News that more than half of UK retailers have quietly shifted their POS systems to take Apple Pay payments over £30 went mostly unnoticed by everyone. It was announced as an aside back in May and is only now being picked up. But the news is hugely significant for mobile billing & payments as it suddenly makes the mobile phone a more useful payment tool than the contactless card (which is still limited to £30) and heralds the arrival of invisible payments.
What has held mobile payments back in the terms of being used to pay for real world goods has been that it doesn’t really make things any better than they already are. For a brief period it was quite cool to whip out your iPhone to buy a coffee in Starbucks, but really your card was just as good. Now Apple Pay, at least, allows for the ease of contactless payments to be applied to all sorts of purchases.
We should revel in this mobile spurt while it lasts: contactless cards will soon be doing over £30 too in the UK and soon across Europe.
But what it does do is reinforce that mobile is a handy payment tool and, in theory, could well become the way to pay. Cards could well become a thing of the past.
But this is still really just the beginning and a baby step towards where we need to be. For me – and probably many consumers and certainly the payments industry, merchants and retailers of any stripe – payments Nirvana is invisible payments.
Apple’s +£30 move is great; Bango’s move to use carrier billing for real world goods bought on Amazon in Japan is also great. But the real deal with transforming payments with new tech lies in making two things happen.
First up, using the device to pay must also bring into play ways of using the device to automatically apply coupons and vouchers, must also automatically line up loyalty points, as well as storing receipts and more. It also needs to use this payments history to tie in with back apps, spending control apps such as OneDox and more.
But beyond that payments needs to become invisible. Barclaycard’s Grab+Go trial happening in selected UK stores goes a step towards this. Much like what Amazon proposes its Go Store will be like, Grab+Go – which won’t be tied to any one retailer, which makes it potentially very interesting – lets users scan the items they place in their basket, click pay and leave. No more queues, no more checkouts and no need to even contactless payments.
This sort of approach is certainly the future of retail technology and will make store shopping much more akin to the experience gained online.
But it is only a step towards eradicating the act of payments altogether. What if you didn’t physically have to pay at all? Being able to pick up what you want and walk with it and be billed automatically is appealing, not least because taking the ‘pay-n’ out of payments means people are likely to spend more freely and spend more. It’s like card payments: because you aren’t actually handing over a bundle of readies it doesn’t feel quite like you are spending ‘real’ money. Invisible payments does this in spades.
It also brings together the experience that many people now take for granted online – one click payments secured with a fingerprint – and which has seen them embrace the ease on online shopping at the expense of the real world.
Where does this leave telemedia? Well, any moves to make mobile payments more mainstream will have an impact, especially on those among us that are shifting their emphasis towards being payments companies, rather than just carrier billing firms.
But it also as ever throws up opportunities. Digital content sales already benefit from a degree of ‘invisible payments’, but changing perceptions of how consumers view any sort of purchase is vital to keeping the industry alive. Watch this space.