Anyone living near a high street or remotely interested in tech will have noticed the new wave of shop-apps. Apps that let you pay without cash or a bank card. They’ve been around for a while – best known is perhaps Starbucks’ own app. Now it seems other businesses are clocking on – thinking tech is the way to go to be able to compete for customers in an increasingly dense and overwhelming market. The media has been writing about it for months – and it is now very visible to the public, too. The Telegraph wrote an article in March – Apps Replacing Wallets, and Mashable did A Round-up of Wallet Alternatives in June.
According to Google the interest in payment apps has had a steady but rapid rise over the last few years – and it becomes clear browsing the big brands on the high street – one after the other is launching an app. E-commerce mothership Amazon is also in on the game – but has launched a more traditional solution which dabbles in the grey zone between a traditional till and an app – a card reader that links to a smartphone or a tablet. Matt Swann, Amazon’s vice president of local commerce defends the product as follows; “Payment tools need to be inexpensive, simple and trusted to get the job done.” We think Swann is touching upon something very important here. For small businesses, cost matters. Budgets are often tight, and there is an innate reluctancy to chance, as it may very directly affect the business. For mobile apps this means it could be hard to get recognition as a trusted payment alternative, both from the merchant and the consumer’s perspective. However, with PayPal’s success in mind, this might be down to simple behaviour and habit. PayPal has become a trusted brand, and is expanding their reach all the time. The brand is widely regarded as a preferred way to pay online – because once the account is set up you never have to put in your account details, and you are also amply covered by PayPal’s insurance should something go wrong. A pioneer in digital payments – and probably a big reason so many are trying to become part of the huge success, by offering their own payment apps.
Downloadable to most smartphones, the app functions as a copy of your bank card. Most commonly you register your card details to load your account with a specific amount, which can be topped up as you wish. As long as there is money in the account you can use the app instead of your card or cash – theoretically removing the need to carry money. Not that we are suggesting you drop your wallet at home – there are too few merchants using it at this stage. There are also several potential pitfalls – an internet connection not working, a code scanner problem, or any number of other technical kinks that makes that supposedly super smooth time-and-effort saving initiative a source of irritation rather than smiles. If the places you shop in regularly use is – give it a go. The sheer volume and rise of new apps makes us think this will become an all the more familiar thing, but it needs to gain traction and stability before that happens. Are you using any payment apps? Are there any you would recommend? Share your experience with us – we’d love to hear it!