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It’s the personal touch that generates repeat business

Old fashioned personal service is returning to the point of sale (POS) using a combination of mobile phones, iPads and the card schemes. Customers can just say their name, and the retailer will hand over the coffee or whatever because via the mobile phone in the customer’s pocket the retailer automatically sees on an iPad the customer’s name and a photo. All the retailer has to do is check the name given by the customer is correct and the photo matches.

This cashless system is provided by Square, which is available in the US and is coming to Europe. Retailers just download the free Square App to an iPad, which turns it into a digital cash register. Consumers create a free Square account by giving their name, setting up password security, uploading a mugshot and keying in details of their credit or debit card. So when Square-registered customers walk into a Square registered shop their names and photos automatically appear on the retailer’s iPad.

This is a whole new experience for the consumer and the retailer. The customer has to do no more than say their name to buy what they want, and they receive an electronic receipt rather than a paper one. No presenting of a card or taking out of the mobile phone. The retailers do not have to fiddle with the till, deal with change, buy a credit card machine or worry about tips (customers can preselect a tip % for all transactions). No wonder all 7,000 Starbucks in the US have just adopted Square and that Visa have invested in Square.

Many other companies are targeting this new way of making payments. Google have relaunched their Wallet, which turns its Android smartphones into a payment tool. Users have to waive their phone over the retailer’s touchpad to get their credit card debited. PayPal has its mobile money system. The biggest retailers in the US have just formed the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) to develop a mobile payment network, etc. But they will all have to go some to match the Square customer experience.

Adding the personal touch to payment systems is clearly very popular. This really is the beginning of the cash less society, but cash will be needed for a long, long time. 

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