with other innovative products.
“Peach State definitely recognizes how advancing technology helps make our members’ lives easier,” Patton said. “As with any new product offering, we would need to do a full assessment before rolling out wearable technology, including a review of the costs, security, integration with our existing offerings and any other factors that might impact our members.”
Payments processing CUSO The Members Group said it plans to release See2Pay, a mobile payments app for Google Glass.
The introduction of the Apple Watch legitimized the wearables category, according to Brian Day, senior product manager at The Members Group, a Des Moines, Iowa-based payments processing CUSO that plans to release a mobile payments app for Google Glass.
TMG said its See2Pay will be made available to the developer community through a service called GitHub.
“In the foreseeable future, I don't see wearables replacing phones, I see them as a complement to phones,” Day said. “The way Apple architected the Apple Watch was very much as an extension of the phone and I believe that was on purpose.”
“Certainly, the inclusion of Apple Pay on the Apple Watch is something for credit unions to be mindful of,” he continued. “With the launch of Apple Pay, I would recommend credit unions focus on making sure they are part of the phone first. Then, as the Apple Watch launches, they should talk with mobile providers to assess their readiness to deliver native apps.”
Adoption rates might be slow at first, but wearables will probably be widely used at some point, Day said.
“Think about tablets a few years ago; there was a point in time where FIs were wondering if they should build an app for tablets,” he recalled. “That seems silly to think about now because tablets are so prevalent. I think wearables will follow a similar trajectory.”
Credit unions that do their homework in advance will be prepared as more members opt for wearables, Brian Scott, TMG vice president of sales, said.
“It's difficult to convince any new user group to try something for the first time,” Scott said. “Providers must be intentional about encouraging that first experience. Of course, they also need to have that experience nailed down so repeat use isn't an uphill battle.”
For credit unions exploring the wearables frontier, security must be a priority since members are nervous about moving money through applications they don't trust, Scott said.
To deliver true value, an application must also be easier than swiping a card or scanning a barcode and rewarding enough to prompt members to abandon traditional methods, he added.
Deciding whether to dive into wearables will require a great deal of due diligence, according to a 2013 Filene white paper commissioned by CUNA's Community Credit Union Committee.
“The credit union system has always positioned itself as a fast follower, and frankly, that's not a bad place to be given the plethora of options, the expense of jumping in, and the fact that even the big players aren't entirely sure which payment ecosystem to support next,” George Hofheimer, chief research + innovation officer at the Filene Research Institute, wrote in “The Future of Payment Systems for Credit Unions.”
“It may not be time to make any big bets in the payments sphere, but that doesn't mean credit unions can afford to be ambivalent,” he wrote. “Innovations abound, and although it's impossible to know exactly which ones could become true disrupters, it's important to have a feel for the possibilities.”