A Different Way to Pay

Paying for goods and services with a phone is nothing new : they enable contactless payments. However, today's phone is a much more interactive than a credit card, enabling new payment conveniences.

A Different Way to Pay
Photo by Clay Banks / Unsplash

Paying for goods and services with a phone is nothing new : both GPay and ApplePay enable contactless payments using NFC technology. In essence, the phone replaces the credit card. However, today's phone is a much more interactive than a credit card, enabling new payment conveniences. This articles covered two examples, one that works and one that does not.

Paying at a Restaurant

Paying at a restaurant can be a tedious experience. If the waiter is very busy, you might be waiting an unnecessary amount of time. This problem is even worse in group, as only one person can use the payment terminal at a time.

Pro-tip: when eating out in a group, avoid the line and pay with cash. You can pay the waiter while someone else is using the payment terminal.

Ninety Nine Restaurant, a restaurant chain in the US added an online payment option, allowing customers to pay for their food from their mobile phone without having to wait for the waiter. It is a great time saving idea, both for the customer and the waiter. However, the experience was less than satisfying.

Ninety Nine Restaurant bill, complete with QR Code for easy payment

The payment experience start with a QR code found at the bottom of the Ninety Nine receipt. Scanning this code with your phone forwards you to an online version of your bill. After a few button press and some long waiting time, you are provided with a credit card form to fill out. We could not complete the transaction as the web form forced a numeric zip code, which is fine in the United States, but unusable for Canadian visitors.

If paying online is about convenience and saving time, this is completely loss  by the four separate payment screens and manual credit card input. The experience can easily be streamlined by using existing mobile payment platform, such as Apple Pay, Google Pay or Paypal. Asking customers to manually input their credit card adds a tremendous amount of friction, which defeats the convenience of the system.

Paying for Gas

Most modern gas stations will require a customer to pay for their gas before pumping it into their car. The customer can either pay at the pump, or with the clerk inside the gas station, both of which take time. Mobile, Exxon and Esso pioneered fast payments with their SpeedPass keychain, allowing customers to pay for gas by swiping a RFID keychain near the gas pump. In 2019, the keychain was retired in favour of a new app.

In Canada, when a customer drives up to an Esso gas pump, he has the option to pay using the SpeedPass+ app. The application will use either location services or a QR code on the pump to identify the location of the customer. The customer is then prompted with a payment screen, allowing them to confirm which pump to use, the payment solution and any applicable loyalty program. The app can even upsell the customer by offering him to pay for a car wash. When tested with an iPhone, the "Authorize Pump" button displays an Apple Pay screen, which in turns only requires a button press and a smile.

Payment prompt on the SpeedPass+ app

This is a great example of time saving and convenience. It is a good example of leveraging the interface of a mobile phone to streamline the experience for the user.

Lessons Learned

Having  experienced a number of alternative payment strategies in addition to the ones covered in this article (Starbucks, Subway, etc), successful solutions have a number of things in common :

  • They offer an important advantage over existing systems : for example, they might allow a customer to pay without having to take out their wallet. They might also allow for a customer to complete the transaction faster than they typical could.
  • They leverage mobile payment systems : this is also about convenience, as mobile payment systems are designed to be simple and faster.
  • They offer additional incentive to the customers : many of these systems are combined with loyalty reward program, which encourages the customer to overcome the initial friction of setting up the system.

Exploring new payment solutions is an iterative process: some ideas will work and many will not. Curiosity is important, because repetitive use of good solutions provides positive feedback to providers, encouraging them to continue innovating.

Did you have a good or bad experience with an alternative payment method. Share in the comment box below. If you enjoyed reading about alternative payment methods, you might be interested in learning more about crypto currency. And you can get more Technodabbler articles directly in your email box as they are published by subscribing to our mailing list.