American Marketer


How mobile payments will help us become more mobile

July 31, 2015

Michael Wilson is managing director of Accenture Transit & Tolling Services for North America at Accenture Michael Wilson is managing director of Accenture Transit & Tolling Services for North America at Accenture


By Michael Wilson

It goes without saying that the payment landscape is evolving with digital currency and mobile payments on the rise. Yet, how many times have you had to dig into the very bottom of your purse or pockets to find exact change to feed a parking meter, pay a toll or hop a ride on the bus?

Part of the beauty of transit is that it caters to absolutely everyone. Yet, whether passengers are riding a bus or train, crossing a river by ferry, driving through toll gates, parking their car or using a bike or car-sharing service, one thing’s for certain: they want their payment experience to be seamless and frictionless.

Coin of the realm
Research shows that cash is not dead, but nearly one in five consumers expect to use digital currencies on a weekly basis by 2020, according to Accenture.

Accordingly, businesses today, specifically transport agencies, are already adapting to meet these consumer needs.

In the not too-distant-future, no matter the combination of transformation mode required, passengers will be free to glide from one mode to the next, all without having stop in their tracks to pay a fare.

Imagine, instead of scrounging for enough cash or having to wait in a long line to buy a ticket while worrying about making your train on time, being able to automatically deduct those charges from whatever payment system you choose.

Just think, every traveler, from the digitally savvy daily commuter to the more traditional, occasional rider, having the ability to choose their own payment platform and experience.

It will not be long until travelers can pay on their own terms, no matter where they are in their journey. Whether that is using more advanced payment platforms such as Google Pay or Apple Wallet, a bank-issued card or the old standby, cash.

Although public transport in most areas may not be there quite yet, the thinking is most certainly headed that way.

In today’s always-on digital world, transport operators are quickly realizing that there should be no difference between paying for transport and anything else.

A recent survey of more than 2,000 IT and business executives revealed that 81 percent of organizations believe that providing a personalized customer experience is among their organization’s top three priorities. This shows that consumers want their payment experience to be invisible and efficient, and public transportation is and should be no exception.

TRAVELERS OF TODAY expect advanced interactions through technology that puts them at the center of every journey.

Accordingly, operators must shift their mindset from being simply a mover of vehicles to a provider of exemplary customer experiences.

So, the next time you need to turn back home because you forgot your bus fare card, are held up at the toll gate because you did not have exact change or emptying out the center console of your car trying to find one more quarter to pay the meter, pass the time by imagining the future of public transportation in the digital era. A future that is not all that far off.

Michael Wilson is managing director of Accenture Transit & Tolling Services for North America at Accenture, Toronto. Reach him at