There was an explosive ending to this year’s U.S. Open with the Williams-Osaka finish, but Open partnership sponsor American Express stood out for a different reason. American Express tried out a new engagement initiative, revealing blue plastic “contactless” wearables that fans could use to pay for purchases and unlock benefits called the “Amex Band”. Amex cardholders would be able to load all of their payment info onto the wearable and with the help of NFC (need a refresher on NFC?), wearers could access all of the extras that the event had to offer. While it’s great to see a big brand leveraging some fairly new tech at a big event like the U.S. Open, the wearable route just wasn’t the best option. In American Express’ defense, they were trying to implement some new tech during one of the biggest events in tennis…but, they definitely weren’t keeping the user experience in mind. Here’s why:
While we’re not sure exactly what it would cost to equip a small plastic bracelet with an NFC chip, it can’t possibly be cheaper than utilizing the hardware that fans already have in their pockets: their smartphones. Simply creating a mobile pay experience may have been a better UX for cardholders and Open guests alike. Utilizing mobile takes away the necessity for having to manufacture the one-off wearables, which brings me to the next point…
All of that plastic is going straight to waste after the event is over. The bracelets had a one-time use, not like the more popular wearables that exist on the market today (aka Apple Watch, Fitbit, etc) that use NFC to continuously integrate with different applications. Even if all of the plastic is recycled, it’s still seems like an unnecessary waste of plastic that could be far simplified by using mobile through aProgressive Web App (PWA) that only requires the scan of QR code, text message, or by the use of the NFC system that’s already embedded in your smartphone.
Do I have to download an app to use the band? Why wouldn’t I just use the NFC payment system that already has my card info loaded to my phone, like Apple Pay or Google Pay? If I do have to download an app, what are the chances it will actually download on the spotty wifi that’s all too many times provided in sporting venues? All of these questions seem like a confusing start to what might have been a unique twist on integrating some new technology for American Express that sadly falls flat (much like Men’s Singles player Djovak Nokovic after he won his 14th major at the U.S. Open).
Amex was attempting to create a new fan experience for tennis enthusiasts with a wearables launch, which is a win for the integration of tech in sports. But when far more user-friendly technology already exists, it gets us scratching our heads. Why wouldn’t American Express just use a PWA? It would simplify the entire experience and allow for far better engagement tracking, UX, and probably reduce their carbon footprint. Brands are super excited to get on the new tech train and get the PR from it, but they could save time and money by creating better mobile experiences. Want to see some brands that are already getting mobile right? Here’s a recap we did on how Coke is bringing mobile tech to baseball, America’s other favorite sport!