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Contactless and Cashless: Future of Payments in Retail Franchises

Over the last five years, contactless payments have become increasingly popular in Australia, primarily because they offer speed and convenience to both retailers and customers.

Long gone are the days when we had to carry wads of notes around with us if we wanted to buy something. Instead, transactions can be completed in a matter of seconds just by tapping your smartphone or debit card onto the payment terminal without the need to sign a receipt or enter a PIN number.

Born out of necessity during the COVID-19 pandemic, many retailers have adopted contactless payments as their preferred method of payment – while some have even migrated to a completely cashless system altogether. At the same time, customers have become more aware of the need to minimise the risk of them contracting the virus or something similar, so are more mindful to avoid touching others.

With contactless payments seemingly here to stay for the foreseeable future, it is clear that it will play a significant role in the retail industry going forward. Not least because retailers will need to ensure they use a Smartpay terminal to accept EFTPOS transactions and train their staff accordingly to manage this technology.

But given that it has gone from a concept the general public were largely unaware of to something the overwhelming majority now use in a relatively short space of time, it does beg the question of what the future of payments in retail franchises will be in Australia over the next decade or so.

Well, outlined below are ten things which could define the payment industry in that time. We are not saying they will happen, but there is a strong likelihood that they might.

 

We will be a completely cashless society

While the move to become a cashless society was kickstarted in the 1970s, thanks to the introduction of the bankcard, it really gained momentum during the pandemic when people embraced contactless payments as they were too afraid to touch coins or notes that were potentially infected.

Even before that some people had stopped carrying money around with them and this trend has continued post-pandemic. Some experts believe Australia might be completely cashless at any point between 2030 and 2040.

As Generation Alpha is being brought up in a society where paying for goods and services with cash is a much rarer occurrence than it once was, it is fairly safe to assume this prediction will come true sooner rather than later.

 

Payment terminals might go to

With most of us carrying Android or iOS phones around with us it would also appear that the days of the payment terminal are now numbered too.

According to the recent Mastercard Digital Purchasing Survey, around 80% of Australians use tap and go payment on a regular basis.

Given there is a push to develop even better point-of-sale (POS) systems that are contactless-enabled, you can expect this number to rise for in-store payments in the next few years.

 

Digital wallets might make physical cards obsolete

Perhaps one of the most telling signs that contactless payments are here to stay is that 40% of Australians currently don’t take a physical purse or wallet into a store if they have their smartphone with them.

This would have been inconceivable even five years ago, but the retail landscape has now evolved to a point where digital wallets are becoming increasingly relied on.

Offering a more convenient and flexible way for customers to make in-person payments, the overwhelming number of people who do this are under the age of 50. So, debit and credit cards might still have some relevance for a little while longer.

The question is, how long?

 

Biometric-enabled payments will become more popular

Biometric-enabled payment processing technology has been around for a while. But it is definitely gaining traction within the payment industry in recent years.

This technology uses eye, facial, fingerprint scan and voice recognition to validate and complete purchases made on a mobile device. It is also used instead of PIN codes in ATM transactions.

While the finer points of how it works are constantly being tweaked, customers who currently use it get to enjoy enhanced security, added convenience and a faster checkout process whenever they purchase something. Conversely, sellers can also save money through more streamlined payment processing.

 

Popularity of BNPL (Buy Now, Pay Later) will increase

For many consumers in Australia, BNPL – better known as Buy Now, Pay Later – has been a godsend. Offered by the likes of Afterpay and ZipPay, it makes purchases more affordable by spreading the cost over four (as equal as possible) interest-free payments. Subsequently, a dress worth $200 can be bought immediately and paid for in instalments of $50 over a specific period – usually around six weeks.

Around 6 million Aussies are believed to have used this type of service in the last 12 months, a figure that is set to rise. For retailers this represents an excellent opportunity to tap into, which can even result in a higher purchase value from customers who are buying something they might otherwise not.

As a result, you can expect a significant number of retail franchises in Australia to sign up for and accept this form of payment in the years to come.

 

QR codes might become a fixture

QR codes were all the rage a decade ago and became popular again during the pandemic, particularly for in-store contactless payments, as they were seen as a convenient and safe way to make purchases. 

An increasing number of businesses are recognising how advantageous QR codes can be for them in driving engagement and streamlining the purchasing process. They are also sustainable as you can make real-time changes to them.

At the moment, QR codes are widely used in Western Europe and Latin America. Over the next five years, they are expected to continue to increase in popularity in Southeast Asia and Australia, as the likes of PayPal, Square and Shopify all have this technology as part of their offerings.

 

Consumers might pay for purchases by text, and live chat

You might not be aware of this, but SMS-based shopping and purchasing is an actual thing. And over the next decade it may well take off in Australia.

This practice is incorporated within the sphere of over the top (OTT)-based conversational commerce. It enables consumers to browse through numerous messaging and voice technologies including apps, chatbots, and conversational, AI smart speakers like Alexa.

While people have been using these technologies to assist them with customer service-related issues, there is a good chance that the opportunity to shop and complete their purchase via text message or live chat will also appeal to them.

Should the bigger stores assume this capability within their payment suite, smaller business retailers will need to follow suit.

 

 

Super apps are on the rise

A super app is a mobile platform that offers various services such as commerce tools, payment processing, communication and personal finance management. These apps also provide personalised services like food delivery, cryptocurrency and stock trading, dental services and personal insurance.

Currently, several Asia-Pacific countries have successful super apps, and the signs are that Australia, and the western world is ready to follow suit. As consumers become more tech savvy, they should be more open to using this facility to track the payments of all their favourite merchants in one platform.

Moreover, for retailers and other small businesses, they will be able to better facilitate credit and contactless payments, debit card acceptance and subscriptions. For consumers, they can use various options to complete a purchase, including BNPL (buy now, pay later), scan a QR code, pay via mobile phone or even seamlessly split their purchase across several payment methods and instalments.

 

Payments by voice command gain traction

As voice search and command technology are improving, more people are adopting it, particularly in America where 35% of adults own a smart speaker (according to Voicebot.ai). As a result, voice command has become an increasingly popular channel for commerce with almost $20 billion worth of purchases made by it in 2023.

As with many things that are popular in America, this is a trend that could find its way over to Australia in the coming years.

 

Automation powers more payments

Artificial intelligence (AI) and Automation is now playing a leading role in the business world, which has recently translated to the payments industry. The implementation of automation practices has helped some businesses to improve their profitability, efficiency and accuracy, which has caught the eye of many others who plan to follow suit.

Although there has been some reluctance in the past, consumers are now more open to this technology than ever before. In fact, a recent report has suggested that shoppers would not be discouraged from purchasing from a retailer that uses automation technology and some would actively encourage it. So again, this is another avenue businesses might choose to tap into in the pursuit of a competitive edge.

 

Final thoughts

In most retail buying scenarios, the checkout process can significantly influence the experience of the customer. It can even play a part in determining whether a sale goes through or not.

Customers are increasingly after quick, hassle-free and safe transactions when it comes to buying goods or services, both in-store or online.

As a retail franchise it is important to keep up with these payment preferences, in a way that is affordable and sustainable for your business to ensure you do not miss out on any sales – and potentially – repeat sale opportunities.