Insights & Opinions

Me and my wearable, one month together - a testimonial

Tue, 08 Jan 2019

Rik Coeckelbergs Founder and CEO The Banking Scene

Back in the days, it was 2018, on a cold day in november, I got a phone call. The man on the other side of the line had good news: I was selected by KBC.

Hooray! I was one of the 1.000 pilot customers to take part in the contactless wearables test. For a year, I would be testing the experience of having a watch to pay with.

Was it because I was already quite involved in contactless in the press, and via a few blog posts, or because I am a heavy social media user on the topic? Or simply because I was lucky?

Excited as I was, to get the liberating phone call that I was selected, I didn’t bother to answer that question. After all those years of reading and talking about it, I was finally able to use it, almost…

On December 8, 2018, KBC invited me in their pop-up branch, or let’s say a coffee bar, in Antwerp.

After registration I could select the wearable watch I wanted. There was a bit of waiting time before activation of the wearable. No problem, it was time well spent, with a few former colleagues and the welcome morning coffee, straight from the espresso machine.

Activating the wearable

2 coffees later, it was my turn to activate the wearable. This was a much smoother operation than I expected. It only took a few minutes to connect the watch to my debit card. The only remaining thing to do was to activate the device in a separate app.

This app controls the device, which is useful, for instance, for deactivation in case it gets lots. Now we could test it by making 1 payment of 0,01€.

Contactless wearable
Contactless wearable

It worked!

No night batches, no queueing of IT systems… just 5 minutes to register, to activate the wearable and done. No more cards needed for Christmas shopping.

Today, January 8, 2019, I have the wearable for exactly 1 month, and I used it quite a lot already, each time that I had my watch on, and I had something to pay with the account connected to the watch: in a store, at Cyclocross, in a bar, a the movies, gas station…

Overcoming the hurdles

It is very convenient in fact. And as fast as a regular contactless payment. But it does require a consumer, like me, to get used to a few things:

I am used to wear my watch left. That brings the chip on the right side of my wrist. I can assure you, that with the contactless terminals of EquensWorldline this is pretty inconvenient. They have their contactless touch point ALSO at the right side of the terminal. You need to turn your wrist 180° to make the payments.

Luckily my wife made me aware of the unwritten rule that in fact lefties are supposed to wear their watch on the right, for one reason or the other. So for me the problem is solved.

Contactless payments with a wearable are only possible at contactless terminal where Maestro is accepted. OK, this is understandable. Unfortunately the same terminals of EquensWorldline don’t know an error message like ‘we do not accept Maestro payments’.

It just says something like: “Card refused, read chip, magstripe or other card”. It took a while before I solved that matter, until then, I had no explaination for the cashier either. Now that I know, it is a lot less awkward to pay with a watch I. At least I can explain why it didn’t work.

Wearable on bancontact

Look at the lights of the terminal to see if there is contact. When paying with a card I used to watch the screen. Since the card chip is read, there was no need to look at the lights. The same is true for paying contactless with a card though, it just feels more intuitive in the beginning than with your wrist.

Making payments

This bring us to the fun part: making payments! I encountered 3 different situations that altogether perfectly describe the first month of having a wearable: the conversation fillers, the ego killers, the smooth operations.

The conversation filler

This is the moment you make a payment, and the cashier, or another customer, is highly intrigued by what you’re doing: making a payment with an analogical watch. I didn’t tell you this before, but the watch is 100% analogical. The only digital element is a chip in the wristband.

By simply paying with your device you the conversations start.

People do like to see you paying with a ‘normal’ watch, and they are very intrigued to hear more about it. Even my 8-year-old nephew was highly enthusiastic about the idea, and he didn’t even see me making a payment. This is the first time that paying gets exciting for the average consumer!Cashiers ask me regularly where they can get such a device as well.

Mind you: sometimes people are also suspicious about it. I heard a story about someone who wanted to pay with his/her wearable, and could explain the whole process to the security team. Luckily these stories are very exceptional.

The ego killer

This was before my issue 2 (not understanding the error message of the terminal) was fixed. Picture this situation: people on Facebook and LinkedIn all noticed you have a contactless device, and you go out, at a Christmas fair. Most of the tents accept only cash of course, but people start asking about the watch.

Then it gets rainy, so you go to a bar. New people, new questions… “next one is on you, so you can pay with your watch”. They are all looking how I walk to the terminal. I try to make a payment and I get: “Card refused, read chips, magstripe of other card”, with everyone behind you laughing that I need to take my wallet for a card.

The smooth operations

The cashier, nor anyone else, is really looking at how you pay, as long as the payments finishes successfully. In most case this is the situation that best described what paying with a wearable is about. The longer the pilot continues, the less remarks I will get.

It seems like the launch of Apple Pay also positively influences the trust of contactless devices as a whole.

The smooth operation is also a matter of how natural making a payment feels. In the very beginning you would almost start by saying: “Apologies if it doesn’t work, this is new for me”. The more you know the drill, the more natural you make the payment, like a smooth operation!

Overal evaluation

From now on it will all be even easier to do. Having a wearable is very convenient and I do believe this may convince certain consumers to avoid certain shops, simply because they do not have contactless Maestro. I also think that this may convince certain consumers to increase their activity at a bank that offers wearables.

It remains to be seen though whether consumers are willing to pay for the device. Also, are banks willing to subsidize these tools to activate their customers? But there are many ways to market this kind of products, and I am sure that banks are uniquely placed to find the winning combo to make this work in the future.

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