Bill Maurer HeadshotWe talked to Bill Maurer, director of the Institute for Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion, while writing our new report, The Future of Payments & Currency. Maurer approaches the topic as a cultural anthropologist—he’s a professor of both anthropology and law at UC Irvine, where he is dean of social sciences. Maurer has particular expertise in alternative and experimental forms of money, payment and finance, and their potential to “challenge the definition and nature of money itself,” as he puts it. Currency is a “super exciting space right now,” Maurer told us, “and who would have imagined it to be so 15 years ago?” He discussed some of the disruption he’s charting, what he thinks will drive adoption of innovations like mobile wallets and bitcoin, and new consumer approaches to money and payments.

Americans have been slow to adapt the mobile wallet. Why is that?

We have an awful number of choices in payment, and most of the things we use to pay work. They are reliable, they are easy and convenient, and they’re pretty fast. So mobile payment in the States is a solution looking for a problem to solve, and the problem isn’t really there for most people.

Now when you think about Internet over mobile and new solutions for essentially what’s online payment but through the mobile channel, things start to get more interesting. There’s a lot more adoption of stuff like the PayPal app for use on eBay or iTunes over mobile than there is for any kind of mobile payment at the physical point of sale.

The other thing with mobile wallet applications is, a lot of them, frankly, stink: The user interfaces are clunky, and they don’t work reliably. I was at a big industry conference last year where a big product was being displayed by its CEO, and he went to show us how easy and convenient it is to use, and it wouldn’t work because it didn’t have a strong enough wireless signal.

The companies or the partnerships that crack the nut of their mobile wallet are going to be the ones that are find the secret to solving the physical-world point of sale. And again, that is just not a pain point for most American consumers. As an anthropologist, I can’t help but to point out that certain aspects of human behavior are extremely slow to change, and we’ve been carrying around coins since 600 B.C. These are very old technologies—it’s hard to disrupt them.

Continue reading “Q&A, Bill Maurer, payments and currency expert, UC Irvine” »

Thanks to rapid advances in machine vision, tactile sensors and autonomous navigation, service robots have arrived. This year’s Automatica trade fair for “automation and mechatronics” in Munich featured an inaugural “service robot” section, as The FT reported. Bots in this category are specialized to do everything from cleaning offices to performing ultraprecise surgeries. In the consumer-facing service sector, robots have the potential to help shoppers navigate, fetch or deliver things, connect people with remote specialists and communicate in multiple languages.

Lowe’s Innovation Labs just announced it will start testing a service robot at a hardware store in San Jose, Calif. According to Ad Age, the aim is for the multilingual robot to point shoppers in the right direction based on its knowledge of exactly what inventory the store has where and its ability to scan items brought from home so people can easily find replacements or similar goods. Store employees would then have more time to work with customers on higher-level questions and issues.

In the hospitality realm, Starwood recently unleashed Botlr at one Aloft hotel, a robot capable of delivering room service, replacing towels and checking in guests. Here too, the brand emphasizes that the robot doesn’t replace humans but augments its service. Royal Caribbean says its upcoming Quantum of the Seas will feature robot bartenders at a Bionic Bar. And a new restaurant in China is staffed by robots, from the line cook all the way to the servers. As in this case, service robots will clearly start taking human jobs, but ideally in ways that significantly enhance convenience and personal attention for patrons.

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With new payment mechanisms coming to the fore, like the recently launched Apple Pay, tried-and-true methods are losing their appeal among younger consumers. Cash and plastic bank cards are starting to feel outdated, given the advent of tools that can consolidate bank accounts, payment cards and loyalty programs, all while increasing security. We confirmed this in a survey of 1,000 adults in the U.S. and U.K., conducted from July 24-28 using SONAR™, JWT’s proprietary online tool.

As noted in our latest report, “The Future of Payments & Currency,” just over half of Millennials agree that it doesn’t make sense that we mostly still rely on cash and bank cards in light of today’s technology, compared with a third of Gen Xers and fewer than one-fifth of Boomers and Silents. Millennials are also less likely to reach for cash than older generations, and much less likely to use credit cards. Indeed, a recent Bankrate survey in the U.S. found that as many as 63 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds don’t own a credit card.

With Millennials ready for a more modern, streamlined payments system, brands have the opportunity to capture these consumers by providing alternatives to the status quo that enable seamless, easy-to-track and hyper-secure transactions.

Read our roundups in magazine form on Flipboard, via the iOS and Android app or online; click here to find our magazine collection.

