Why These Apps Are So Good at Making You Spend Money

The people who say that mobile payments are the future have never seen my bank statement. If they had, they’d know it’s very much a Right Now thing. They’d probably also wonder why I order so much takeaway food and stock up on discontinued analog film. I’ve just looked at my bank statement, in case you were wondering. And, yes, mobile purchases are a significant portion of my monthly spending—but mostly that spending is through one of four apps.

  • Trainline — This leads the pack in terms of how often I use it. The train is my go-to method of transport, and this app makes it unbelievably easy to navigate and travel the rail system. I can easily browse through upcoming departures, purchase a ticket with all my saved preferences, and then get the ticket itself right on my phone. I can skip past all the ticket queues when I get to the station and head right for my train.
  • Deliveroo — Look, takeaway is easy and tastes delicious. Sometimes you have a craving for Beef Satay that won’t go away, and drastic measures must be taken. With Deliveroo, I can find the best Beef Satay in my area, order it, and have it at my door in 32 minutes. You try making a better dinner with only your thumb and forefinger.
  • eBay — This showed up in my bank statements more than it should, I have to be honest. But still, where else am I going to find expired 35mm film so reliably and easily? Most of what I buy from eBay are things I don’t need and didn’t know I wanted, but buy anyway because it’s just so easy.
  • Amazon — Jeff Bezos and company practically wrote the book on e-commerce. It’s no wonder that Amazon is the first place I turn when I need just about anything I can’t get with the three apps above. Like eBay, buying from Amazon is dangerously easy.

On the surface, these apps have very little in common. They each have their purpose and there’s little overlap between them. It’s what’s underneath all that where the real magic happens. In each case, the apps offer a seamless user experience culminating in a friction-less checkout process. It’s the kind of payment process that’s so easy I end up turning to them again and again. I’ll be honest: I love using these apps. But why? What are they doing that makes it so enjoyable and so easy to part with my money? Tough questions, indeed. But I’ve got some answers.

Human-driven Experience

You can’t buy what you can’t find, and all these apps excel at getting you to what you’re looking for. But they don’t behave like software presenting cold data. There’s a human approach to the way the information is relayed. I buy rail tickets on Trainline, and I can see real time information like platform numbers and ETAs. I tell Deliveroo what kind of food I want, and I only see the places that match my selection. When I finally get to the point of purchasing, there’s no confusion or delay, no double checking to make sure I didn’t miss something. I know exactly what’s in my cart and how it got there. But as easy as all that is for me to navigate, it’s actually even easier to checkout.

Describing to you what makes these apps so easy for making purchases is going to sound obvious, like the results of human common sense. Still, there are so many apps that get it wrong, it’s worth talking about what it means to get it right.

  1. Remember Me — Having a customer account is required to use just about any retail app. You log in once and then that should be that, no matter how many times you close the app. Too often, though, these apps seem to forget that they remember—at the worst possible moment, no less, like when you first add something to your cart or right before checkout. That’s an obstacle right there: can you imagine being in a member’s only store, showing your credentials to get in and then having to show it again when you want to put something in your trolley? And then again before you pay? It’s annoying and unnecessary. Having the security code of my credit card (or my own thumb if I’m using Apple Pay) at payment time is more than enough to prove it’s the real me buying that 10-pack of overpriced polaroid film.
  2. Remember My Preferences — Like most people, I tend to live in the same place for long periods of time, so don’t ask me to enter my delivery address each time. Don’t even ask me to select from previously used addresses. Give me the option for a default address, and send my pizza there unless I tell you otherwise, no questions asked. Preferences can be more than addresses, though: Trainline gives me the option of setting my seat preference in my profile, saving me the hassle of having to tell it every time I buy a ticket that I like a forward facing window seat, and yes, near a power socket so I can charge my phone. The more information an app can have about my preferences in advance, the quicker the checkout procedure is. It also makes the shopping experience more personal.
  3. Use Third Party Mobile Payment Services — Taking credit cards is a good idea, but mobile payments are even better. With a credit card, there’s going to be at least one time that your customers are going to have to enter in their digits and security codes before you can save it for future use. When you accept payments through services like Apple Pay or PayPal, you’re giving your customers a chance to make it through checkout with a few clicks—even first time customers. That’s because they’ve already gone ahead and linked their cards to those services. The hard part is taken care of. At checkout time, they only need to enter their login credentials—or fingerprints—for the payment service of their choice.

By having all these pieces in place, you get your customer to the Holy Grail of online shopping: one-click payments. Once they have everything they want, all it should take is the tap of a button to initiate the payment. If you’re using a stored credit card, all you have to enter is the security code on back (three digits, easy to remember). With mobile payments it could be as simple as scanning your fingerprint. If you’re offering anything less than this kind of experience, it’s time to revisit how you’re taking payments—or you might not be taking payments at all.

Author bio:

Nabeena Mali
Head of Marketing @ AppInstitute

I love riding fixed gear bikes and do marketing, in that order. I drive digital growth at AppInstitute, the DIY app builder platform
for small and medium-sized businesses. Passionate about user-onboarding, B2B marketing and growth hacking strategies.