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Payments should be about choice

The payments landscape is in a state of flux and has been for the last ten years. However, we finally have the technological agility to deal with change and meet consumer expectation. It is this synergetic meeting of ability and technology that can really drive change. What does this mean for payments? Well they are already attracting a lot of press as industry giants and disruptive start-ups alike pour investment into creating the latest innovations that solve X,Y and Z. With all these new payment types from wearables to crypto-currencies, have we lost sight of what payments mean to the consumer?

Payments aren’t broken, they aren’t a problem that need solving. Cash is apparently dying, yet  according to MasterCard, globally 85% of retail banking payments are made in cash. It’s quite difficult to dispute the relevance and importance of cash when it has the longest product lifecycle of all payment types, give or take a millennia.

I personally can’t be bothered with cheques, but clearly plenty of people can. 72% of businesses in the UK received payment by cheque in 2013 according to the CCCC, and yes it went down 6% on the previous year, but it’s still nothing to be sniffed at.

What about cards? Cards serve us so well, I can’t count how many types there are on both hands; from the humble debit to the virtual prepaid, cards solve a multitude of problems and offer the consumer a choice of solutions.  Dare I mention contactless? That crazy card that saves us mere seconds off payments under £20, and is apparently somehow 53% quicker than normal card transactions.

We can pay by phone on the move, anywhere we go. No one can deny the convenience that the mobile device delivers. But is it really the future for everyone? Please don’t get me wrong here, I really do think that contactless and mobile have a place, and that they will, and are going mainstream.  My argument isn’t that new technology isn’t useful or relevant, it’s that it isn’t a replacement. I love innovation because it gives me more freedom and more choice. I get a cheque from my mum on my birthday, my husband transfers me money via the internet for bills, I can tap my card at Pret, pay for the bus with cash (no, I don’t live in London), use Paym to split the bill for dinner out with friends using my mobile. It’s great!

Where I start getting a little less enthusiastic has to be around wearables, but hey they are new. I’ll watch this space and see what happens, even if I’d rather wear a shell suit than google glasses. Who am I to decide what people want? I’ve heard people rave about contactless wristbands, even though my mum thinks they are bracelets that magically don’t touch your wrists.

My argument is simply this: innovation has brought us choice and we should embrace it. We’ve all been in the industry for so long, we’ve forgotten what the consumer wants. You can throw as many stats around here as you like: in the internet age of today you should be able to find something to back up any argument, but what are we really talking about here? 

Do consumers want a more efficient and modern way to pay? Do they care about interchange fees and the cost of handling cash? We all drone on about the customer journey, customer-centricity and giving the customer what they want, but are we actually doing that? The customer wants convenience and security and I think all payment channels have something to offer. So can we please stop talking about channels dying and singular channels being the future? Let’s be payment hippies and fight for a multi-channel, omni-channel, pro-choice world.


Comments: (1)

Melvin Haskins
Melvin Haskins - Haston International Limited - 16 October, 2014, 11:43Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Hooray for Bethan. At last someone who has pointed out the facts around payments. I agree with her wholeheartedly. The future is about choice, and many people, like Bethan and me, want as many choices as possible. I use cash, cards and internet banking. I also have an Oyster card (I do live in London). But I will not be paying using my mobile phone for many years to come because I lack confidence in the security and do not want a contactless credit or debit card because of the risks involved if the card is lost. However, if others want to do so, that is their choice.

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