My Contactless Experience Thus Far

Analyst Blog

Jan. 7, 2013, 11:35 a.m.
Phil Sealy, Senior Analyst

My Contactless Experience Thus Far

I received my contactless debit card around 6 months ago and wanted to share my contactless payments experience, concluding on how the setup of a contactless terminal can make or break the experience and what if anything can be done to improve the experience?

To date there are a number of UK retailers that have nationwide contactless terminal rollouts including Boots, McDonalds, Starbucks and Subway. I do not shop at all of these retailers, but have used the card with varying degrees of success at both McDonalds and Boots.

The Boot’s Contactless Experience

After filling my basket with various baby products I proceeded to the checkout to pay. The total bill came under £15 and I noticed a contactless sign on the POS terminal so decided to go for it! The cashier asked how I would like to pay to which I responded contactless. She didn’t look at me strangely or as if I was a mad man so clearly understood the contactless payment concept and the fact that Boot’s were offering contactless as a payment method.

So to complete the transaction I tried to tap my card onto the terminal. This did not work. I tried holding the card in place for a longer period of time. This also did not work. I tried to tap my card in various different locations on the terminal. That also did not work. The cashier took my card and had several goes herself with no success, even rubbing my card against the terminal, perhaps in the hope that the payments genie would come to her aid. At this point the queue behind me was starting to build up. By this point it would have been much quicker for me to have paid in the traditional chip and PIN fashion or by cash.

The cashier then had a eureka moment “I need to select the contactless payment icon on my till in order for your contactless card to be accepted.” With the simple press of the button and a quick tap of my card the transaction was accepted, although the experience had already been ruined.

Summary

· Although the staff at Boot’s clearly knew that they had contactless acceptance capabilities, they did not know how to complete the transaction. Training staff from step one through to transaction acceptance is key

· The fact that I had to inform the cashier that I wanted to pay contactless in order to activate the terminal is an additional step that is not required. Once the bill is totalled the user should simply be able to tap the card to the terminal and leave. After all the whole concept of contactless payment is tap and go and not, state your payment method, activate the terminal, tap and then go.

The McDonalds Experience

My contactless experience at McDonalds is quite the opposite of that experienced at Boots. In fact it was perfect, smooth and just worked. Once the bill was totalled the staff member turned their back to fetch my order and I simply tapped the contactless card to the terminal and the payment was processed. There is no question of, how you would like to pay, no additional steps, just a quick, easy and clean process. In fact I am not completely sure that the staff member was aware of the contactless capabilities the terminal has. McDonalds contactless terminals seem to be set up in such a way that the terminal is ready or primed to take either chip and PIN or contactless payments. How does the cashier know what digital payment method I used when there back is turned, unless upon transaction completion the payment type is shown on the till screen. McDonald’s is also one of the only merchants I have seen that are actively promoting contactless payments with promotional in store signage and messaging. Most other merchants offering contactless payments seem to be reliant on small signage around the POS terminal or the signage that is actually printed onto the terminal. McDonald’s promotion of the technology is a good example of how to increase awareness and thus adoption with signage that is both clear to read and understand.

McDonalds Summary

· Good, clean and effective set up. No additional steps required to complete the contactless transaction

· Transaction speed was extremely quick. Is it too quick? I now have more time to think about how long my food order is taking!

· The terminal set up seems to be done in a clever way, where no interaction is required from the cashier

I have also tried to use the card on a number of other occasions, but the staff members either didn’t know how the system worked or on attempting to tap my card to the terminal did not process. I suspect it is because an additional step is required like the set up in Boots.

In order for contactless to succeed it has to be quick and easy. The setup must be done in such a way that no staff interference is required. Like the Oyster travel card in London, it should be a simple tap and go experience with no other human interaction required. Are some retailers a little worried about contactless technology? I get the impression that there may be a little mistrust in the technology from certain retailers. Are they worried that if the terminal is constantly active that someone else my accidently pay for goods they did not purchase by bushing past or near with their handbag/wallet? I am not sure on the exact reasons for some retailers to require human intervention to complete a contactless transaction, but I do know that is completely ruins the experience. I hope that this does not continue to be a method adopted by other retailers yet to adopt contactless.

McDonalds set up is a good example of how a contactless payments system should be set up. It could be used as a case study or example of how best to implement contactless payments.

I will report back again in the near future, once I have got more use out of my contactless card. Hopefully next time, all the reviews will be positive!