Invisible payments explained

Invisible payments explained

Invisible payments: a term you might have heard recently and one you are likely to hear a lot in the near future. But what does it actually mean? This type of payment takes cash, debit and credit cards, wearables, PINs and card readers out of the equation, allowing you to pay via a virtual wallet.

Payments are completed via third-party or branded mobile apps, which safely store your bank details so you can pay for that much-needed coffee at the touch of a button. This adopts a similar practice to many online stores – think Amazon 1-Click Ordering – but in a physical environment. As retailers and businesses in the hospitality sector strive to reduce queues and meet the needs of their increasingly time-poor customers, could invisible payments be the order of the day sooner than we think?

Whilst virtual payments are made using your mobile, they differ from contactless mobile payments  as you’re not required to present your phone at a checkout or terminal. Instead, the payment process has already taken place.

Skip the supermarket checkout

Wish you could pop into the supermarket without having to grumble at an automated till when actually, there really isn’t an unexpected item in your bagging area?

In May this year, we began trialing a new invisible payment concept – Grab+Go – which removes the need to visit a traditional till point. Currently implemented in some of our colleague restaurants in the UK and US, Grab+Go is designed to streamline the shopping experience for customers buying low-value goods. The app turns the customer’s phone into a mini checkout, so they can scan their goods as they go, complete their purchase with a single click, and then walk right out the door. The receipt for the goods is stored in the app too.  Since launch, grab+go has reduced average transaction time for colleagues on the 1 Churchill Place pilot from five minutes to just 27 seconds.

Amazon is exploring a similar concept with Amazon Go. Its ‘Just Walk Out’ shopping experience relies on computer vision and sensors that detect when items are removed from the shelves. The traditionally online retailer already has a large grocery store in Seattle, for use at present by its employees.

Whilst this method of shopping might be inefficient for a full trolley of groceries, it would certainly save time for those one-basket supermarket dashes.

A steer towards virtual payments

Drivers will soon see virtual wallets fueling their need for payment speed, as car manufacturers take in-car payment options up a gear to get you back on the road quicker.

When it comes to connected cars, new models of Jaguar’s F-Pace, XE and XF are embracing built-in touchscreen technology that can be used with an associated app to pay for fuel from the comfort of your car seat at Shell garages. But manufacturers aren’t necessarily confining themselves to the inside of a car.

Barclaycard is currently working with Citroen to bring contactless payments to the car keys of their DS Automobiles line. Drivers can unlock payments by simply taking the 2-in-1 key and tapping the terminal – but also track spending or top up their balance on the dedicated bPay app.

With the reduced risk of being caught short at the till when you’ve forgotten your wallet or phone, how long before this new technology gets the green light?

Traditional payments fading fast?

This new way to pay is gaining popularity, proving its worth by meeting the demands of time-conscious consumers. But how likely is it to replace more traditional payment types?

Whilst implementing the technology for invisible payments could prove challenging for large retail outlets with a multitude of product lines, companies providing services or a small selection of goods may be able to hop aboard the invisible bandwagon fairly easily. 

Some consumers may be concerned by cluttered home screens and app hopping, which could make this payment type less convenient than cards and contactless. However, ever-advancing technology and the need to be user-friendly will likely make way for invisible payments, which could quietly tiptoe into our day-to-day lives and routines.