Can you think of two human behaviours that have been around for millennia? Conversing with one another, and transacting (with money, or indeed other resources) both figure on the list. These building blocks of our society have not only enabled us to build out the sophisticated ecosystems we live in today, but moreover thrive in doing so. It is no surprise then, that these mechanics for human interaction undergo constant evolution, and digital technologies have been fundamental in shaping what these look like for the majority of people living on Earth right now. I’m preaching to the choir: you already know this. But something exciting is about to happen we should all know about: the convergence of two fundamental human behaviours, giving rise to a new one.
Peer-to-peer payments in message flows are set to revolutionise the way we transact with our friends and family in the next year, with huge steps being taken to smooth the way from giants such as Google, Facebook, and Apple.
Where there is emerging user behaviour, there is potential for brands to innovate, capturing the attention and hearts of the public as they discover a new facet of connected life.
From here on in, we’re going to explore what’s going on, and what this opportunity looks like for brands.
The rise of start-up challenger banks and financial services delivered in new and interesting ways (everything from Moneybox, the app that rounds up your purchases and invests the small change, to Plum, a Facebook Messenger bot “savings butler”) is changing the way users think about their finances in this digital landscape. As exciting as the changing financial services landscape is, we’re honing in on one job users need to get done: transferring money.
Until now, to exchange monies with various actors in our lives we’ve had recourse of a few methods: giving cash, sending money by bank transfer, setting up direct debits, or operating “I’ll get you next time” policies between friends and family. It is exactly these intimate exchanges of cash that are undergoing revolution, enabled by mobile technologies. Anyone who has a Monzo beta card and the accompanying app has felt the rush of transferring the £4.75 they owe for that after-work pint, there and then, and being rid of the obligation to somehow remember that fiver alongside everything else in an overloaded brain. This first example of P2P micro payments is liberating indeed, but is about to get so much better.
P2P payments inside messaging streams makes the deed of sending money seamless, sitting alongside the ask and intent inside the intimate messaging space. Payments inside messages removes the last hurdles we’re currently facing: launching an app, selecting the right beneficiary, and entering the amount to send over. In our over-saturated world (and minds) reduction of friction to accomplishing tasks has become our global tech obsession (albeit still rarely really nailed). This particular mechanic is going to allow brands to engage customers and leads in new, ultra-low-barrier ways.
Why is This Happening?
So is this technology driving human behavioural change, or is it the other way around? In the words of Oscar Wilde: the truth is rarely plain, and never simple. Let’s consider the two elements driving this change in the way we transact with our nearest and dearest.
In our growing cashless-economy, we’re simply carrying less of it. And our saturated brains (work! Friends! Booking the hols! Looking good! Feeling good! Meditation! Eating clean! Going to the gym! Need I go on…) could be forgiven for having a hard time keeping track of who is owed what. Our psyches are now perfectly used to having everything at the touch of a button in most other aspects of our lives: from ordering a cab or dinner, to having a video call with friends on the other side of the globe, listening to almost any piece of music on Earth, or finding a house to buy… our trivial needs and deepest desires can be largely catered for through our touchscreens. We want, nay, demand more from those areas that lag behind this hyperconvenience paradigm. Actual words I have heard a human in this fair city of London speak recently: “what I want to know is where’s the app that brings me coffee to my desk?” I rest my case.
It’s also worth mentioning that Brits are quite awkward about asking for what we’re due. As evidence by the success of Halifax’s brilliant “Friendly Reminders”, anything that can help reduce the tension around asking for, and paying up monies due, is a win. So what’s the other element driving this transactional change?
The messaging space is the most intimate on anyone’s phone. The one screen you never leave open in front of coworkers. The reason you place your phone screen-down in meetings. And this mental intimacy matches that we feel when thinking of, and dealing with, our finances (never ask a Brit how much he or she earns, unless perhaps you pre-pend with a very apologetic “If you don’t mind me asking, it would be very helpful if you could possibly maybe…”).
