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Mastercard’s payment mirror could change the way you shop


At Mobile World Congress, Mastercard had a range of payment innovations to announce, but it's the creative approach to clothes shopping that really excites me.

Mobile World Congress is the world's largest mobile-phone-centric conference, but it's not all Samsung Galaxy S9+ and 5G news to be had out of the show.

Mastercard used MWC 2018 to make a range of new initiative announcements, from a Facebook Messenger Bot to enable quick QR-code driven payments for small merchants to solar-powered payments terminals in areas with shaky power to provision to an integrated AR-driven furniture buying concept. Amongst all of that, it's the demonstration I had of a payments mirror that has me the most intrigued.

Yes, you read that right; a payments mirror.

I'll get back to that in a second.

There's a cliché that says that blokes aren't interested in clothes shopping in real life or online. I'm not sure that's universally true, but I personally am the walking embodiment of that cliché.

Online gets past my aversion to sales assistants, but then I can't try things on for fit, style or quality, while in-store means running the gauntlet of sales staff, variable stock availability and, of course, other noisy shoppers.

I'm quickly an impatient mess, and often someone who just decides it's too hard and walks out with nothing.

At this point you're probably wondering where the mirror comes in. It's a concept that Mastercard is showing off at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week that representatives took me through a quick demonstration of. Yes, it's a mirror, and the idea is that a store could put it inside a changing room so you could check out how clothes look on you. So far, so ordinary, but it's the integration of smart technologies that makes this more than just a chunk of reflective glass.

The use of RFID tags on clothing -- for Mastercard's demonstration it was T-shirts, but you could use it for any type of retail interaction -- tells the changing room what you've brought into the cubicle, at which point it can point out alternate sizes, colours, or even matching apparel to you while you're fitting it on. The mirror itself acts as a massive touchscreen for selection purposes.

If you work out it's too small, in theory you could page for a sales assistant to bring you the larger size without having to peer out half-dressed to get somebody's attention. With store loyalty in mind, it would also be feasible to build up a profile so you're not offered colours you never buy, or to extend special discounts to loyal customers.

There's also potential for it to extend online, because you might try on a few outfits but be less than certain on the day. By flagging your selections with the online portal of a given merchant, you could order them at a later date (or when there's a sale on), or even potentially order them then and there for home delivery if you don't feel like lugging them around during the rest of your shopping adventure.

Mastercard's angle on this is naturally as the payments processor that would handle the authentication and payments side of the transaction, citing the loss of shopping friction and benefits to retailers who don't want to be sample malls for folks who then go and Google for the same outfits online and buy from other outlets. By the time you step out of the changing room, you've already paid for your goods with no pesky sales assistants, or for that matter any queue to process your payment.

While the mirror is, well, a mirror, Mastercard was also keen to point out to me that it wasn't designed with cameras in mind, so your privacy is still respected while you're dressing.

There's really only one problem that I can see with this concept, and it's the fact that it's a concept. I for one can't wait for it to be a reality, because it would solve so many of my clothes shopping problems at once.

For all the latest news from MWC 2018, click here.

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Images: AP/Mastercard

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