Online retail has drastically changed the way we shop over the last fifteen years, firstly by squeezing old-fashioned retail chains out of business and secondly by revolutionizing the way the remaining stores do business. For those that remain, the barber shops, restaurants, supermarkets, etc. new technology is changing the way they take hold of your money – in as much as – they no longer have to literally take hold of your money.
The issues associated with trading in cash cost add up to billions of dollars every year, theft alone costs American businesses $40billion a year, more than all other types of financial fraud (e.g. bad checks, credit cards, online) combined. The cost of transporting and storing cash adds billions to the costs and hits small businesses especially hard as they cannot afford expensive security or loss prevention schemes.
Take for example a service like Taxi disrupter Uber where all transactions are handled via the app, there’s no need for drivers to handle cash, a situation which leads to 1000s of armed robberies every year around the world. For consumers, there’s no need to worry about carrying the right money for the cab fare home or those awkward minutes waiting for change and a receipt.
The move away from cash has been gradual but consistent and will only be accelerated by the spread of smartphones and apps which allow greater control over finances whenever and wherever you need it. Just like the volume of mail has been dropping 5% (10 billion letters/items a year), replaced by e-mail and online billing, how long before paying in cash becomes a rarity?
1. No More Cash Registers
Square is a company co-founded by Jack Dorsey, co-creator of Twitter, merchants are sent a free card reader that plugs into smartphones or tablets and together with a free app turns these gadgets into a portable card reader/checkout. This not only removes the need for investing in a cash register, but means small businesses can accept payments in any location without even needing to plug anything in (assuming your phone is kept well charged). They have several competitors, such as PayAnywhere and London-based rival POWA, offering a similar no-obligation commission based service.
2. No More PINs and Signatures
Whether you’re still familiar with signing your name or using the Europe-wide ‘chip and pin’ process, you’ll know they can take up a frustrating amount of time in the transaction process. Signatures are prone to counterfeiting and PINs can either be forgotten or mistyped. Contactless payments make the process as easy as tapping a card against a reader and although they tend to be used for small amounts currently, these are exactly the kind of transactions that need to be completed in a hurry. Technology like Barclay’s Pingit, which uses the Paym platform, allows you to send money to friends or businesses using only their phone number, as easily as sending a text message.
3. No More Receipts
Paper receipts are annoying, but still highly necessary for refunds, taxes and expenses, but a company like Proximiant hopes to change the game with their technology which uses QR codes to send digital receipts straight to your phone. The Square service also uses digital receipts and it may not be long before such technology becomes common-place throughout all electronic payment technologies.
By registering a digital receipt wallet app to your payment card, receipts could be sent automatically when you pay and not only would save time and paper, but mean there’s less chance of it being lost or destroyed or used for fraudulent refunds. It could also have other applications such as managing personal budgets, tracking spending trends or offering targeted discounts and vouchers.
4. No More Humans
Okay, so the first coin-operated vending machines have been going strong since the 1880s, so the automation of the retail process is not exactly a 21st century wonder, but a new wave of automated self-checkout systems are spreading throughout supermarkets and other retail outlets. They can be infuriating to many, but as they become a more familiar sight, the savings in space, labour and time should benefit consumers and retailers alike.
A service like Redbox has bridged the gap between old-school video stores and streaming and a company like Briggo could show us how automated retail service not only matches but exceeds that offered by humans. Their ‘coffee haus’ machine can take remote orders via your cellphone – just select and pay via an app then collect at the machine – and with the consistency of its roasting and grinding determined by pre-dose capsules, they can even rival the taste of a barista-made cup of coffee.