According to the people at Visa Europe, 2012 is going to be the year that ‘contactless payments’ take off here in the UK – heralding a new era when we will all be purchasing low cost items (£15 or less) with a wave of our payment card or NFC equipped mobile phone. No need to type-in a pin number – just ‘wave and pay’.
The technology to enable this has been available here for a while now, with Barclaycard launching their ‘OnePulse’ card using Visa’s contactless system back in 2007 and partnering with Orange to launch the UK’s first NFC mobile phone payment system in May last year. But it seems that a combination of lack of consumer trust and lack of bank and retailer interest has kept the take-up at a pretty small scale to-date. Two thirds of the UK population are currently unaware of which banks offer the service and only 20% of people with suitable payment cards have ever actually used them, according to recent YouGov research.
However, this is apparently all set to change – with Samsung and Visa capitalising on their sponsorship of this year’s Olympics here in London to make it “the world’s first contactless games”. Plus a growing number of retailers joining early adopters like McDonalds with the introduction of suitably equipped tills; and Transport for London planning to equip all buses and Tube stations with contactless payment units by the end of 2012. I don’t know about the rest of the country, but certainly on that basis it looks like you won’t be able to escape the Contactless Payment trend if you’re anywhere inside the M25 this year.
If all this takes off, then we will be running to catch-up with the US where the introduction of Google Wallet and the launch of a number of NFC-equipped Smartphones (no sign of an NFC iPhone as yet though) have led to contactless payments growing apace. Although, in turn, they are some way behind the world leaders in contactless mobile payment – who are the Japanese, where over 10% of the population were already making NFC-based mobile payments by the end of 2010.
What’s in all this emerging ‘wave and pay’ technology trend for fundraisers? Well, it offers a very simple additional form of mobile donation opportunity beyond the current SMS or web-based transaction. While I guess it won’t offer the equivalent contact data collection, thanks to the simplicity of contactless payment perhaps at last we could see the cash collection tin come into the digital age – with street and event fundraisers able to take ‘wave and pay’ card or mobile donations at a rather higher value than the traditional coin in the bucket? This Christmas the Salvation Army in the US started accepting card payments using Square card-swipe readers attached to Smartphones as part of their seasonal red kettle collections, to overcome reductions in the number of people carrying cash. So an NFC red kettle can’t be that far away!
Depending on just how the NFC reader technology is implemented, we might also be able to have donations made through charity show windows (good for emergency appeal donations) or by waving a phone across a suitably equipped poster or in-store fundraising point.
This is the eighth of twelve posts that I’ll be publishing throughout January on trends I think will prove to be important for digital fundraising in 2012. You can find the previous trend post, on Getting Smarter With Email, here.