Happy Back to the Future day everyone! While there have been plenty of innovations predicted correctly in Back to the Future (video chat, video glasses, etc.), there were some that Marty McFly and Doc Brown could have never thought of. Back in their day, cash and checks were still thriving as the most popular payment methods (credit cards had barely started picking up momentum!). So, what has happened to payments since Marty McFly and Doc Brown arrived to the future from 1989? Have payments come back to the future like some of the other inventions they predicted?
One thing we know for sure is while some millennials may not have even been born when the movies were released, they are definitely influencing the payments space and taking us back to the future. A study done by Accenture shows that 92% of millennials are active users of social media, and 72% would be likely to bank with non-financial services companies; as such, we have seen a big opportunity for social media payment systems and innovations of the like. For example, MasterCard just launched a technology that allows users to ‘pay by selfie’ (yes, you heard that correctly) – users can take a picture of their face to authorize their transaction instead of remembering a password (I guess you can never forget your own face). Doc Brown, looks like your facial recognition technology prediction was right! Also, as we previously predicted, peer-to-peer payment networks were going to boom (think Snapcash), but we were hoping the social networks would integrate payment systems to allow merchants to use them as well – and voilà – this has come to fruition. Everyone from the likes ofFacebook to Pinterest have started allowing merchants to sell their products through the respective social media platform. Millennials are the “we want it now” generation, and it seems payments are heading that way as well.
Next thing the film got right about payments? The idea of biometric authentication. In one scene in the movie, we see one of the characters making a payment to a taxicab with their thumb. While there have been talks about breathalyzer or retina scanningbiometrics, fingerprints have become one of the most popular (and easiest) to use (they are practically integrated into every smartphone these days). Between Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Google Wallet, etc., paying and authenticating with your finger has become an everyday task for most people. However, one thing the movie did miss was the idea of mobile phones themselves, much less smartphones. In the movie they were still using payphones and fax machines (a what now?), whereas in the real 2015 if our smartphone isn’t attached to our hip, we practically stop breathing.
While some of the technologies in the movie were out-of-this-world, the focus was on keeping them safe and secure (they didn’t want anyone stealing their DeLorean time machine, did they?). In terms of payments, we have seen a dire need for payments to become more secure. However, to make point-of-sale more secure, the US recently adopted EMV chip technology, and as such may have made online payments more complicated and less secure. In terms of complications, we have seen many merchants struggling to charge their customers since almost everyone has been issued a new credit card with a new expiration date and a chip. This has especially affected subscription eCommerce businesses, who need to store correct information in order to charge customers – just ask Netflix how much they struggled with it (just a casual $7 billion worth). Ecommerce fraud has unfortunately been on the rise, and just like Doc Brown and Marty McFly, we have to make sure our technology is safe. It is becoming increasingly crucial for eCommerce merchants to pay attention to fraud, and if they aren’t able to this on their own, they should partner with someone who does.
It’s crazy to see how a film made merely 30 years ago could be so accurate of the things happening today. Payments have certainly made big strides (who carries cash anymore, anyways?), and we can’t wait to see what the next innovations will be! What do you think is coming next in the world of payments?