Case Study- Mobile Payments

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Case Study- Mobile Payments and the Digital Wallet

In a country where cash is king and almost everyone owns a cell phone, Japan’s NTT Docomo led a major drive into mobile payments and m-commerce. The mobile phone carrier pioneered the use of near field communication (NFC) chips inside its cell phones, enabling them to exchange data wirelessly over a few centimeters. More than 65 million people subscribe to Docomo’s wireless voice network, and they can all pay for their cappuccinos at participating stores by tapping their cell phone against a special terminal or just waving it nearby.

When a customer taps the cell phone to pay, the expense is automatically logged into a digital expense report and charged to the customer’s account. Called osaifu keitai in Japanese, the cell-phone wallet frees people from carrying cash. Consumers use their cell-phone wallets to buy subway, train, and airline tickets, and the phone’s chip also serves as an electronic key to control access to buildings and homes. Cell-phone wallet holders can check their balances, loyalty points, and purchasing history from the handset and receive promotional discounts.

In the United States, mobile payments have been slow to take off, partly because credit cards are so popular and also trusted. The credit card industry builds in essential safeguards against fraud and also offers incentives such as cash advances, frequent flier miles, or reward points. Switching to mobile payments would be a major change in customer behavior. At most restaurants, you would need to hand over your smartphone to the server instead of offering a credit card because Apple Pay and other major players rely on NFC technology.

While Apple is a major player in the mobile payment industry, the company has had some slip-ups that make customers wary. While waiting for his tech support appointment at a New York Apple store, one customer decided to purchase some headphones. He used the Apple app to scan the barcode and charged the purchase to his iTunes account. Later, when he started to leave with his headphones in a bag, an employee asked to see a receipt. He located the app on his smartphone but then found the transaction had not completed. Instead of letting him click the last button to confirm, the clerk called the police and the customer was arrested for shoplifting.

In Japan, NTT Docomo had to take over a bank to build its osaifu keitai services so it would have the financial backbone to actually handle electronic payments. In the United States, though, the credit card companies or other well-established payment services, such as PayPal, are likely to be major players or partners.

Consumers will need more incentives to try out any of these new services, and they must develop the kind of trust they already have in credit cards, debit cards, checks, and cash. Convenience is one incentive, but creative retailers can tap other features that tie mobile phones to purchasing. Teen clothing chain Aeropostale, for instance, offered an app that let customers choose what music the store would play. The teens hung around the store for 30 minutes or more to hear their selection. The long wait offered plenty of time to shop, and the company learned a great deal about its customers’ music preferences.

As mobile payment experiments play out and technologies like NFC become more widespread, those lines at checkout counters may get shorter and shorter. Leather wallets stuffed with credit cards, loyalty cards, photos, and cash may become extinct. Click here to ORDER NOW


  1. 6-21. What are the potential benefits of this technology for consumers? What are the potential benefits for retailers?
  2. 6-22. What are the risks for consumers and retailers? What are some ways that these risks could be overcome?
  3. 6-23. How could this technology affect the telecommunications and consumer banking industries?
  4. 6-24. Do you believe this technology would work in the United States? Why or why not?


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