A well-known giant in the IT and consulting space conducted the 2014 North America Consumer Payments Survey with a sample size of 4000, in order to understand and anticipate the forthcoming changes in the mode of payment preferred by consumers when they check out of retail stores. The results of the survey are startling enough to serve as a wake-up call for the honchos of organized retail, especially for those who are sure enough that data analytics is the only area they need to invest focus on. |
By 2020, it is expected that 18% of the shoppers who were part of the survey are likely to use Bitcoins and other digital currencies for paying their bills at point-of-sale or POS counters. More importantly, 40% of those who were surveyed gave an affirmative reply when asked if they had made at least one payment by using their smartphones in last seven days or so, which was a meager 16% back in 2012. All these statistics unmistakably indicate the gradually growing global trend of diminished usage of cash, credit cards and debit cards - instruments of financial exchange that dominate the POS transactions across the world.
Demographic analysis of the data collected during survey suggests that individuals born in the late 1980s or later are leading the trend. A new breed of consumers has emerged with gross annual family income surpassing $150,000 and they are not reluctant to flush retail stores with digital currencies during payment. In fact, among the shoppers belonging to the high-income group, 19% have adopted digital currencies as the chosen mode for transacting at POS counters. As a result, it is expected that by the end of this decade, cash payments will be reduced by 12%, accompanied by a slump of 6% and 3% for debit cards and credit cards respectively - demonstrating a decline in the popularity of plastic money for the first time in 50 years.
Most certainly, top executives of every big name in the organized retail sector are grappling with multiple issues. With the threat of losing competitive edge in alluring the young and tech-savvy consumer segment that is cash rich, also comes the cost-benefit ratio of investing on futuristic payment acceptance mechanisms. When the majority of consumers with modest spending power are still quite comfortable with conventional methods, decision makers are facing the dilemma of prioritizing one segment over the other.
However, as with other cases of common people adapting to new technologies, there is also a flip side that needs to be considered. According to experts, the wide scale availability of POS hardware and software that will facilitate payment by using smartphones is a big question. The hardware, being manufactured by a handful of companies, will hit the market pretty soon in a coherent manner. On the other hand, innumerable big and small software firms that codes standard as well customized POS software for retail outlets will have to start from the scratch, simply because of the hardware compatibility issues. Since this is an emerging genre of technology that is yet to be embraced by the mass, there will be disparity regarding the packaging and pricing of software. Consequently, it will not be feasible for retailers to simultaneously install and maintain both the types - the one that favors mobile payment and the other, which is commonplace. Thus, for average retailers, the conventional transaction methods will still bear the same significance.
Steve Jo is an authority when it comes to POS software for retail outlets. He is the chief software architect of Swadesh Software Private Limited.
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