What can payments learn from coffee?

By Adam Davies, Operations Executive • Visa Europe

January 09, 2015

How is it that coffee sets me up so perfectly for the day ahead? It’s a controversial topic – perhaps it’s the caffeine, though some argue it’s just a placebo. Perhaps it’s the warm drink on a frosty morning, but why, then, is it just as effective in summer? Perhaps it’s the cheerful barista wishing me a good day as they hand it to me.

Or perhaps it’s because, secretly, I’m enjoying myself when I buy and drink it. There’s something about walking into work with my coffee in hand that takes me back to my childhood. A passing business man or woman, armed with coffee in one hand and Blackberry in the other, was an aspiration for 10 year old me.

One day, I told myself, I will be the grown-up strolling into work with a coffee and a phone with a gazillion buttons. And here I am: checking my Blackberry in the queue for my morning coffee, re-living the memories and chuckling to myself: look at me, all grown-up!

Payments have a lot to learn from this. How, you ask? Simple, if a cardholder enjoys making a payment, they’re more likely to want to do it again. Right now payments aren’t particularly fun or sexy; they are just part of the process that happens when we try to buy something.

Payments took a step in the right direction with contactless, which made the process faster, more modern and – let’s be honest – just plain cooler than chip and PIN. They took another step forward with the contactless Pay Tag, which can be attached to whatever you want (for me, it’s my phone). So when I go to pay, I tap my phone against the reader, and, after that brief moment where everyone looks at me like I’m mad, a satisfying beep sounds to say that payment was successful and normality is resumed – apart from the one guy in the corner who now thinks I'm guilty of witchery. We’ve moved on much farther in 2015 with Apple Pay and tokenised payments, facilitating fast, modern transactions capable of providing additional insight to consumers with real time alerts.

But this still isn’t an enjoyable enough experience for me to look forward to the next use, and I know what you’re thinking – will there ever be a payment so enjoyable?

Interestingly, 2014 delivered a new innovation that got me excited to pay someone (even if it’s not currently available in the UK), which creates hope for a future of enjoyable payments: Snapchat’s SnapCash. The service enables users to ‘make it rain*’ on their friends when they send a personal payment.

Personally, I think the feature looks thoroughly entertaining and, although the same attraction may not resonate with you, I think Snapchat did an exceptional job of marketing the new feature to their primary user base: Gen-Y. By making the experience unusual and enjoyable they will increase usage as more people want to try it out (I know I do).

In summary, as I look to the future I hope to see more than just fresh coffee every morning. I see a future of exciting, new and fun ways to pay. I’m waiting for payments to reach the point where users want to pay, even when they have nothing to buy.

* ‘Make it rain’ is the phrase Snapchat use to describe the ‘throwing’ of digital notes from the payer to the payee’s phone. This feature can be seen in the SnapCash advert.

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