Bluetooth and NFC: On the Forefront of Industry Innovation
It has been a tumultuous few years for consumers. Industries are pushing forward with proximity technologies which, just yesterday, seemed the stuff of science fiction. Many consumers are eagerly on board, while others balk at the thought of the familiar being done away with.
Truly revolutionary moves are often met with petitions, complains, and protests. In 2016, Apple rocked the mobile phone industry by omitting a standard technology which seemed essential to many – the headphone jack. They recognized the technology as reliable and superior in many regards – thereby pushing the rest of the industry towards wireless. Two years later, Bluetooth headsets are just as common as those requiring a headphone jack.
Bluetooth is jump starting transition periods in many industries. It is not radical to predict the altogether disappearance of headphone jacks within the next five years. Clip art showing wired headsets will join the ranks of VHS tapes, Film Reels, and Floppy Disks to baffle future generations and make the current generation, fast-forward ten years, feel truly old.
The headphone jack seemed inherent to listening to music, How much more easily could we transition from cash transactions, already overshadowed by credit and threatened by decentralized crypto, to NFC and BLE mobile payments?
The End of Cash
A cashless society isn’t a far-fetched idea. While many people value the anonymity of cash, few make large purchases in the medium, opting instead for the added-value perks of credit. The rise of micro transactions, small purchases made on credit, points to a shifting attitude towards credit and mobile payments. It isn’t uncommon to pay for your morning coffee with a Visa or Mastercard and being able to track these small purchases is a major benefit of using credit. Wonder no more as to where your entire paycheck went – applications lay it out for you in easy-to-read spreadsheets and visuals.
Retailers Scrambling to Offer Mobile Pay
Consumers expect to do more with their mobile phones. I needn’t list all the capabilities of smart devices – you, the reader, have as much expertise as I do. Mobile Payments, one of the most promising capabilities of smart devices, is not necessarily new, but is beginning to take center stage. Samsung, Google, and Apple have responded to demand by releasing mobile payment capabilities and mobile wallets for consumers to make NFC (Near Field Communication) payments. Retailers who want to accept mobile payments and incorporate in-store advertising and marketing campaigns can do so easily by adapting their current terminals with a small easy-to-install Bluetooth SIM. Mobile payments can also be prompted without adapting terminals. Bluetooth Beacons, small battery-powered devices mounted on surfaces throughout a store, can work together with applications to prompt payments using mobile. Why would retailers bother with giving customers this option? Mobile payments make businesses more successful through value-added services such as mobile loyalty, mobile offers and redemption, big data reporting and analytics.
Ready or Not, Here Comes the Mobile Wallet
At the risk of infuriating and alienating customers, one downtown Seattle Starbucks experimented with refusing cash and only accepting plastic and mobile payment options. Just as Apple drove Bluetooth innovation by removing the jack, Starbucks and other large retailers may drive mobile payment innovation by refusing cash. Starbucks has little to lose by making the move to mobile pay. The company has its own mobile payment application which has seen great success. In fact, in stores which did not not have stellar sales growth, cash-sales were blamed for slowing down the system. Starbucks is only experimenting with its cash-free policy but may roll out to more stores after analysts measure its effect on the customer experience.
Starbucks isn’t worried about alienating customers. As a rep noted, “The vast, vast majority of people don’t use cash in the first place”
Though the first major retailer to experiment with a cash-free location, Starbucks is not alone in its bold move. LA-based restaurant Sweetgrass, boasting 75 locations across California and the Northeast, is cash-free in all locations, with no detriment to its bottom line, and across the pond, cash is already on its way out.
No Wallet, No Worries
In Europe, cash-free retail stores are already mainstream. Last year, Danish legislators opted to allow retailers to ban cash altogether. “We’ve recognized what merchants have been telling us for some time now,” says Sofie Findling Andersen of the chamber of commerce. “Using cash is expensive, because it takes time for salaried employees to handle, and it’s also a security concern. Carrying cash opens you up to attack and even though we have relatively low levels of violent crime in Denmark, this is something business owners and employees tell us they worry about.”
In a few years, we may look back at 2018 as the domino year in which mobile wallets and mobile pay begin to eclipse traditional payment options. To read more on the benefits of mobile payments, take a look at Why Businesses Need Mobile Loyalty Programs or find out How Bluetooth Payments Work.