21 June 2017, Smart Machines
Contactless payments, or ‘wave and pay’, have become an ingrained, every-day habit for UK consumers. Just like telephones, televisions, computers, smartphones and the internet, it is an innovation that has – in three years – gone from the relative unknown, greeted by some with suspicion and disdain, to part of our ever-day, modern life. As a consequence, industries that have embraced it are reaping the benefits.
Retail and hospitality are two good examples of this consumer change. Driven by a desire to maximise sales from increased convenience and speed of transactions, they were among the early adoptors – a decision now paying dividends. The latest statistics from Barclaycard’s Contactless Spending Index show that, over the past year, contactless payments have risen 79% in pubs and 69% in fast food outlets. Contactless use in supermarkets and convenient stores have risen 156% and 98%, respectively, over the same period.
But it’s not just shops, pubs and fast food outlets where people are now using contactless payment services. The total number of contactless cards in circulation in the UK has risen by 26.7% in the last year and there are now more than 100 million contactless-enabled cards in our wallets and handbags. This increase has led to the UK consumer spending £4bn via contactless in March 2017 alone. The figures speak for themselves.
The fast rise in contactless cards and increased acceptance in retail outlets will inevitably be accompanied by rising consumer expectations – namely the ability to use the contactless payment process whenever and wherever they go, certainly for low priced items, and everyday convenience purchases. Taking into consideration the growing availability of smartphone payment services, such as Apple Pay and Google Wallet, that enable a single contactless device to provide multiple payment options, this trend should prompt serious debate for every senior executive in the unattended retail community, where cash has been king for the last 30 years.
Today’s consumer is time poor, impatient and compulsive. Businesses that ignore their demands do so at their peril. Conversely, industries that recognise this, cater for their changing needs and provide consumers with a simple, safe and quick way to pay for services, will be the ones that win, especially in turbulent economic times when more than ever the customer is king.