I love contactless payment cards, so it’s a bit weird that after years of knowing about it, I still don’t have Google Pay set up on my Android phone.

I will do it, but I’ve been telling myself this for over a year now. When you look at the reasons for this to be the case, it can help you understand more about the adoption of new innovations.

This isn’t a discussion about which is best

These observations are not to say that contactless cards are a better than contactless mobile payments. In fact, time is likely to prove the opposite. The similarity and differences between these two innovations can help you think about the kind of effort required to get people to adopt a new way of doing something.

Slotting into the ’s existing 

The story behind my use of contactless payment cards is quite simple. My old bank card was about to expire and I got a new one through the post. Opening post with my name on it is part of the habitual flow of my life.

In the envelope was a replacement card. It had a funny symbol on it. The letter with the card had an explanation that I could use contactless payment for small purchases wherever I saw this logo.

In order to activate the new card, all I needed to do was use it and my old card would be deactivated. I put it in my wallet and got on with the rest of my day.

The next day I was in Tesco, paying for my groceries. I pulled my new card out of my wallet and was about to insert it into the card payment machine, just as I always did. But when I saw the contactless symbol on the machine, I simply tapped the card on the machine instead and it beeped.

All done. Paid.

“Wow, we’re living in the future” I thought (and spent several weeks saying to the checkout staff every time I used it).

We are living in the future

Modelling a new behaviour

If you consider this moment in reference to Fogg’s Behaviour Model, the likelihood of my adopting contactless cards was practically inevitable.

In order for a behaviour to occur, Fogg’s model proposes there needs to be a prompt. This will prompt the behaviour when motivation and/or ability are sufficiently high. If neither is particularly high, then the behaviour is unlikely to occur. Prompts will fail.

The prompt

The prompt to my adoption of contactless card payment was seeing the little symbol on the card payment machine. This reminded me I could use contactless to pay for my groceries.


My motivation was quite high, but not very high. Not in the grand scheme of things. Yes, I wanted to use some cool new technology, but tapping in my PIN wasn’t up there among life’s great struggles. Contrary to some versions of jobs-to-be-done theory, innovation isn’t always about struggle.


My ability however was very high. At the point of prompting, it was easier for me to adopt than not adopt contactless card payment.

Years later, I still haven’t used Google Pay. I will eventually.

I will, just not yet

Google Pay adoption takes more effort.

I imagine setting up Google Pay will be quite simple. But it’s a new behaviour and hasn’t cropped up in the normal flow of my actions. So far, I would have needed to take out my phone and make a decision to set it up.

I would need to do this before the moment of payment or be in a moment where constraints make setting it up right away and paying has become a better option than the immiediate alternatives.

Which is your innovative idea most like?

When I hear a new product or innovation idea, I ask myself how target users will find and adopt it. Will they stumble across it and adopt it with great ease? Or will they need to go looking for it, find out what it’s all about, make some effort to set it up, have some anxieties about it etc?

When it’s closer to contactless cards

User adoption of a contactless card type of idea is simple. It’s baked into your target user’s existing workflow. They stumble upon a prompt without intention and adopt the new way of doing things while trying to do it the existing way.

Replacing the existing workflow?

Note that contactless cards didn’t replace the use of a PIN. Instead this new way of working was placed within the user’s workflow, but didn’t force the change.

If I wanted to use the PIN instead, then I could. When you immediately replace the user’s existing approach with your new way of doing things then you’d better be pretty sure your target users will prefer it and not be resistant to it. In time, the old way should die out.

When it’s closer to Google Pay

Google Pay kind of innovations need to leverage a motivation in the user to do things in a better way. This is a lot harder than it sounds because our lives are filled with imperfect solutions we’re perfectly happy with. We’ve no great desire to solve many of them.

The innovators of a Google Pay type of idea believe their new thing is better than the current ways of doing things. But it requires a conscious adoption from target users. The innovator wants their target users to come find their new approach and start using that instead. Often by dropping their current approach at the same time.

No, they won’t

Unless you’re Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, this is where adoption gets more tricky.

  • How does your target user even hear about this new way of doing things?
  • How do they find it?
  • Do they see the benefit in trying it out?
  • How much effort/cost is involved in trying it out?
  • Do they need to stop their old approach immediately to adopt it?
  • Is the new way sufficiently better for it to be worth the effort?
  • Does the new way of working allow them all the key benefits of the existing way?

Better is not enough

When you create a better way of doing things which doesn’t fit seamlessly into the workflow of your target adopters, it being better is not enough. Your new way often needs to fix some pain your adopters are aware of and value removing.

All too often, new solutions can fall short, because they are simply different rather than being better. They might remove pain in one aspect without matching other aspects of their target users’ current solution. So they are an insufficient replacement for the current way of doing things.

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