-Apple Pay’s arrival may be the tipping point in consumers’ adoption of the mobile wallet, reports The New York Times.

-The Economist, the FT and New York all explore how the U.S. TV business is changing as HBO unbundles its service and others follow suit.

-With a proliferation of smart-home products now on the market, The New York Times looks at how marketers are seeking to get connected-home gear onto holiday shopping lists.

-The Wall Street Journal suggests that free mobile data may be the next “free shipping.”

-MIT Technology Review examines technology’s role in the widening gap between the rich and poor in the U.S. and Europe.

-The New York Times explores competitive video gaming in South Korea, where it has become a big part of mainstream culture.

-TechCrunch reports that travel, retail and entertainment apps are gaining steam, “quickly becoming the new app store heavyweights.”

-The Guardian covers a few sci-fi ideas that are slowly becoming reality.

-Popular Science explores the effort to turn robots into companions, asking, “Will your next best friend be a robot?”

-A new Pew study examines the prevalence and types of online harassment.

Continue reading “Weekly Roundup: Apple Pay, robot friends and the rental generation” »

The Future of Payments & Currency

Apple Pay has just arrived, Facebook is reportedly mulling peer-to-peer payments, more merchants are accepting bitcoin, banks are producing payment-enabled wristbands, and the ranks of “fintech” innovators like Square are growing. Established ideas of value, exchange and currency are being disrupted with new systems based on trust, social currency and other commodities. People are adopting new ways to trade, while brands are conceiving alternative concepts that make payment more seamless and more secure.

Our latest trend report charts the myriad new ways to pay—not only mobile wallets like Apple Pay but wearables, biometric systems and more—and new forms of value exchange, from cryptocurrencies to social media shares to mobile airtime. It looks at how disruption is opening the door for new players to act as middlemen between consumers and their money, and outlines what it all means for brands. The report also includes results of a survey examining consumer attitudes in the U.S. and the U.K., conducted using JWT’s SONAR™.

The case against cash and physical cards is getting stronger, with Millennials already moving away from the status quo and adopting some alternative ideas. For instance, our survey found that Millennials are significantly more likely than other generations to express interest in mobile payments and to agree that “With today’s technology, it doesn’t make sense that we mostly still rely on cash, debit and credit cards to pay for things.”

Click here to download “The Future of Payments & Currency.”


Last week, Lucie Greene joined the JWTIntelligence team as our new worldwide director. Find her on Twitter @lucieluxury.

Trends forecasting, consumer insight and strategic thinking have never been more important for brands. The world is changing at a rapid rate, at different speeds by age group, ethnicity and geographical location. It’s become crucial to understand this change, the drivers, the nuances and how it will play out. Just consider the rapid adoption of new consumer technologies globally, for example. Or the shifting notion of aspiration in the juggernaut Chinese market, where social media is accelerating the metabolism of trends quicker than brands can keep up.

So as dream jobs go, they don’t get much better: This month I started as Worldwide Director of JWTIntelligence, JWT’s groundbreaking trends, insight and forecasting platform created by the legendary Marian Salzman and my predecessor in this role, Ann Mack. The privilege is not lost on me. My vision is to build on JWTIntelligence’s reputation as an authoritative resource, providing insights, inspiration and analysis, and helping brands future-proof strategies, identify opportunities and creatively solve problems. I will do so with an incredible team—both within JWTIntelligence and throughout the global agency.

So who am I? I am a Brit, to begin with. Sorry New York, you have another incumbent English tea drinker to add to your collection (though my preference, for the record, is coffee). I hail from the Future Laboratory, a leading London-based trends consultancy, and beyond that have been a journalist for 10 years, writing for titles including Women’s Wear Daily, the Financial Times, Vogue (UK) and The Telegraph. I started out as a reporter for Women’s Wear Daily and contribute regularly to the Financial Times. (Retail trends remain a passion.)

As a trends forecaster, I believe constant innovation is key, but to do so effectively it’s increasingly important to look beyond singular sectors and industries for inspiration. In the digital age many channels, sectors and disciplines are becoming converged. By connecting shifts in applied design, creative fields, technology, consumer data and leading thought, it is possible to build a rich and nuanced picture of change and its implications. I look forward to continuing this at JWT.

