Smart money is betting on the next technology to go the way of the typewriter in the mobile age. According to a widening number of retail and marketing professionals, the big winner – or, should I say, big loser – is the traditional cash register.
“If ‘Video Killed the Radio Star,’” observes James Wester of Fast Casual, “then it may be time for the tablet to kill the cash register.”
Ever since Apple introduced roaming retail associates in its stores, all equipped with the tools to complete a transaction on the spot, retailers and restaurant owners have foreseen the death of the traditional cash wrap. After all, why force customers to walk to a register if an associate can finish the sale immediately?
This year at Mobile World Congress, mobile payments are all the rage. As a result, headlines are coming out of Barcelona fast and furious. What do they all have in common? They speak to the age and influence of mobile in retail.
In short, each headline is a new obituary for clunky, expensive, out-of-date cash registers.
“Small business owners represent the segment driving mobile payments adoption most aggressively today,” admits Charler Napier, an industry analyst speaking with Bloomberg.
Napier, however, sees parallels between the early days of mobile advertising and the turning tide of mobile payments.
In April 2010, during Apple’s iPhone 4.0 developer preview, Steve Jobs unveiled Apple’s eagerly-anticipated mobile advertising platform, iAd. Apple’s foray into mobile advertising had been anticipated since Apple acquired Quattro Wireless in the wake of AdMob’s absorption by Google.
“For a time,” Napier says, “it looked like Admob and iAd were going to be the lone superpowers in mobile advertising. Now they’re probably the least talked about. Scores of other enterprising young ad networks have moved the industry ahead – Millennial Media, Tapjoy, and others. Same thing is true of mobile payments.”
According to Napier, the mobile payments landscape largely dominated in the headlines today by Square and GoPayment will start to shift in the favor of other quality – and possibly superior – solutions providers.
“Just like iAd and Admob, which were outdone by the innovation of competing ad networks, Square and Intuit need to be mindful of their competition,” he warns.
Napier is among the growing number of industry watchers who believe PayAnywhere is poised to continue its recent surge as a mobile payments provider for businesses.
“Times are still tough,” Napier explains. “Businesses want to avoid high fees, long contracts, and additional charges hidden in the fine print. PayAnywhere has an excellent reputation in this regard and I think you’re going to hear more about them and others in the space.”
As recently as December, PayAnywhere announced that Pep Boys would soon be merchandising the PayAnywhere credit card reader for mobile devices in its retail stores nationwide.
“Pep Boys customers can securely process credit and debit transactions right from their mobile device,” an announcement from PayAnywhere confirmed. “By selling the PayAnywhere mobile credit card reader in its stores and online, Pep Boys is providing independent contractors and repair shops with an important and powerful payments tool shown to boost revenue and increase customer satisfaction.”
So what does it all mean in the big picture? For starters, traditional cash registers will soon be a relic of retail worthy of a window at your nearest museum.
With 66% of in-store transactions made with plastic today and 180 million Americans carrying credit or debit cards, it’s no wonder why retailers and merchants of all sizes are flocking to mobile platforms that have brought epic change to the world of retail.