It is notoriously difficult to predict what the future will look like and which innovations and inventions will stand the test of time. Even the most expert and decorated individuals have struggled to forecast with consistent accuracy. Take Sir William Preece, the Chief Engineer of the British Post Office, who in 1878 said, “The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.” Our Bill was a little off the mark, but history is littered with similarly inexact projections. 

Some things though, are a little easier to predict. The development of payments technology is following a trajectory that allows us to make estimations that probably won’t be too far off the mark.

Digitalisation triggering transformation

The digital revolution, as well as powering a range of innovative, next-generation technologies, is transforming payment processes and systems to a point they are becoming unrecognisable to methods available only a decade ago. Indeed, the way we complete transactions in another decade will look more different still.

Certain landmark technologies such as AI and the IoT, coupled with constantly evolving global consumer demands such as Borderless Payments, Financial Inclusion and Frictionless Customer Experiences are normalising mobile payments.

Here, we look at three avenues that are expected to become well-trodden…

  1. Biometric identification payment technology

For the uninitiated, biometric identification payments refer to those technologies that use human physical characteristics such as voice, fingerprint or facial features, to detect and identify a person to then approve a payment.

There are multiple benefits to biometric identification payment technologies, not least that they are so secure with there being no need for storage of sensitive financial information and passcodes. For retailers, they allow for more sophisticated customisation of shopping experiences based on average spend and purchasing history.

Biometric identification for payments isn’t widespread just yet, but the pace at which the technology is improving and the appetite for it amongst retailers and customers alike, it won’t be long before it’s everywhere.

  1. Payment with data

The concept of paying for goods with something other than traditional money is not a new one. The problem though, is finding a form of currency for which there exists consensus around value and which is easily transferable. With our personal data, it is a problem no more.

Using personal data as a form of currency has already been pounced on by the innovative folk behind Shiru Café, a coffee shop in Rhode Island servicing staff and students at Brown University. Patrons of the café are not asked for money when their caffeinated refreshments are handed to them, instead they are asked for personal information such as phone numbers and email addresses coupled with their consent that a selection of companies can contact them with offers and promotions.

Though it might seem a great way of keeping pounds and pence in your back pocket, paying for services with data is a controversial notion. It would not only lead to us handing over even more of our data to more third parties, but it would also lead to users living under an almost constant barrage of advertising. To what extent it becomes common place will be interesting to observe.

  1. Social shopping

It is the bugbear of our age – just how much time we spend on our phones. Hours and hours a week we spend staring into these rectangles. For many, their phone is the last thing they put down before going to sleep and the first thing they pick up upon waking. Absorbing our attention for most is social media and retailers have cottoned onto this in a major way.

As a service to those retailers that use social media platforms to sell their goods, the various platforms have created ‘shop now’ buttons which mean users can begin online shopping without even leaving the app.

This streamlined, friction-free social shopping experience uses flexible, dynamic mobile payment processors which integrate with the mobile shopping cart and the social media technology. An individual, scrolling through cat memes and holiday pictures, can inadvertently scroll to a post advertising a pair of trainers they like the look of, and within four or five clicks, have bought them.

Going forward

Digital payment technology is expediting the emergence of a cashless world. It is diversifying the portfolio of commerce tools and leveraging innovation to help companies deliver stronger, seamless and more personalised customer experiences.

For retailers, these technological developments will soon render physical cash registers at the POS redundant. In the meantime, financial institutions continue to develop global payment ecosystems that are breaking down geographical barriers and making payment systems as mobile as their users.

Digital technology is simultaneously transforming the payment experience and organisations’ business models. It is moving to a point where payments become safer, easier and in some cases invisible, being fully integrated into the purchasing process.