Payments are Changing Retail and Unattended Retail Can Benefit

By Amy Zirkle, VP Industry Affairs, Electronic Transactions Association

Significant changes to the form and function of brick-and-mortar commerce are grabbing headlines in the retail world. Changes to the way we shop – from the option to purchase goods online and pick them up in a store, to ordering a meal from an app for delivery, or checking out at a convenience store by simply walking out with your items – have captured both the consumer’s imagination and substantial investment by retail players.

These innovations are powered by changes in the way consumers pay. Payments technology companies have taken the traditional cash or plastic transaction and digitized it to create a seamless, frictionless, digital payment option for both consumers and merchants.

Take mobile payments. The Electronic Transactions Association’s (ETA) 2019 State of Mobile Payments report found that 55 million people in the United States used mobile payments in 2018, whether by pre-loading money into an app like Starbucks, or by adding a credit or debit card to a mobile wallet like Apple Pay to tap-and-pay at the point-of-sale. Further, 100 hundred million contactless-enabled bankcards – ones that have NFC transmitters that allow for speedy and secure EMV transactions – have been put into the hands of consumers in 2019 alone.

This digital shift in payments is a tremendous opportunity for unattended and automated retail environments.  These cashless payments have been found to boost customer engagement and subsequently increase volume.

A 2019 study from Michigan State University found that machines doing less than $2,000 in volume per year saw a 110 percent growth in revenue over 18 months when going cashless. Further, all machines, regardless of revenue, experienced an increase of 26 percent in the number of transactions.

Additionally, a Visa and USA Technologies study found consumers spend an average of 32 percent more when they pay with a card or mobile payment versus cash on small-ticket purchases. Tapping a credit or debit card or a payments-enabled smartphone eliminates the $1 “ceiling of convenience” and allows vending retailers to keep prices competitive, and their machines profitable, without adding an inconvenience to the customer.

With contactless payments and mobile wallets, it’s impossible to rob a vending machine of the tokenized bits and bytes that are the payment, insulating the machines from the risk of theft. With advanced payments data, owners get instant insights into their customers and the performance of their machines. And, as contactless acceptance increases in storefronts and is integrated into public transit, parking and other new environments, acceptance of these types of payments will become critical to your growth.

However, I’m not saying that cash is irrelevant. Cash is still a presence, and few in the payments technology industry predict, or even aspire to, the elimination of cash. Cashless payments on unattended machines don’t replace cash for all consumers, indeed they can stimulate such payments:  low-performing machines that added cashless acceptance also experienced a 97 percent increase in cash sales according to Visa.

The future of retail is changing for the better thanks to payments technology, and unattended retail is no exception. As you are upgrading your machines, consider differentiating your products from the competition by consulting with your payments provider to add digital payments to your arsenal.


Contributed by Amy Zirkle, Vice President of Industry Affairs for Electronic Transactions Association (ETA). ETA the leading trade association for the payments industry, representing over 500 companies worldwide involved in electronic transaction processing products and services.


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