Wearable payments: the future of retail?

June 19, 2018

It’s 2018, and contactless card payments are more or less the standard. Now that the novelty has worn off with these cards, apps such as Apple Pay and Android Pay are quickly gaining traction. But what about the future of in-store payments: wearable devices? Here, we’ll take a brief look at how wearable payments have been taking shape, and what this means for retailers moving forward.

The big players

There were two major developments in the wearable payments niche in early 2017, which set analysts off speculating about the future of this tech. Firstly, a prestigious Swiss watchmaker, Movado announced a line of watches which would be powered by Google’s Android Wear 2.0 platform (source), offering countless apps, including Android Pay. Secondly, a ring specifically designed for contactless payments called Kerv hit the market in the UK (source). This ring relies on NFC tech and can be connected to prepaid Mastercard accounts. Since then, other companies including banks like Australia’s Bankwest and the Netherlands’ ABM Amro have begun the development and testing of their own wearable payment devices.

What does this mean for you?

Retailers should focus on two main takeaway points from the development of wearable payment tech. First off, this isn’t a passing fad. For better or worse, more wearable devices are gaining payment functionality, and it’s expected that this will see a huge increase in use by 2020 (Source). This growth is expected to be a major catalyst for wider adoption in the future.
While wearable payments are certainly on the way, it’s important to remember that not all wearable payment devices will be manufactured equally. Though many consumers are interested in wearable payment, it’s deemed highly unlikely that they’ll go out of their way to buy a completely new product, like a Kerv ring, for instance, just for buying things in-store. This is especially true if they’re expensive. Consumers are much more likely to go for multi-function wearable devices which just so happen to have payment capability. In the near future, we’re expected to see products like smartwatches with pre-existing payment apps succeed over the alternatives, so don’t worry about running out to buy cutting-edge payment tech anytime soon.