What’s missing from a winning contactless strategy is the human element on the finish line – at the point of sale.
Give the man serving on the tills at Boots on Camden High Street a medal! After several years of being in possession of contactless debit and credit cards, someone has finally educated me on using contactless payment at the point of sale.
All credit to the Boots colleague for stopping me as I went to push my card in the pin entry device and explaining that as my debit card is contactless I could just touch it on top of the reader. As I live in London I regularly use my cards in stores with contactless infrastructure, but having staff that prompt you to use it makes all the difference.
Which leads me on to the Olympics. The games venues have a concentration of contactless terminals - 3,000 across all the sites - at the food and beverage stands, merchandise stores and even at Coca Cola’s vending machines. Games sponsor Visa is using the event as a showcase for its payment technologies such as contactless and prepaid cards, and also mobile payments.
Having been an Olympic sponsor for 25 years it is fortuitous that London 2012 has come at a time when Visa is trying to push the idea of new payment technologies hard.
But after my experience in Boots the other week it’s clear to me now that however many new ways to pay are created, and however many retailers invest in the infrastructure to accept these payment methods, the missing link is some enthusiasm from store staff.
On-site at the Olympic Park yesterday, it was heartening to see a server at a catering outlet clearly aware of what was going on when a Visa representative paid by tapping her phone against the contactless payment terminal.
The Samsung phone and Visa payment app is only being made available to the athletes and those taking part in the trial for now. So it was extra impressive that the server understood that phones can make payments.
But if the Olympics is going to have a more long-lasting contactless payments legacy then many more staff in stores need to be as knowledgeable and helpful as the guy in my local Boots.
If consumers are to change their behaviour and cross the contactless payment finish line at the tills, they are going to need a gentle push from store staff to get them there.