In short, this new frontier of P2P payment is driven both by a deep human need (that’s the intimacy part, not ordering a Wagamama from Deliveroo on a Tuesday, FYI) and expectations, which have in part been fuelled by other technological advances. A tangled web we weave indeed. So what are the consequences, and the brand-opportunities we can un-Earth?
The exchange of money, at least initially in small amounts, will become more trivial. Akin to giving someone a two-pound coin when we carried such things, this digitally-enabled ease will cause mundane transactions to be made more often.
The natural place for such exchanges to happen is inside of conversations. So this is where the functionality is migrating. Have you ever discussed banding together with friends to buy someone a gift? Or needed a friend to pay you back for tickets? What about demanded money from flatmates for a bill paid, or your partner for their half of the booking? If you have ever found yourself in such situations, the advantage of transacting in-message is easy to see: autodetection of the amount due, and payment made at moment of highest intent (when the ask is made and read) all facilitated by a simple thumbprint, make (near) frictionless transactions possible.
Lastly, a change is coming on a societal level, which represents an interesting tide-change brands can leverage to their advantage. The relaxation of the mentality around the need for very controlled, official-feeling online environments for all things finance and payment (do you remember just ten years ago, when no one would pay for anything online in the absence of a PayPal badge? Perhaps you, like me, lived on the edge and did it anyway but that’s one for another time…) will cause consumption to spread into more colloquial environments. Simply put: people will be open to buying things in messages and (crucial point!) social environments, and enabled to do so.
This is a gateway for the bravest brands to win in a new channel in 2018.
The Opportunity for Brands
Who will people pay with such informal payment methods? Initially, friends and family. However, eventually this will bleed into brand communications too. This new frontier of payments in a non-hyper-strict environment means brands can start thinking about transacting in new ways, one of which is in messages. Although still no news on its arrival date in the UK, Facebook’s native “Pay” functionality is set to change the landscape for social commerce in the near future too, which leverages these changing mental models amongst the general public towards finding such transactions more acceptable.
Branded chatbots will without a doubt play a large part in driving revenue from messages in 2018, as the consumer will be able to converse directly with the brand in a transactional way. However, there is a secondary source of potential payment brands would do well to start analysing: the creation of smart links or digital assets that allow friends and family to share their products between themselves, with purchase option integrated.
What people share in private digital channels that we have no access to (emails and messages across a plethora of platforms such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp) has its own name: dark social. And this represents one of the last missing pieces of the user’s digital customer journey marketers can not currently gleam information about, or infiltrate in a non-organic way. Whereas branded chatbots represent a way for brands to have a direct conversation with users, creating digital formats for individuals to use between themselves in dark social is a way for brands to target users without getting directly involved.
Moreover, this shift in mentality towards an easy use of micro-payment technologies in new places across the web will drive adoption of payment integration into current channels and formats. Instant purchase of those running shoes right inside an editorial Facebook Canvas ad? The biggest remaining hurdle on such a purchase will be causing the user to commit the money there and then. Which, at least once way of solving for, is by implementing one of the biggest human motivators we know: scarcity.
Time-sensitive promos across all new purchasing channels will play a huge part in hooking consumers into this new method of buying products. Using the scarcity of a deal (that will disappear in 4 minutes 52 seconds and counting…) is just one example of methodologies we can imagine as drivers for impulse purchases.
As the general public build their mental model for purchasing goods and services from brands inside of messaging and other intimate social spaces, it is not difficult to imagine a world where we transact with more “authoritative” entities in a similar way (HMRC, or your energy provider, perhaps?)
The future of brand purchases is about to change thanks to this seemingly small technological advance. Are you ready to capitalise on it?
What Can We Conclude?
As with many promising emerging technologies, the birth of seamless P2P payments will drive a new user behaviour, and the mental model for dealing with the transaction of (initially small amounts of) money in familiar rather than official environments. Synergies between this and current human needs in our connected world will only propel its adoption faster, making us ever more comfortable with new ways to deal with our finances.
Brands can capitalise on these changing user practices by implementing payment options directly inside messages, either between themselves and their leads, or potentially, between users in dark social.
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