Long experience has taught me to pay no attention whatsoever to any expression of public opinion on the topic of electronic transactions or the future, and most especially on the future of electronic transactions. So I don't know why I started reading this story that arrived via the excellent "The Paypers" concerning a WorldPay study.
As the study indicates, over three-quarters (77 percent) of those interviewed predict certain coins will be discontinued within the next ten years and that cheque books will cease to exist (76 percent).
This is an interesting result, because the public is in this instance correct about what should happen but probably wrong about what will happen. Yes, low-value coins should be withdrawn, starting with the 1p and 2p pieces. I don't see this as being in the least bit controversial. It is obvious sense and I thought it was interesting that this snippet of public opinion correlates with an experiment about to begin over the Irish sea.
More than 240 businesses in the Irish town of Wexford are preparing to ditch one and two cent coins in a rounding trial being run by the country's central bank.
There is no reason I can think of to continue messing around with 1p and 2p coins, but unlike the forward-thinking inhabitants of the Emerald Isle we Brits are bizarrely conservative about money so I rate the chances of this obviously sensible move at about fifty-fifty. Cheque books should of course vanish in a ten year timescale, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer made saving the cheque (and making them clear slightly quicker for the economically unfathomable reason of helping small businesses, when the way to help small business get paid quicker would be to get rid of cheques altogether) a central plank of his payments "plan". Anyway, Worldpay went on to ask people about the devices that they would use in the future.
Nearly two-thirds of people (60 percent) believe that they will regularly buy purchases via their mobile handset or other card payment methods. Nearly half of UK consumers (48 percent) believe they will be using fingerprint recognition systems to authorise the payment of their household grocery shop.
On the issue of the payment devices and the authentication method, the public may well be right. There is no doubt that the mobile phone will become the most important device in retail payments and improvements in the authentication methods available to make the use of the mobile phone even more convenient will have a ready market. Right now, you'd have to agree that biometrics look promising and with Apple's apparently imminent announcement of fingerprint sensors in iPhones the mass market will tip.
Furthermore, the report reveals that over one third (39 percent) of UK consumers predict that they will be relying on their genes to rush through the paying kiosks, using facial recognition or iris scanning technology. 32 percent of respondents believe that they will be able to speak to pay by using voice command payment systems.
Setting aside the Hollywood-inspired nonsense about genes, I'm unconvinced about automated face recognition or iris scanning because these are passive biometrics that may draw a public backlash. There's a big difference between me as consumer putting my finger on something, an act of active invitation to recognise me, and a retailer (or whoever) passively tracking me.
And so to the point. What I thought was the most interesting part of this survey (and, I'm sure, the real reason for it) though was not the part about using mobile phones to pay but the part about using mobile phones to get paid.
The survey also unveils that many consumers are consciously choosing a supplier that accepts card payment over one that does not, as they form a negative impression (72 percent) or consider it as a sign of poor customer service (28 percent). Nearly one fifth of UK consumers consider non acceptance of card payments as a sign of a business being unprofessional (19 percent) and in the past year, one in five (20 percent) UK consumers have abandoned a purchase as a result.
Hurrah! It looks as if I may not be as far from the main stream as I thought. When I stop in somewhere to buy a coffee or a sandwich and the retailer doesn't accept cards, particularly contactless cards with their reduced interchange rate, I naturally assume that they are a front operation for organised crime or tax fraudsters. I consider them unprofessional as well. And I have more than once put down the drinks / sandwiches / whatever and walked out when cash is demanded, so it's nice to see so many other people doing the same. But are the comments specific to cards? I might think the coffee shop outside the station to be unprofessional for insisting on cash, but do I care whether they accept cards or maybe have their own app?
If I go to the station every day, or a few days every week, would I care about downloading an app specific to that coffee stand? No. It would suit me perfectly. I could open the app while I'm still on the bus, order my latte and pay for it and then jump off the bus and pick it up. There are companies such as LevelUp that easily provide an economical white label wallet for mom-n-pops to skin and you could easily see how it might work in practice: I download the wallet and the skin to buy coffee at a stand by Woking station and then when I go to download it again to buy lunch at a food truck in New York ithe system sees that I have the wallet already so it only downloads the new skin. I don't even have to add my payment card or bank account because the wallet already knows them.
You don't have to take cards to be professional, but you do have to take something and now is the dawn of the Something Present (SP) transaction era.