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Friday, June 23, 2006

Trend: Cashless Society: Contactless Payment

Much has been made of a future movement toward contactless payment (MasterCard PayPass, Visa, Chase Blink, etc.) This article shows a World Cup promotion made by an Austrian watch maker: a watch with a built-in MasterCard PayPass.

While it is not necessarily the prettiest watch ever built, it does bring up the issue of how to make contactless payment appealing to consumers. The first applications of contactless payment were meant to speed up transaction times at places like McDonalds or Starbucks. While this is nice for the consumer, most of the benefit lies with the retailer; if the consumer still has to wait for their food or beverage, speeding up the credit card transaction time does not speed up the entire guest experience and it certainly doesn't get them out of there faster. So the benefit in contactless technology must rest somewhere else if it is to catch on with consumers.

This payment watch brings up another advantage of this technology - not having to carry or take out your wallet. The real benefit of contactless technology could be in embedding a payment method in something that you carry with you all of the time - your phone, your watch, or even your arm(?). The last one may be a little controversial but it does make the point - does a key fob benefit the customer if it is another thing they have to carry around with them (like a credit card)?

Some trials have begun in situations where speed actually is important, such as mass transit. But in the majority of places where contactless currently exists, is there a real benefit to consumers? Paying quicker to wait for your latte won't drive widespread adoption.

1 comment:

Rob Mortimer said...

The Oyster card in London and Octopus card in Hong Kong (especially) are extremely useful at speeding up the huge numbers of people on the tube/bus/tram.

Its also used in most HK corner shops, which is extremely useful when you dont speak a word of Chinese...