Living in a city like San Francisco, I love the ability to hail a cab or sedan using my Uber app at a moment's notice. And one of my favorite parts about using Uber is being able to jump out of the car at the end of my ride and not have to deal with the process of paying. My card is on file with the app and I'm charged once the ride is over--no signing, no confirming, tip is included--it's seamless. There's something incredibly delightful and freeing about not having to deal with the actual transaction.
So why aren't more companies using the "Uber method" and giving us a better way to pay?
What's out there
We've been dreaming about being free from the shackles of payment for decades. And according to a recent article on Coca-Cola's blog, "While people have used their smartphones to shop online for several years, 'tap and pay' transactions are just now catching on. Mobile payments hit $172 billion in 2012 globally, a 62 percent increase over the prior year. For a company like Coca-Cola that relies on folks making purchases on the go this translates to big bucks. Through a partnership with the Isis joint venture created by AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless, Coca-Cola is piloting vending machines that let consumers buy drinks and rack up MyCokeRewards loyalty points with the simple tap of their phone."
To Coca-Cola, cashless is priceless.
There are also some other companies making some definite inroads. Look at Square's Wallet app. When you walk into a store or location that you've authorized, the app automatically connects to the store's point of sale. You don't even need to take out your phone. To pay, you just tell the cashier your name. He or she taps your picture on the register and boom--you're on your way. Awesome.
Similarly, the OrderAhead app offers free online ordering from hundreds of local takeout restaurants on your desktop, Android, or iPhone. It allows you to save time and avoid waiting by ordering ahead. What I love most is that I can pre-order and pay for my coffee from Philz right from the app, then just walk in and grab my cup (with my name on it) and I'm out the door. Meanwhile for those not using the handy app, there's usually a line out the door.
The folks at PayPal have also been paying attention (no pun intended). The company released its redesigned mobile payments in September, with $100 worth of in-store deals, more food spots offering the "order ahead and skip the line" feature, and a function (in trial) that allows you pay for a restaurant bill without flagging down your server. This function is available in over 50 locations, including City Winery in New York and 21st Amendment Brewery in San Francisco. To use the function, servers give users a ticket with a printed code at the start of their meal. After they enter the code, diners can order from the app, send feedback, and mark favorite items for their next visit. At the end of the meal, they can pay right from the app. Rumor has it that OpenTable will soon be testing a similar service.
The Big Disconnect
The problem with all these apps is that they're all disconnected. We have to use different apps for different things. And we do love the convenience of them. But, imagine if they could be joined together into one super app to allow us to seamlessly order and pay without having multiple apps to manage? Talk about a new way to pay!
What's your point of view on making the age-old act of paying a little less painful? Share in the comments.