This morning I read a very interesting article on Wired.com discussing the future of mobile payments and how retailers are increasingly looking at ways to engage with their customers on an individual basis. The obvious fuel for this fire is your personal data.
The example used in the article was Dunkin’ Donuts’ new mobile payment app (released yesterday) that allows customers to pay by scanning an on-screen barcode at the checkout. This isn’t a hugely revolutionary concept – you add money to your Dunkin’ Donuts account by submitting your credit card details to the app, and then scan the barcode in much the same way you’d swipe a gift card or credit card. However, the difference here is found in the other data that you hand over as well as your hard-earned dollar.
Stores will be able to create a perfectly detailed record of each customer’s purchases, and by tracking their location through the app, send them promotions or adverts when it detects they are near the shop. It would be a pretty shrewd move – after all, advertising can be as simple as ‘monkey see, monkey want’. Just imagine how many times you’ve been watching a commercial break and seen an advert for Dominos or McDonald’s then thought to yourself “yeah, I could totally go for a Big Mac right now”?
Here’s another possibility: these apps also send location data back to a central database and give you deals and offers based on where you are. Imagine that you’re strolling through a town you’re unfamiliar with and your smartphone suddenly beeps with a notification that you can get your favourite snack free when you purchase a large cup of joe at Dunkin’ Donuts two streets over. It just might be enough to entice a significant number of people through the door. But how do you feel about a company tracking your movements? Is a convenient payment method and the occasional tailored offers worth it, if the price to pay is that of your own privacy?