Chapter 2. The Mobile Money Ecosystem

When a new startup sets out to build some revolutionary mobile payment app, the possibilities appear to be endless, prompting visions of happy users gliding through checkout lines with nothing but a wave of the phone and a jaunty tip of the hat. No paper receipt for me, thank you! Users will surely toss their plastic debit cards into a lake. A paradigm shift!

Yet the reality is that a mobile payment experience lives and breathes by the technological ecosystem that it is built upon. As with any digital experience, the ever dark and mysterious “backend system” can make or break your app, regardless of how usable and slick your UI might be or how many user personas you research and compose. If the cashier at the store can’t see your customers check in on their point-of-sale (POS) app, or the register’s near-field communication (NFC) reader doesn’t “beep,” then your users may be left red-faced and fumbling for that plastic card you’ve worked so hard to advance them away from.

End users could not possibly understand (or care) how payments technologies work behind the scenes; they expect only that this app will make their lives easier by expediting payments or helping them save money. They want to be assured that the app is maintaining their financial privacy and allowing them to keep track of their spending. Mobile apps in the financial space are rarely known for elegant interfaces, and this is often attributed to technical architecture challenges ...

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