I grew up in retail. I can remember working the cash register and evolving from asking “cash or check” to “cash, check, or charge” as everyone started carrying American Express, Master Charge (now Master Card) and Bank Americard (now Visa). Becoming a cashless society we have almost evolved out of writing checks, except to pay our charge card bills. How frustrating is it now at the grocery store to be behind someone who still insists on writing a paper check, holding everyone up, while they not only write it, but 45 forms of ID must be checked as well as obtaining approval from the entire management team from corporate?
Technology marches on and we have a plethora of new payment options that seemed impossible a few years ago, with more due just around the corner. As last year’s data breach at Target made clear, not taking security seriously, can seriously cost you………….and your customers. To recap, thieves stole some 40 million credit and debit card numbers between November 27 and December 15, 2013, costing banks and credit unions some $200 million in reissuing almost 22 million cards, and $100 for Target to thoroughly update their credit card security systems.
Today, we have PayPal, the online payment system owned by eBay since 2002 with 143 million active users. While there is little need for PayPal in a brick and mortar environment, it is a very useful ecommerce payment gateway for those eye care practices selling online. PayPal is so successful that even Amazon is expanding their Amazon Payments system to enable users to pay subscription fees and phone bills through their secure gateway.
Then there is Bitcoin, the online virtual currency. Created in 2009. There are currently 12 million Bitcoins in circulation with a creation rate of 25 every ten minutes. Each Bitcoin is worth roughly $600 at this writing. Mason Eyewear is one of the first online eyewear companies using Bitcoin.
The world is looking to mobile devices as the next big thing in payment options. While Near Field Communication (NFC), which works with mobile phones at a distance of 10cm (4 inches) or less has never become widely adopted (partially due to the fact that banks charge higher fees for mobile payments, companies like Apple are looking to create their own payment system that ties to the 575 million registered iTunes users and Apple’s adoption of a fingerprint reader for all their phones moving forward. Even PayPal is working on a fingerprint authorization system for mobile purchases.
Should Apple or Google create a successful mobile payment option, there will be virtually unlimited potential since we take our mobile phones everywhere. We will pay for parking, coffee, or even our eyewear by swiping our mobile phone in front of a reader or agreeing through a mobile gateway to pay our bill from our mobile phone. There are a lot of rumors as to what Apple will incorporate into their newest iPhones and iOs 8 system. It doesn’t matter if you are a fan of iPhones or carry one or not. iPhone users tend to be better off financially and earlier adopters of new technology, so a lot of companies are looking to working with Apple to create such a system.
Whatever the future holds for payment options, the phrase “cash or charge” is going the way of 10¢ cigar.
Daniel Feldman, is CEO of dba designs & communications a marketing firm and a co-founder to the Visionaries Group, an optical consulting firm specializing in helping eye care practices achieve success.