Before payments take over the web, we need to address the issue of lost passwords (thanks to Matt Mireles for the pointer). Amazon has tried a bunch of stuff to overcome this issue: 1-Click and PayPhrases come to mind. But what if the answer isn’t decreasing virtual friction? What if the answer is creating a virtual payment process that is physically (and behaviorally) natural?
Bump Technologies has an interesting product. When you want to transfer information between iPhones, you bump them together (gently), and thanks to the magic of accelerometers and 3G, data is exchanged. What I love about this product is that it uses physical actions to trigger virtual action in a natural, mechanical way. Bumping fits into the mental schema we have for handling physical data, and that makes it easy to understand and adopt. The other day, PayPal introduced a new app that allows people to “bump” money to each other. The app thus marries the mental schema of a physical act to a virtual action.
But why do you need two people to bump? Why can’t I use bump in the same way I use my credit card, except for online shopping?
Here’s the use case: I find a new tv to buy at bestbuy.com. I head to checkout, where I’m presented with payment options: Mastercard, Visa, Amex, Bump. I choose Bump and enter my PIN (or billing zip code, or any other short, personal identifier stored somewhere other than on the actual phone). I then bump my computer. Bump’s servers connect the dots (act of bumping + PIN) and voila, payment made. Receipt’s in the email. In action, the process is no different than handing over my credit card to the cashier. It feels natural in a way that entering numbers doesn’t. It feels like the way things work at the store.
I’m out of time, but I like this idea. Bump shouldn’t limit itself to being a medium of exchange between mobile devices. Its greatest attribute is that it creates the expected virtual response from a common physical action. It would make sense to a child, and to my mind, that’s the mark of good technology.
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