When Ford rolled out its mobile wallet this month, it took to heart the concept of contextual payments, focusing on paying for parking from within the vehicle as well as leasing alternative vehicles. But it’s view of mobile was using a smartphone, rather than making the payments automobile-embedded. Although iPhones may weigh much less than two tons, few Apple Pay transactions will work at 80 MPH.
“FordPass, part of Ford’s transformation into an auto and mobility company, aims to do for car owners what iTunes did for music fans,” Ford said. “Launching in April, FordPass reimagines the relationship between automaker and consumer. Membership is free—whether you own a Ford vehicle or not—by registering online.”
*Sigh* It’s not a good sign for business when Visa talks about integrating payments in cars and Ford thinks it can accomplish anything with a mobile app on someone else’s hardware. It owns the cars and that’s where its customers are. Why not place the payments apparatus there, in a place where rivals can’t reach?
Let’s consider the parking examples Ford shared, where it partnered with two existing parking payments operations: ParkWhiz and Parkopedia. Other than recommending it to its customers, what value-add is Ford bringing? If I have purchased a Ford car and I park on the side of the road next to a meter, why not let me click a button to charge the cash to FordPay? If you’re going to make me launch an app on my phone, I’ll use whatever app I want. There’s no great effort advantage to me in placing that payment through the app you prefer.
Internet of Things payments are quite disappointing these days, starting with MasterCard’s refrigerator payments move, which was 99 percent potential (for some time in the future) and one percent reality.
Not all of Detroit is quite so lethargic. General Motors’ investment in Lyft showed that GM execs understand how their segment is shifting. But their understanding involved the changing nature of cars, not the changing nature of payments.
The power of contextual payments is huge, but it does require companies to get out of their comfort zone. Consider an IoT thermostat like Google’s Nest. If a consumer is repeatedly boosting the temperature, an ad displayed on the thermostat for a high-quality sweater could be effective. That’s especially true if it offered a one-click payment to the consumer’s Google Wallet.
Sure, it will happen someday, but as established players like Ford take their time, mobile payments-aware startups will eat their lunch. Or in Ford’s case, put down their pickups.