Rise of the Mobile Shopper

Consumers are spending more and more time on mobile screens, whether for socializing, gaming, watching video, reading the news or, increasingly, shopping. “The most significant shift of the past twelve months in how we shopped has been the rise of mobile as a go-to way to shop,” notes U.K. department store John Lewis in its second annual report on How We Shop, Live & Look. Mobile traffic to its website passed desktop traffic on Christmas Day 2013 and never looked back; more than half its web traffic now comes from smartphones and tablets. Meanwhile Branding Brand, which powers m-commerce sites and apps, reports that in the U.S., this tipping point to mobile shopping was reached in August. (Just four years ago, by contrast, Branding Brand says only 4 percent of online retails visits in the U.S. came through mobile.)

At the same time, John Lewis emphasizes that mobile must be considered in context. Brick-and-mortar remains important for its customers, with 70 percent of transactions still occurring in the stores. (Our data point last week focused on the continuing importance of physical stores.) Online ordering coupled with in-store pick-up has also become popular, for instance. Consumers want omnichannel shopping experiences, and the retailers that succeed will be the ones that can integrate online and offline seamlessly. As IBM notes in its Retail 2020 report, Amazon and other online retailers “are forcing traditional retailers to rethink their value propositions and embrace multichannel retailing as the only way to survive. Traditional retailers don’t have much time to get it right.”

Read our roundups in magazine form on Flipboard, via the iOS and Android app or online; click here to find our magazine collection.

-Twenty-five years after the Web was born, the BBC imagines what it will look like by 2040.

-NPR’s New Boom series on Millennials explores why this generation is so individualistic, their views on environmentalism, their take on marriage and children, and more.

-Facebook IQ research breaks out Millennials into distinct groups by age and attitude, reports Campaign. And Adweek takes a look at Exponential’s breakdown of the Millennial generation into 12 groups.

-MediaPost reports on Telefonica’s second Global Millennial Survey, which finds the generation optimistic about the future but concerned about education.

-Time picks the 25 most influential teens of 2014.

-The FT spotlights “techno-hippies,” Silicon Valley innovators focused on counterculture goals more than profits.

-The Wall Street Journal examines how TV metrics are tracked as more viewers watch in new ways, and Ad Age looks at the question of measurement in an “over the top” TV era.

-Reporting on the New Establishment Summit, The New York Times takes a look at how Silicon Valley is stirring up Hollywood.

-A new comScore report highlights how Millennials are watching TV, via Re/code.

-Bain & Co.’s annual global luxury study indicates growth will stabilize in 2015, as Reuters reports.

Continue reading “Weekly Roundup: The future of shopping, techno-hippies and extreme fitness” »


With Apple set to launch its Pay system next week, observers are asking whether it will push mobile payments into the mainstream in markets like the U.S. that have so far been unenthused about adopting the digital wallet. In developing regions, however, many people have been using mobile money for some time, embracing a tool that is uniquely valuable for those with little to no access to financial institutions, as we noted in one of our 10 Trends for 2014, Mobile As a Gateway to Opportunity.

According to The Opportunities of Digitizing Payments, a recent report from organizations including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, more than 2.5 billion adults worldwide lack a formal deposit account. In countries like Kenya, where Vodafone’s M-Pesa started, mobile money services—which let people send and receive funds and make bill payments through basic handsets—have been a godsend. M-Pesa now handles more than $1 billion in transactions a month in Kenya and has expanded to 10 markets, including India and, most recently, Romania. Nine countries have more mobile money accounts than bank accounts, according to the GSMA. And as smartphone prices drop further, these services will be able to offer consumers increasingly sophisticated financial tools.

Watch for similar services to make inroads in developed markets as well. In the U.S., T-Mobile launched Mobile Money in early 2014, targeting the un- or underbanked. It combines a money management app, prepaid T-Mobile Visa card and an ATM network. Among other things, users can pay bills, set up direct deposit and deposit checks by smartphone; T-Mobile customers pay no fees. And Walmart recently partnered with Green Dot Corp. on GoBank, a mobile checking account with a linked debit card. GoBank waives monthly and minimum-balance fees with qualifying direct deposits and doesn’t charge overdraft fees.

A digital payments infrastructure is “one of the most exciting, important and challenging projects the world will undertake in the years ahead,” writes payments expert Irving Wladawsky-Berger in a Wall Street Journal blog post. “Let’s hope that initiatives like Apple Pay will help propel forward the complex evolution toward mobile digital payments.”

