There are few certainties for brick and mortar merchants who want to be around in 10 years’ time, thanks to the rapid evolution of technology. But at the very least, they should prepare to wave goodbye to the cash register as they know it, and to dealing with cash and even tap-and-go cards.

The writing is on the wall. Denmark may soon become the world’s first cashless society. Its government plans to no longer force certain types of retailers to accept cash from next year.
Cash, it says, is costly to carry and besides, in the near term at least, it will be all about mobile phone payments. Think Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google’s planned Android-based payments system – all headed down under soon.
Retailers will also enter the fray to protect sensitive data and keep transaction costs down. Already in the US, Merchant Customer Exchange, a consortium of several large retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target and Best Buy, is piloting a smartphone and digital wallet app called CurrentC.
The banks are fighting back too. CBA, for example, hopes to disrupt the local payments space with Albert, a tablet that allows merchants to take payments securely anywhere in their stores, providing them with real-time analytics and business insights to improve efficiencies and grow sales.
Similarly, PayPal recently unveiled a mobile payments terminal that enables merchants to accept payments using near field communication, which allows two devices placed within centimetres of each other to exchange data securely.
But the future isn’t limited to smartphones.

Contactless and wearable

Some banks around the world already allow customers to use contactless watches, keyfobs and stickers to pay for goods. Other wearables such as smart glasses, earrings, fabrics, contact lenses and tattoos are set to follow. As are biometrics, which use physical traits such as fingerprints, facial features or voices to authorise payments. In fact, St. George Bank and Westpac customers can already logon to mobile banking using their fingerprints.
With fingerprints easy to lift from surfaces, some experts see vein or iris scanning as the way to go. Indeed, Syrian refugees can access their funds without a bank card or PIN in Jordan right now via an iris scan. And in Poland, customers can withdraw from ATMs via finger vein readers.
Looking ahead, expect a further explosion of innovations as more players emerge to disrupt how things are done and established forces continue to fight back.

Customer is king (or queen)

In 10 years time, you will have forgotten about paper receipts and queues as customers increasingly wave, nod or blink their way past invisible “tills”, earning rewards and taking up targeted offers as they go.
Customers will need a very good reason to enter bricks and mortar stores in the first place. To stand out from the crowd, retailers will have to provide the best “retail theatre” both physically and digitally, continually monitoring customer responses using technologies like smart sensors and facial recognition, combined with big data, to reshape the experience in real-time.
Service will be highly personalised, whether by humans, holograms or other “pop ups” providing answers before consumers even think of the questions. Customers should expect intelligent fitting rooms and tracking technology to lure them in when close by.
Otherwise they will shop elsewhere, seeking the best deals across via comparison shopping engines, relying on sophisticated product review aggregators and enjoying speedy delivery by drones dispatched from regional warehouses.
That said, what won’t change is what makes great service. That is, being recognised, listened to, valued and cared for.
This article represents the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of BPAY.
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