News that the DVLA is experimenting with a digital driving licence for the iPhone is a notable development suggesting that a truly mobile-first world is just around the corner.
Everyone carries a smartphone now. Well, not everyone, but most people, and they find the device easy and preferable for almost everything: banking, shopping, travel booking and so on.
However, there are still huge developments to be made in this area, and the catalyst for me was contactless digital payments via Apple Pay and now Android Pay.
Of course, contactless payment with bank cards has been around for years, and if you enter a shop that doesn't support contactless you usually get a sheepish 'Sorry, we don't support contactless.' That's how quickly it's become the default payment method, even if some major retailers are still to offer it.
But the rise of mobile contactless payments is another trend altogether, because it opens up a range of possibilities to improve retailers' engagements with customers, and customers' interactions with shops and other organisations.
Many shops offer loyalty cards and the like, so you have to carry another piece of plastic in your wallet, remember it's there, get it out, scan it and so on. Why? I want a loyalty card that's stored in my phone and is activated when I pay with my phone.
We are getting there: firms like Waterstones and Superdrug have made moves to digitise loyalty cards, removing the need for more plastic in your wallet.
But there’s definitely more that could be done by the majority of retailers. The ideal would be when I pay with my phone at a retailer the relevant app for that firm (if it’s installed) opens and the relevant points, or loyalty bonus etc, are added to my account.
I would then be able to see much more easily what rewards I have waiting and remember to use them.
Everyone would benefit in this world: firms would capture more data and create real loyalty among customers, while customers would get offers and discounts, and more insights into how much they spend and what they buy.
It's not just the high street where mobile services are growing. Digital boarding passes may have been around for a few years, but digital train tickets are now also starting to appear.
I used my first on the weekend just gone and it was far easier than faffing about with endless paper tickets. And, as noted, the DVLA has a digital driving licence in the works.
All organisations should be looking at this and realising that the mobile trend isn't over, it's just beginning. Having an app is not the end, it's the start. And true integration between a user's phone and a retailer's app is the next goal.
However, there is a caveat to this that I will readily acknowledge. Phones run out of battery. This is a biggest barrier to a truly mobile-first world.
Imagine being on a train and your phone dies. Will the conductor accept your story that the ticket is lost until you have power again? Doubtful. Will a shop take a digital IOU because your Android Pay is unreachable? Nope.
These problems will blight some unlucky souls out there, and it is because of this that the humble paper ticket, or indeed bank card, will retain a place in our digital world.
For train tickets, I want a mobile version, but I also want a paper ticket just in case. A digital driving licence won’t negate the need for the physical thing, but why should it? Having both, so either can be used as required, is a good thing.
Businesses need to think about these things. A mobile-first world is where we’re going, but paper and plastic still have a part to play.
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