The UK's Post Office has launched an electronic money transfer service that allows recipients to receive funds using a barcode sent to a mobile phone or e-mail address.
The Post Office says its new service, called payout, allows companies to distribute cash payments at a fraction of the cost of issuing cheques. The system can also be used to distribute money-off vouchers.
Companies using the system send a reference code by text, e-mail or post to the recipient. This barcode can be scanned at any Post Office branch counter and the recipient receives an instant cash payment.
The service also offers the option to send payments using postal orders or gift vouchers for redemption against the companies' own products or services.
An optional data capture service is also available to allow companies to gather market intelligence about customers' preferences and purchasing habits, says the Post Office.
Gary Hockey-Morley, marketing director at the Post Office, says: "Our new payout service not only enables companies to make promotional and incentive campaigns stand out from the crowd, it can also be used to make instant refund and compensation payments. The wide range of payment channels ensures that businesses can expect improved response rates, at the same time as making significant cost savings on campaigns which have previously paid out using cheques."
Trials of payout with British Gas and Unilever resulted in positive response rates and feedback from customers, says the Post Office, with both organisations now intending to extend the use of the new service.
Unilever used the service for fulfillment of an on-pack promotion for one of its products. Joanna Weston, Unilever direct communication executive, says: "We didn't have a clear fulfilment process in place to make a large quantity of small payments to our customer base. This could have been problematic for us as raising a cheque is 600% more expensive than using the Post Office payout postal order service.
"We found the whole process of issuing 22,000 payments was extremely efficient."
In April UK e-payments firm PayPoint said it was introducing a mobile-phone-based loyalty scheme that will allow shoppers to receive money-off coupons via SMS text messages. The Shop, Scan, Save scheme will enable consumers to receive and request discount coupons by text message.