Is mobile payment excluding an important audience?

The world is being whipped up into a frenzy as the transition from cash to contactless transactions runs rife. The identity of good old fashioned bank notes and jingling coins is coming into question as consumers of today reach for their ‘digital wallet’ instead. But what we want to know is, is this technological marketplace excluding certain audiences and subsequently undervaluing the importance of their custom?

What is all the fuss about?

London has become known as the ‘cashless capital’ for its full-throttle commitment to the cashless and contactless payment generation. Small business and big companies alike are being urged to jump on the cashless bandwagon and customers are being encouraged to ditch the cash and take advantage of these modern transaction methods instead. Notes and coins are fast becoming relics of the past as consumers and business owners are nudged towards mobile payment services like Apple Pay.

In June this year tech giant, Apple announced that it would be launching its Apple Pay service in the UK and would be bringing a majority of the country’s banks and over 25,000 merchants on board. Apply Pay will enable customers to make in-store and online purchases via their mobile devices using one-touch transactions. In-store transactions will be made by presenting the device to a payment terminal, while online purchases will be completed via a downloaded app.

Research done by the UK Cards Association showed that July 2014 was the first time that the value of non-cash transactions exceeded cash payments, with the food and drink sector proving the most active. But what about those customers who just want to pop into their local convenience store to pick up a pint of milk, a bottle of wine and sneaky Freddo Frog? In all the excitement, is our new-fangled generation of time-conscious busy-bees now overlooking the humble shopper of bygone times? Quite possibly.

The forgotten consumers

In the midst of the harassed millennials and thirty to fifty-somethings flitting from city to city, going about their very important business, is the older generation and the unpractised youngsters. Sitting at opposite ends of the age spectrum but both united in their less-technological lifestyles, elderly folk and children manifest a significant market that is potentially being excluded by the mobile payment movement.

Both of these generations of consumer are much less likely to own a smartphone so what are they do when the shop assistant asks them to open up an app or show their device to the contactless payment terminal? Ofcom statistics have shown that while 90% of 16-34 year olds use a smartphone, only one in five 65-74 year olds do, so provisions surely need to be made for the 80% of older customers who opt out of mobile payments.

This year one of the country’s biggest councils converted a vast majority of its parking spaces to operate via a pay-by-phone system, which has created many an issue for elderly drivers. Campaigns have been started to encourage the council to put more consideration into its less technically active customers, with companies like Saga, which focus on the needs of over 50s, backing the efforts. Spokesperson for Saga, Paul Green, said:

“Car parks should be designed around the users, not just for the convenience of those that run them. […] Technology should be used to help liberate people and offer more choices, not to find ways to exclude them.”

Overlooking and excluding audiences just doesn’t make good business sense and certainly isn’t conducive to a positive consumer experience. Rushing customers through the shopping process and hurrying them through a conveyer belt-like system with barely any interaction from sales staff doesn’t make for the memorable and inviting experience that consolidates crucial customer loyalty. This specific issue is definitely obviously more prevalent in the bricks-and-mortar retail and hospitality worlds but a pressing matter nonetheless.

A happy medium

A total conversion to contactless payments and mobile transactions, which rely solely on the working order of modern technology, is a dangerous game. It’s undeniable that these payment methods are a positive progression in the efficiency, speed, convenience and regulation of transactions for both business and consumer but a little more awareness for those sitting on the outskirts of the mainstream is what many believe is needed right now.

Of course technology is a wonderful thing and to be quite honest, it would be difficult to make it through an hour without it these days but is dissolving the need for cash completely really a wise idea? When technology inevitably experiences hiccups and we’re all scrambling for physical money once again, it’ll be those forgotten pro-cash customers who are getting the last laugh.


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