Here comes the… Cashless Economy

Disclaimer: I am no economist, accountant nor financial analyst. Read knowing its laymans speak ☺

Well I have been slacking on the writing; guess It’s not that easy to keep having fresh new stuff to talk about. You start with psyke….. then whaa, the imagination at times just goes out the window.

Today’s post will indulge my fans; yes you mate who is reading, in something that I’m no expert in. It’s about the Cashless Economy. And I don’t mean being broke ☺. I mean the era when we are seeing a more swiping culture. A time when people will be walking around with no actual money but instead, carry plastic cards.

I think the West is making huge strides in embracing this. If you go to a major airport in the States and happen to want to make a domestic flight to another state, chances are the attendant will ask, ‘Maam, credit card please?’ for her to make your booking. And even to check-in I know some US airports don’t even have attendants, it’s a DIY task where you simply go to the counter and check-in yourself by swiping your card to verify your booking. Buses too have installed meters, which read your card. So you can imagine when you are just about to board a bus and horrors upon horrors you don’t have the exact denomination of 3 quarters and you left your credit/debit card at your hotel! Apparently the driver (who also serves as the conductor) doesn’t hand out change. Your options in such a case is to either have the cash in pocket change or take a hike! ☺

Well, this just goes to show that the tables are turning; soon paper money is becoming old school and the paperless is in. More so, we see consumer’s desires for convenience and advances in technology are slowly making this long predicted cashless economy a reality in both mature and developed markets.

My take is that in this market, Mobile phone is the #1 in making this a possibility. For example, just take a look at Safaricom’s Mpesa service, which by the way currently is the most developed mobile payment system in the developing world. The model has gained admiration and is well studied in the West. It has simply revolutionized how people in this country transact. Gone are the times when a parent would place a ‘bunda’ of cash in their child’s socks and caution them to ensure they don’t loose the money as they are placed in a bus to go to a far off boarding school. Gone are those days when you had to (first ask for an off or sneak from work) to queue in line every month just to pay utility bills. Gone are those days when you had to arrange to meet someone in person just to give him/her money. Now all one needs is a valid ID to register their SIM card, get a password, and one can deposit, withdraw and transfer money easily with their mobile phone.

In the early 80’s if you had said that this would be possible, someone would have called you baloney. Now its possible, and the possibilities are becoming endless. Contactless technologies such as NFC (Near Field Communication) enable phones to store payment details that, in turn, allow users to pay instantly for smaller transactions. Other models include; QR codes, e-wallets and even biometric fingerprint scanner for authorizing and making payments.

What is happening is that consumers are leading busy lives. Many people are happy to spend a little more for making things a bit faster, hassle free and easier, whether it’s a new format, bundled product or innovative system. This applies to e-commerce as well.

It’s interesting to see that with these progresses, Designers also are challenged to design around this space. Mapambo, Mocality, Rupu and other e-commerce websites are clearly getting something right. They are making it easy for consumers to shop conveniently and having platforms that make transactions effortless. Its like consumers are no longer shy about negotiating over the face-less network divide. We more than ever, are mandated to start thinking about how we can use Cash-less technologies that offer consumers insights into their habits, rewards for loyalty, and/or even tailored offers and recommendations.

Inherently there is a call for smarter designers, coders who understand the consumers psychology and what would intrigue them (visually and emotionally) to make an actual online transaction. The question is are today’s designers well equipped and ready for this new emerging trend? My advice is we need to start looking at this space critically and make efforts to study about e-commerce. To some, I know the term ‘money’ is a big fat monster that they’d rather not face. Well that time is up folks.

So long as we keep in mind both consumers’ desire for convenience and their concerns over privacy and potentially overspending. We shall be good.