By Mitchell Brandt
Wallets are passé. And who carries cash anymore? Debit and credit cards take too long, and there’s always that receipt you never know what to do with (and feel bad about throwing away). What’s a person to do? Starbucks has answered the call of payment-fatigued patrons by offering the option to pay using a Blackberry, iPhone or iPod touch. Customers can simply download the free app, load any dollar amount they’d like and head to their closest S-bux (oh, and the app can show them where that is, too). So what does this mean for point-of-sale transactions?
It seems like we’ve heard quite a bit about alternate payment forms, and with nearly one-third of Starbucks customers using smartphones, that platform made the most sense for Starbucks. Other companies have tried before, but Starbucks is the first to roll out a nationwide plan. Customers in 6,800 stores (and 1,000 locations in Target stores) will be able to use the technology. Those electing this newest form of payment will be able to simply hold their phones in front of a scanner on the registers—the amount of the purchase is deducted from their preloaded balance.
Should everyone follow suit and develop a smartphone app? Why not? While what Starbucks is doing is quite rad, not every customer is going to be willing to take the extra steps beforehand to simply save a few moments in line. (Doesn’t it really take just as long to pull out your phone and bring up the app as it does to pull a debit/credit card out of a wallet?) But there is infinite value in staying ahead and looking at what’s next. At the pace things currently change, it is invaluable to explore forward-looking concepts and ideas. Say you have a loyalty program in place, how can you expand it and bring it to more customers? Numbers differ on exactly how many Americans currently own a smartphone, but nearly everyone is predicting that number to get much bigger—and quickly. How can you get in on that growth?
Customers are looking for new ways to customize their shopping experiences. For example, we’re seeing more and more self-service kiosks in quick serve restaurants. Allowing customers to control more of the interaction gives them the sense their orders are more customized—and it’s leading to higher overall satisfaction ratings.
The trend we’re seeing is the concept of more control being handed over to the customer—whether it’s how they order, how they pay or whatever the next step in refining customer experiences will be. The average person who comes into your store or restaurant is now more informed than ever before and has instant access to a wealth of information. Learning how your organization can better accommodate changing expectations is a valuable step to take much sooner than later.