Despite the ever-growing number of payments service providers, the payment experience itself will inevitably fade away into history (more precisely, become a back-end operation). However convenient and user-friendly modern payments solutions developed by financial technology startups can be, the transactional part of every interaction is not the most reasonable target to work towards. In fact, the invisibility of a certain process can be the cornerstone of a seamless experience, contributing to the usage growth and expanded opportunities for businesses.
External trendsetters are working on fading the transactional part from interactions, providing an uninterrupted experience. “In a way, invisible payments can make payments a more integrated, intuitive part of the user experience,” suggests Chris Francis, Vice President of Market Development at WorldPay.
Emphasizing the role of outsiders in transforming the financial services industry, we encountered a few curious developments that have been assertively moving B2B, B2C & C2C interactions beyond the payment and the physical interactive interface overall, fading away transactional experiences to focus on the goal of interaction with a customer. More interestingly, neither financial institutions nor the FinTech startup community are the main trendsetters in this movement away from focusing on the payments stage of any exchange.
Payment is not the goal, neither is it a final stage of B2B, B2C, and C2C interactions
It's not the payment itself that constitutes a successful interaction of any business with its clients; it's the experience of the product/service that business offers. The payment is only a step toward connecting people with one another, and with brands, rather than a self-sufficient activity and value. So, where are we really with invisible payments and fading transactional experiences?
Shopping without the payment
Amazon is one of the companies that came razor-thin close to bringing the idea of a payment-less shopping experience into reality with its concept of Amazon Go store. The idea is to eliminate the whole part of standing in lines to make a payment as the payment experience itself is removed from the most payment-centered activity – shopping.
Amazon Go’s Just Walk Out Technology automatically detects when products are taken from or returned to the shelves and keeps track of them in a virtual cart. When the customer is done shopping, he/she can just leave the store. Shortly after, Amazon charges the customer’s Amazon account and sends a receipt.
Another payment-less experience has been introduced for a dining affair by Tao Cafe by Taobao. Guests can scan their smartphones at the door, grab what they need, and after they step out, the bill will be automatically sent to their smartphones. Tao Cafe was actually a pop-up at the Taobao Maker Festival, created to showcase the Alibaba Group’s “cashier-less” retail experience.
As explained by Nylon, the cashier-less experience starts with the customer opening the Taobao app on his smartphone and using it to scan a QR code at the Tao Cafe entrance, which then generates an electronic pass to grant him entry into the store. He can pick up whatever he wants to purchase in the store; and to check out, all he has to do is walk through a payment corridor that automatically detects the items and deducts the cost from the customer’s Alipay account.
As for the cafe portion, the edition continues; Alibaba has removed the need for counter staff by basically powering the whole ordering process with voice and facial recognition. Customers can order their food and drinks just by saying what they want; the technology will process the order and deducti money from customers’ Alipay account automatically.
Smartphone will go away, dragging mobile payments along
Facebook and Apple are putting all their eggs in a basket that has nothing to do with mobile, previously considered to be the future of the financial services. Facebook is now betting its future on augmented reality, the nascent technology that promises to overlay virtual information onto the real world and eventually replace smartphones with something like a pair of glasses or even contact lenses.
Meanwhile, Apple, at the company’s WWDC 2017, outlined an interesting trend that could bury smartphones in the next 10 years, making any mobile payment developments irrelevant.
“Augmented reality – this is going to be the new operating system and that was the big news at WWDC,” Gene Munster, Apple Analyst and Founder of Loup Ventures, said to FOX Business’ Stuart Varney. Munster, considered one of the top Apple watchers, added, “[It] is going to change how we interact and it is eventually going to replace the smartphone. Think of the smartphone eventually going away in the next 10 years. That is the next wave.”