99 Problems, But a Wallet Ain’t One.
My wallet is in a constant state of near explosion. I have rewards cards for Haggen, Fred Meyer, and Starbucks. Punch cards for Menchie’s, Pho 99, and Mallards. Gift cards to Target, Subway, and Jo-Ann Fabrics. And those are just the ones I use regularly. I’m constantly having to sift through the mass, trying to find that one card I need at the moment, and I know I’m not the only one. I’ve watched time and time again as people in line in front of me at the grocery store frantically search for their rewards card, or their credit card, holding up the line behind them and stressing themselves out. And it’s all so unnecessary.
Each of those cards is, after all, basically just a bar-code. So think of all of the space we’re wasting, and plastic we’re using, when there is such a simple alternative out there.
More and more businesses are creating smart phone apps. Some of these apps, like the one Starbucks uses, let the consumer load money onto their “card” via the app, and then pay and earn rewards simply by scanning the bar-code displayed on their phone. Other apps, like those used by Target and Rite Aid, have scanners built into them that allow you to check prices on products in store, keep track of coupons, etc. It would be pretty simple for them to add their rewards cards into the app. And these apps are being used. According to an article from Media Post last week, Starbucks customers are currently making an average of 4 million mobile transactions a week via the Starbucks app.
There are also apps out there now, like the “Key Ring Reward Cards” app by Mobestream Media, that allow you to download the info from all of your virtual rewards cards into one place. Who needs a wallet?
But these rewards card apps aren’t the only way you can use a smartphone to pay. There are new apps available that let you pay for a product or service simply by tapping your phone on a credit card terminal, or by launching the app when you walk in a store. While the number of these new start-ups is still fairly limited, there are 3 front runners: Google Wallet, Square, and LevelUp. Below is a short video showing Google Wallet in action.
Unfortunately, Google Wallet is currently only available on a few of the newest Android phones, and only on ones that use Sprint. So as neat as it is, until it has a wider audience, it probably won’t be taking off any time soon. On the other hand, LevelUp is currently the nation’s largest mobile payment network, and seems to be doing pretty well. They recently introduced “connected apps”, which work together with a business’s website to allow customers to create an order, place it, and pay for it all in three simple steps.
Check out LevelUp’s demo site for connected apps here: http://www.levelupcafe.com/
Out of the three though, Square seems like the most viable option. With Square, you download the app and enter your credit card information, personal info, and a photo into it. Then, when you enter a business that accepts payment via Square (which many small businesses do), you simply launch the app. When you get to the register you just tell the person behind it your name, and they use the picture that pops up on their screen to verify your identity. And done! You’re all checked out. You don’t even have to have your phone out. Once you launch the app you can put your phone back in your pocket or bag, and you’re good to go. Pretty cool right?
These types of apps not only reduce materials waste by doing away with the need for cards, but also can greatly increase convenience and speed in the buying process. As more businesses begin to realize the benefits of accepting forms of payment such as these, I think we’re going to see quite a bit of growth.