Banking innovation takes many forms, but the most successful generally start by addressing a consumer need. Over the last few decades we’ve seen some radical changes. The ATM satisfied a need for easier access to cash. Payment cards created a safer and quicker way to pay compared to cheques. Online banking lets people manage accounts without having to visit a branch.

But what’s driving payments innovation nowadays?

Integration of payment functions in social media; biometrics; mobile apps; contactless; wearable devices – these are all at the forefront of changes, posing new challenges and opportunities. All of these are transforming the way we pay and interact with banks as a result. However important or clever these changes are, the industry has to keep the consumer at the heart of its plans and a new survey shows exactly what customers want. MasterCard’s first Retail Social Listening Study, which analysed 1.6 million online conversations in 61 markets, uncovered some key trends.


Specifically, consumers want technology innovation to create more convenient ways to pay. New digital payment methods are seen as largely positive because they make it easier to pay. “Consumers specifically highlighted their preference for not necessarily needing to take their wallet on every trip and being able to use mobile payments when they travel,” says MasterCard.

This agrees with what we’re seeing with contactless, which is exploding in popularity as consumers appreciate just how easy it is to tap-and-go. But it’s also why easy person-to-person systems like Paym in the UK are taking off. For the consumer, choice and convenience go hand in hand.


Payments are seen as a two-way process – consumers feel they ought to be rewarded for their purchases. Contactless again comes up in this context, with the research finding that consumers want to see “further acceptance of NFC payments allowing them to receive rewards for using them regularly”. MasterCard recently noted how it had seen an uptick in low value credit card transactions because people are getting savvier about rewards.

This highlights the importance of omnichannel experiences – people want to have a choice of payments but not lose out for choosing one method over another.


The third key trend was that of retailer acceptance of new payment methods. With a slew of new entrants into the arena, it can be confusing for consumers who have been used to just using a card or cash. Now they can have multiple accounts and choose from half a dozen ways to pay.

This comes back to the importance of universal, ubiquitous payments and the question of whether there are too many ways to pay. Fragmentation is the result of an explosion in innovation, but the lessons from the past suggest we need a clear way of doing things that’s the same in every situation. The ATM’s success has been based on it offering the same experience.


We could add a fourth to our list – security of payments. Data breaches, hacks and growing worries about online safety mean there is much higher awareness about the risks of electronic payments. Consumers want payments to be easy, but they want their data to be secure. While convenience, rewards and acceptance all matter a great deal for approaching payments, security remains essential.