In God we trust – all others must pay cash. A common phrase in America in the early decades of the 20th century. A funny one-liner, something which shopkeepers in a small town might still put up in their shops to discourage credit.
Nowadays, we keep hearing about a cashless society. The revolution in payment technologies has facilitated the development of electronic payment systems to such an extent that the notion of a cashless society seems to be drawing ever closer.
In spite of predictions regarding the elimination of physical cash as a transaction medium and its substitution with an online or mobile payments system, coins and banknotes are still used as payment, but more and more systems present themselves as better alternatives.
We dedicate this round of industry news updates to this highly debated topic, as reflected in the noteworthy stories of last week. How do technology giants encourage this transition from cash to cashless? What is the state of affairs in some of the countries? What do customer preferences indicate? Are they ready?
The ‘Gang of three’ and their latest cashless moves
The pursuit of a cashless society has been going on for years, with major tech companies introducing cutting-edge devices and strategies for digital payments.
Among them, PayPal, Google, Microsoft are set to potentially get themselves a bigger piece of the action.
In a bid to encourage consumers to give up cash, PayPal is removing its fees for euro money transfers between friends and family in Ireland. Until now, the company charged 3.4% and 35c per transfer funded by debit or credit card.
PayPal claims it has 1 million Irish users. The company estimates that Irish people are owed about EUR 575 million in small unpaid debts, according to research cited by irishtimes.com.
Google continues developing new technologies set to improve the customer experience in real life. The company has recently added a series of new features for its Google Shopping service aimed at physical and local merchants. The move is part of the company’s strategy to bridge the divide between online and in-store commerce.
Such new functionalities include: the “See What’s In Store” feature, which lets physical stores provide a list of their inventory for free on Google Maps. Thus, shoppers will be able to use the tool to search for a specific product and see which local stores have that item in stock, or to search the entire inventory of a single store. In addition, Google will now provide location extensions on video campaigns on YouTube.
In similar news, Google has also partnered with Carrefour to enable a “new grocery shopping experience” in France. As of early 2019, customers will be able to buy Carrefour products through the Google Assistant, connected speakers like Google Home, and on a new Google shopping website in France.
As of last week, Microsoft has allegedly started working on technology that would eliminate cashiers and checkout lines from stores by tracking what shoppers add to their carts, Reuters reports.
India‘s grand plan to go cashless
As stated in one of our previous articles, when it comes to cashless worlds made possible, India has an interesting story. In 2015, a MasterCard report found that India was one of the countries least ready to transition to a digital payment system. However, 12 months later Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the “demonetisation” of high-value currency notes.
Digital payments are witnessing rapid growth (from the equivalent of 2.6% of GDP in FY15 to 6.8% in FY18) and eCommerce sales are expected to climb 31.% this year and reach USD 32.70 billion. If the transition to a digital society is possible in India, then it can happen anywhere.
China is one of the countries that leapfrogged credit cards and went straight to a cashless society with mobile phones. The country moves further towards a cashless society as payment giants Alipay, WeChat Pay – the top two preferred payment options among China’s consumers – gain more popularity.
As reported by Ecommerce News, Alipay plans to expand its reach by becoming available in 20 countries across Europe at the end of this year. The mobile payment platform has already closed agreements with over 100 banks and 40 digital wallets companies across the continent.
Instagram continues eCommerce journey
In May this year, Instagram introduced a payments feature that enables users to register a credit or debit card to make payments within the app. Now, the social media platform is expanding its eCommerce offering to its Stories feature.
“From Adidas and Aritzia to Louis Vuitton, people have been able to shop from their favorite brands around the world, and now you can shop these businesses in Instagram Stories. (…) Brands have always been early adopters of stories, they create some of the most viewed and engaging content on the platform. Now, you can shop from select brands in Instagram Stories with more coming soon”, the company said in a press release.
Of all the social media platforms, Instagram ranks second in its power to influence customer buying decisions, according to a recent report by eMarketer.
Cash – a matter of choice?
Innovations in payment systems are changing the payment landscape of many countries, mainly driven by the development of the technology involved in delivering cash-free payments, bringing the possibility of a cashless society several steps closer.
Turning from cash to cashless forms of payment raises a number of issues, among which lack of privacy and anonymity, as well as exposure to fraud and phishing attacks. Also, just two weeks ago, we saw a major flaw in the vision for a cashless society in Europe. Hardware failure led to millions of Visa card payments being declined. For some, cash continues to be the most universal, reliable form of payment. Trust is a major part of it, and the fact that many people still have a strong, emotional connection to cash.
Regardless of its advantages and disadvantages, it is only a matter of time before a cashless society arrives. The technology is there to enable it, but what about the possibility for such a change to be just around the corner? We have to leave that to you – the consumers.
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