The future of retail payment processing

Have you ever been waiting in line for what feels like an eternity? Perhaps the cashier is new, or the person infront of you has to sort through twenty credit cards, or maybe there just simply isn’t enough registers to handle the demand. It’s clear there are many tiny nuances that arise when the process of checking out is not automated. The current design of physical in-store purchases is limited by numerous variables, most of which arise from a lack of automation. The need for human intervention to process orders and payments creates a bottleneck in which the user experience suffers.

Many companies have already realized this and are moving towards automating the process of ordering and paying, the best examples being ‘McDonalds’ and ‘Amazon Go’. There are very easy to use touch screens where you can order your meal and customize it exactly the way you would like. And Amazon has created a store in which you are able to pick products up off the shelf and simply walk out of the store and it automatically charges your account. These are very intuitive for the customer and provides a seamless way to fix the current design issues without costing the company (rather, it would save them money in the long run). The major reason why this new style of transaction is not widely used is because of technology limitations, but soon enough the technology will be very much able to handle these menial tasks, and it will cost less than paying a worker. Thus there will be a very large incentive for companies to switch over and it will mean a huge shift in the design of consumer operations.

The best way to go about designing this type of technology would be to have specialty stores where each item has an electronic tag to detect when it should release the item and charge you — imagine a ring or something similar with technology embedded to automatically detect the product. Then, as you walk out the store, you pass through a scanner which charges you through your phone. All of this happens behind the scenes and you receive a receipt by e-mail.

The system must be designed in such a way that it is not confusing for the customer, otherwise it could potentially be worse than the current system in place. Especially for elderly customers who are not experienced with technology. Having trained cashiers on site to guide the customer through the process and to provide a good customer experience is truly a great benefit that can not be entirely replaced by automation. The stores in which this human interaction is crucial will still very much benefit from an automated technology but just in a different manner, as they will be able to direct more resources towards customer support. So, the system should be fully automated and require no manual work from the customer other than entering their initial payment information (bank account, debit, credit, etc) when they receive the application. The whole idea is to make things easier on the customer while also improving core qualities such as calculability, predictability, and efficiency which in turn provides a consistent high quality experience for the consumer.

While the current system of manual checkouts works good enough in most cases, it is often unnecessary to have so many people involved in the process when all of it can be automated and that manual labor can be directed to more useful areas, especially in the more generic situations like grocery stores or clothing stores. This “one size fits all” solution of manual checkout fails to take into account the many changing variables in consumers experiences and opinions. This is simply the first step in realizing what more can be accomplished if we free up our poorly allocated resources to design for tomorrows requirements rather than yesterday’s needs.


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