If I told you I stopped off at Starbucks for a latté and took an Uber back to the office, you probably would not be that impressed. It is a normal thing to do these days. Nothing to write home about. Or should that be, “nothing to WhatsApp home about.” But, the fascinating thing about this excursion is the amount of money that changed hands. Exactly zero.
Of course, I paid for my latté and my ride, but neither the barista nor the driver saw any cash or cards. It was all done out of sight, through the companies’ respective apps, and I was left with the singular pleasure of the cashless purchase experience.
Maybe you think there is no life-changing pleasure in taking a cab or an Uber. But, for all the times I have had to wrestle cash out of my pocket while wedged in the rear seat, or worse. Then, hand off the debit machine from the front to the back in the dark of night. I can say that stepping out of the cab without having to remove my wallet, or sign anything, makes me feel for a moment like part of the jet set, and reduces the odds of forgetting something in the cab, by being distracted.
I do not need to feel concern for the whereabouts of my easily lose-able debit card, knowing the details of paying the fare are being handled online by Uber’s computers. When I pay for my coffee, I will actually accrue some loyalty points, and even if I had chosen the subway in place of the Uber car to get back to the office, a simple tap of my transit payment card is infinitely easier than rooting around for change.
The simplicity and pleasure of the instant payment card is tangible, even in these small situations. It will prove to be so in even greater measure once more retailers adopt Apple Pay as a payment option within their own establishments. There are other instant payment systems available, of course. Android Pay, for example. But, as with so much of what Apple does, its cachet is poised to lead the transformation of the retail store from a “box of merchandise with a cash register at one end” to an actual shopping experience where no barrier exists between customer and store, like, well, the Apple Store.
Hundreds of Apple Pay early adopters already exist, including giants like Subway sandwiches, Walgreens, McDonalds, and Macy’s – and this type of momentum only leads to further acceptance.
Although Apple Pay still connects behind the scenes to a shopper’s credit card, the actual elimination of the physical action of paying promises to bring consumers even closer to the brands and the products. It keeps them intimately wrapped inside the experience. As such, it paves the way towards the retailers’ ideal – a frictionless relationship in which nothing stands between a shopper’s desires and a retailer’s delivery.
This has profound implications for marketers and retail store layout designers. Every point on the floor becomes a POS. Every employee becomes a sales associate and virtual cashier, and every item is purchased on spec, rather than all at once at the checkout. Stores will be laid out differently, winning back precious floor space from the checkout zone, and impulse purchase displays can be placed anywhere.
Most importantly, the full value of shopping will be embedded further into the smartphone, something that everyone carries, and holds the key to a completely tailored experience, with suggestions, incentives, loyalty points, store maps, and now, a seamless payment system.
The future will likely see apps vanish entirely into the shopper’s body, embedded inside a smart tattoo, lapel pin, or earring, with glasses or smart contacts offering the visual guidance. And, with an ironic twist, the more internal these transaction systems become, the greater the incentive for people to come back out on the floor and shop in person, once again.
[This post originally ran on the Retail TouchPoints Blog here]
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