Image credit: T-Mobile

McDonald's AmEx

Technology has greatly improved loyalty programs over the years, making it easier for brands to issue rewards points and for consumers to manage and use them. The next step is to truly turn loyalty into currency by making it just as easy to pay with points. For instance, when booking online, members of Virgin America’s Elevate frequent flyer program can click to see the cost of flights in dollars or Elevate points. And starting this week in New York and Chicago, American Express cardholders will be able to pay with points at McDonald’s restaurants. The process is simple and fast, forgoing codes or prior registration: The payment screen displays the option for diners who use an AmEx card, along with number of points required, and the cardholder presses a “yes” button to proceed. The program will roll out across the U.S. in the next few months.

Going forward, digital wallets will let brands easily integrate points with payments, allowing consumers to carry loyalty points and spend them as desired. AmEx is experimenting here too by integrating with Uber: Those who register an AmEx card can pay with points when using the app to order a cab. In the “fast-emerging future,” theorize professors Edward Castronova and Joshua A.T. Fairfield in a New York Times column, “virtual assets of all sorts—traditional currencies, but also bitcoin, airline miles, cellphone minutes—are interchangeable.” As they explain, “It’s all bits anyway.” In tandem with the emergence of multiple new ways to pay, the concept of what a currency can be is rapidly evolving.

Image credit: McDonald’s


New Trend Report: The Future of Payments & Currency

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Things to Watch

  • Money & messaging apps
    October 23, 2014 | 11:13 am


    Given the primary function of mobile messaging apps and their technical capabilities, money transfer and payments are an alluring proposition, as outlined in our new report on payments and currency. Snapchat filed two trademarks in July that indicate a potential move into peer-to-peer payments. The recently announced Line Pay will let Line users make purchases through their Line accounts, send funds to each other, and split costs using a “Dutch Pay” feature. Line Pay will launch in Japan and, as Tech in Asia reports, serve as “an entrance to new industries” thanks to integration with the new Line Taxi service and Line Wow, for food delivery. In South Korea, KakaoTalk launched the PayPal-like Kakao Pay in September, and a remittance service, Bank Wallet Kakao, is in the works. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Line

  • The #TimsDark Experiment
    October 14, 2014 | 3:46 pm

    To entice customers into tasting its new dark roast, Canadian fast food chain Tim Hortons, with the help of JWT Canada, created a surprise immersive experience. A store in Quebec was wrapped in material that blocked all light from the outdoors. Patrons entered warily and, once inside, heard a staff member (who was wearing night vision goggles) guiding them through the dark. At the counter, customers were handed a cup of the dark roast—the brand’s first new blend in 50 years—with the darkness heightening their sense of taste. When the lights came on, the patrons saw they were on camera.

    The #TimsDark Experiment has garnered YouTube views and some press attention, and shows how creatively imagined immersive experiences—one of our 10 Trends for 2014—can encourage consumers to engage with a brand.

  • Bitcoin bank Circle
    October 7, 2014 | 4:40 pm


    In late September, the startup Circle launched a web app that effectively functions as a bitcoin bank. Using a debit card or bank account, users transfer funds to Circle, which converts the money to bitcoin at no fee. Circle also insures this money at no cost. The company aims to make bitcoin more accessible via consumer-friendly design and is aiming to take on traditional banks and companies like PayPal, as The Guardian reports. Next up: Android and iOS Circle apps.

    Circle co-founder Jeremy Allaire gave a keynote at the Inside Bitcoins conference in April, citing the need for a “killer app” to bring bitcoin into the mainstream. Now Circle seems to be taking the lead, and others are sure to follow. —Nick Ayala

    Image credit: Circle

  • High-tech tasting
    October 2, 2014 | 6:00 pm


    Thailand got a lot of buzz this week with an innovative idea: a taste-tester robot, or electronic tongue, that’s programmed to distinguish authentic Thai dishes from wanna-be’s. Artificial tongues aren’t new but have been evolving. Most recently, Danish researchers developed a nanosensor that mimics “what happens in your mouth when you drink wine,” enabling winemakers to control astringency very early on. In Spain, researchers created a beer-tasting robot that can distinguish between varieties of brew.

