NFC based mobile wallets have had a tough time so far. Despite the slow deployment of NFC infrastructure (acceptance), ISIS program and its supporting organizations are confident that NFC holds huge promise. ISIS Wallet was launched across the US on 14th November 2013 after a long trial period. It also launched an updated app at the same time.
ISIS was established as a partnership between AT&T Mobility LLC, T-Mobile USA, Inc. and Verizon Wireless together boasting more than 200 Million subscribers. The company partnered with Chase and American Express (Capital One pulled out). ISIS says that at some point, consumers will have access to 24 of top 100 retailers at around 1.3 Mn locations across the world.
ISIS Mobile Wallet had a Shaky Start and it still remains unclear whether adoption rate will grow or not:
- In July this year, 9 months after the ISIS mobile wallet launched in the three states of Austin, Texas, and Salt Lake City, usage among small merchants appeared to be low, despite considerable fanfare and promotion at the launch.
- The app is still not compatible with iPhone (will never be?) which creates a problem. iPhone support will come later according to an ISIS representative. The ISIS wallet requires a special SIM and a phone compatible with NFC.
- Yankee Group analyst Jordan McKee said “Issuers must pay each time a consumer loads their card onto the wallet. The caveat is that whether or not a consumer uses the card, the issuer must pay to have it in the ISIS Wallet. Card issuers are interested in encouraging card spend whereas ISIS is purely interested in getting consumers to link their cards to the wallet. This conflict of interest will continue to be problematic”. “Why aren’t (credit card) issuers rushing to be an ISIS partner if that value proposition is allegedly so strong?” he asked.
- In November, ISIS app had a dismal average rating of 1 ½ stars (out of 5) after the appraisal of 1400 people on Google Play store.
How ISIS hopes to attract consumers:
ISIS is improving around its weaknesses and touting several incentives to help increase the adoption of its wallet.
- ISIS stated that the first million users who will use ISIS mobile wallet will get a free smoothie from Jamba Juice. To get the smoothie, a user first needs to have the new ISIS mobile wallet app and use a smartphone to pay at any of the terminals of Jamba Juice outlets that are NFC enabled.
- ISIS Mobile Wallet users can utilize My Coke Rewards to get three free drinks at select vending machines.
- Purchases made from an American Express Serve account through the ISIS wallet are eligible for a 20 percent discount (up to $200). Apart from American Express Serve account, customers will also be able to store their regular American Express card in their ISIS Mobile Wallet as well as Chase Freedom, Chase Sapphire, Slate from Chase and JP Morgan Palladium credit cards.
- Instant $20 credit just for signing up, $1 meals at some places, $15 off $30 at Toys R Us, etc. are some of their other offerings.
- On December 12th 2013, the company announced than ISIS mobile wallet users could now also add Wells Fargo credit cards to the NFC based app. This is definitely a step in the right direction. However, Visa and other banks’ users still cannot avail the services.
- Today there are more than 50 ISIS Ready smartphones available from AT&T, T-Mobile or Verizon Wireless that can receive an enhanced SIM card from their wireless carrier
- In April of this year, a new concept was introduced into vending industry. Mobile payments attached to a nationwide loyalty program, powered by Isis SmartTap technology and USA Technologies’ ePort and ePort Connect service. Every Fifth Purchase would be Free. This promotion is NOW available to operators and consumers in entire US on over 62,000 vending machines across the U.S.
- Recently while commenting about partnership with Wells Fargo, Ryan Hughes, chief marketing officer of Isis said “We look forward to our work together as we deliver new payment features to consumers". So there might be some new tricks up their sleeves.
Next 1 year is make or break period for ISIS as competing NFC wallets do course corrections (Google wallet HCE) and other solutions come to the market (Apple iBeacons).