Pioneering the Future of Mobile Commerce

Softcard was a mobile payments platform that used near-field communication (NFC) technology to allow users to pay for items using their phones. My primarily role was to lead the the 3.0 release for Android which introduced the ability for users to add “other” cards to help expand app usage beyond payments.

Photo of Android Phone with Softcard App Homescreen

How Can We Make the Wallet Truly Digital?

With the rapid pace of technological innovations and mobile phone adoption, imaging a time where we don’t have to carry a physical wallet full of payment cards and cash seems like a very realistic reality in the not-so-distant future. In 2010, four years before the launch of Apple Pay, AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon created a joint venture called ISIS Mobile Wallet, later renamed to Softcard for obvious reasons, in order to pursue this mission by utilizing existing partnerships with large retailers to launch an ecosystem designed to increasing portfolio of NFC-enabled mobile phones.


Drive Engagement Through Loyalty and Offers

Our early pilot tests in both Salt Lake City and Austin across 4,000 locations proved that loyalty and offers were compelling reason for people to try out this new technology even if they didn’t quite understand how it works or the security benefits it offered. Here are some compelling stats from our pilot:

2x Taps
Wallet users engaged in loyalty and offers tap 2x more than users who only make payments.
90% New
90% of the My Coke Rewards loyalty cards added during the pilot were new customers to the program.
1MM Smoothies
1 million free Jamba Juice smoothie offers were claimed through the mobile wallet in seven months.
"Facilitating 1,000,000 transactions through the mobile wallet over the last seven months confirms that the era mobile commerce has arrived. I am proud that Jamba has been able to serve as a leader in the space.”

James D. White, chairman, president and CEO of Jamba Inc.

Removing Limitations to Expand Usage

In order to expand to a larger user base, we knew we had to allow users without a compatible phone or a compatible SIM to take advantage of the loyalty and offer capabilities. By removing these hardware limitations, we knew that having loyalty and offers were a great way to motivate new users to start using the app.

Previous Payment Focused Flow

The problem with the previous flow is that it only allowed users to use the app if they had a compatible phone, SIM, and banking account in order to use the app. Even if you met all the hardware requirements, adding a payment card was still difficult to do.

Updated Flow Without Limitations

We completely reworked the flow so that even if a user didn't have any of the hardware requirements, they could still take advantage loyalty and offers. We decided to take this idea of going beyond payments even further by allowing users to add "any" card to be stored on their wallets similar to how your physical wallet houses things besides your credit and debit cards.

Add Any Card Wireframe

Because we already had many of the card reading functionalities built into the app, we just needed to create a framework for how we were going to capture these new types of "cards" we were introducing. We required users to just provide one of the various fields so they could store it in their digital wallets and open it as needed.

Expanding the Wallet to Other Cards

When you look at your wallet, you’ll see a number of cards that aren’t payment or loyalty cards. From gym cards, library cards, insurance cards and even coffee shop punch cards, there are a number of cards that don’t quite fit the typical payment and loyalty scenarios. We wanted people to really embrace the idea of having a truly digital wallet by having a secure place to store the information on the one thing you almost always have on you.

Securely Store Any Information on Cards

We included various ways for the user to customize and add important information they might need to save. The ability to use your phone’s camera allows for capturing important information like your medical card details or even barcodes found on your gym card. After some usability testing, we found that calling the cards "other" cards instead of "any" card was less ambiguous.

Expanding the Cards Carousel

With the introduction of adding other cards, the previous card carousel navigation made less sense as the number of cards continued to expand. We knew we had to scale the layout so users could quickly find their cards without having to swipe several times just to locate the card at the opposite end of their carousel.

Embracing Material Design

With the newly launched Material Design, we saw a great opportunity to solidify the UI and bring a more comprehensive overhaul with the update.

Celebrating the Silent Victories in Pioneering the Future

The initial tests and interviews with users showed that our redesign greatly improved the experience. Loyalty and offers were more compelling reasons for new users to try the service than providing an alternative to physical payments that didn't really save time for untrained staff that were unprepared to handle these transactions. Unfortunately, due to the launch of Apple Pay as well as an unfortunate rebranding effort caused by the militant group we shared the same name with, we were unable to launch the redesign before getting acquired by Google.

Seeing the team’s influences in the various mobile payments efforts that have since emerged after our demise are the silent victories that I like to celebrate. Even though most people might not see the influences, I know that the card layout found on Samsung Pay, the offers and loyalty approach found on Chase Pay, and the Smart Tap found on Google Pay and are all thanks to some of the ideas from our original team.


Greed is Hurting Consumer Adoption

Even though mobile payments is growing, consumers are left with a confusing and fragmented experience due to companies trying to completely own the entire experience. Instead of trying to educate consumers and expanding adoption, these companies have tried to disable payment terminals just to exclude competitors. I am hopeful that more people will discover the benefits of mobile payments and slowly change the demand for faster adoption. Some other things I learned in the process:

Emphasize Security, Not Ease or Speed

The huge benefit of moving from physical cards to mobile payments is security. Unfortunately, most companies seem to focus more on the ease and speed over the security benefits which makes consumers not understand the compelling reason to adopt this new technology.

Touch ID is Better than PIN

Although we offered one of the first payment experience on the iPhone though our NFC enabled mobile phone cases, Touch ID with Apple Pay was a much smoother experience by reducing the friction through a simple fingerprint instead of having users type a PIN or providing a signature.

Drive Adoption Through Loyalty and Offers

One area I believe would drive more mobile payment adoption is the a strong emphasis on loyalty and offers. The strongest driver to our Softcard app engagement was through the loyalty and offers, and I believe companies would see a much larger adoption of mobile payments by introducing a more seamless integration to these types of incentives. If you look at the market now, mobile payments offerings like Walmart and Chase that have loyalty and offers have much stronger adoption than those that do not.
"What the consumer wants instead – and has used – is a simplified mobile commerce experience: An account that’s smart enough to keep track of all of their loyalty memberships, coupons, promo codes, and to apply those discounts automatically to their purchase at checkout – without the friction that gets in the way of actually checking out."

Karen P from Mobile Payments Successes And Failures

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