    Meanwhile, advanced technology can also create recipes: IBM has touted how Watson, its “cognitive computing system,” can analyze the components of ingredients to come up with novel ideas for dishes; find a few of them here. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Aarhus Universitet

  • Marriage gets marginalized
    September 25, 2014 | 5:00 pm

    One of our 10 Trends for 2012 was Marriage Optional: More people around the world are living together or remaining solo instead of marrying. Pew reports this week that 1 in 5 Americans age 25 and up have never married, a fundamental shift since 1960, when only about 1 in 10 could say the same. Millennials are especially ambivalent: Two-thirds of 18- to 29-year-olds surveyed by Pew agree that “society is just as well off if people have priorities other than marriage and children” vs. 53 percent of the next generation up (age 30 to 49).

    Europe is seeing a similar move away from marriage, driven by “austerity, generational crisis and apathy towards the institution,” notes The Guardian. It says weddings are at historical lows in some nations; last year Italy recorded the fewest since World War I. For a look at how changing marriage patterns are affecting families, see our report Meet the New Family. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: JD Hancock


  • Room-sharing service Breather
    September 16, 2014 | 3:30 pm


    Described as the “Zipcar for rooms,” Breather is an app that enables access to “beautiful, practical spaces” that can be rented anywhere from 30 minutes to a whole day. While sharing-economy players like LiquidSpace and PivotDesk offer work and meeting spaces, Breather positions its rooms as homey spots that can serve a range of purposes (though not, the founder assures, seedy ones). Rooms include the basics—a desk, a couch, Wi-Fi—as well as some fun touches like a candy jar. Lockitron technology lets users unlock doors with their mobile phones. Breather is available in New York, Montreal and San Francisco, and recently raised $6.5 million in venture capital, citing plans to “own every major market in America.” —Hallie Steiner

    Image credit: Breather

  • Barco Escape’s immersive screens
    September 11, 2014 | 4:15 pm

    Maze Runner

    Escape is a triple-screen system from Barco that “allows you to truly be in the movies, not just at the movies”—in line with the rise of immersive experiences, one of our 10 Trends for 2014 and Beyond. Audiences at five U.S. locations and one Belgian cinema will get their first taste of the concept with next week’s release of The Maze Runner, about a group of teens trapped in a massive maze, which will feature about five minutes of immersive footage at key moments. ScreenX is among the other multi-screen, multi-projection cinema experiences we’ve highlighted. —Aaron Baar

    Image credit: Maze Runner

  • “Smart” personal safety
    September 2, 2014 | 6:01 pm


    Earlier this year we wrote about the Guardian Angel, a pendant that alerts emergency contacts whenever wearers feel unsafe, created by JWT Singapore. Smart technology is addressing personal safety in other ways too. The Defender is a smart pepper spray that works in tandem with a mobile app, taking a picture of an attacker while contacting authorities. It’s in the final week of an Indiegogo campaign that has well exceeded its goal. Similarly, First Sign has crowdfunded a smart hairclip that detects physical assault, records the evidence and sends for help.

    Meanwhile, college campuses are embracing a more basic form of this tech, encouraging students to download apps like Rave Guardian and Circle of 6, which enable a chosen network to monitor a student’s GPS location during a night out. In a different vein, students at North Carolina State University made headlines last week for their Undercover Nail Polish, which changes color in the presence of “date rape drugs.” —Allison Kruk

    Image credit: The Defender

  • Nestlé’s animal-welfare standards
    August 28, 2014 | 10:00 am


    We wrote about rising concerns over treatment of the animals that people eat back in 2012 as brands including Burger King, McDonald’s and Hellmann’s pledged to institute more humane practices. We also included Humane Food among our Things to Watch for 2013. The trend recently picked up more steam with Nestlé’s announcement of animal welfare standards for its suppliers worldwide, following an investigation by the group Mercy for Animals.

    “The move is one of the broadest-reaching commitments to improving the quality of life for animals in the food system,” notes The New York Times, “and it is likely to have an impact on other companies that either share the same suppliers or compete with Nestlé.” Observed the influential blogger Food Babe: “People want to know where their food comes from, and in order to survive the next decade, the food industry will have to change.” —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Nestlé

  • Alternative waters
    August 19, 2014 | 1:59 pm

    Vertical Water

    With the coconut water craze going strong, watch for more variations on H2O thanks to consumer interest in more natural alternatives to soda and openness to novel products. Antioxidant-rich maple water (made from maple sap) is gaining attention, while almond water from the startup Victoria’s Kitchen has secured space at Whole Foods and Target. As the AP reports, there’s also cactus, birch and artichoke water—made from either water extracted from the plant or boiled with the ingredient in question—whose makers tout their vitamin and mineral content, as well as their infection-fighting properties. —Allison Kruk

    Image credit: Vertical Water

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