Startbucks and McDonalds have launched contactless payment apps

A few days ago I wrote about the coming of the mobile phone credit card!   Well it’s here.  Many people across the industry have been excited about the prospects for mobile and contact-less payments for some time now – myself included.

To catch the public’s imagination, awareness and indeed a widespread frenzy similar to that experienced at the launch of iphone 4 or the ipad,  it has a lot of impact when well known merchants and locations that people see in the high street or mall and buy from every day start to offer and promote new ways of paying.

This is what has happened in the last few days.

First we had Starbucks. The Starbucks Card Mobile App is now available at its 6,800 U.S. company-operated Starbucks, and all U.S. Target stores. Extensive rollout here. Just scan your phone and go with your coffee – it’s promoted as the fastest way to pay. Excellent move and my guess is that in future assuming it goes well we’ll see apps for other smartphones to add to BlackBerry and iPhone.

Next comes McDonalds, who have announced that contact-less card payments will be offered in all of its 1,200 UK restaurants by this summer, working with Visa. Oh, and, wait for it – the company is emphasising speed  – McDonalds prefaces “contact-less” by labelling it “lightning fast”. McDonalds explains that “Contact-less payment saves time and effort, allowing customers to quickly pay for items which cost £15 or under without having to search around for cash.”

Whilst customer convenience is one of the key benefits, there are more benefits too. Reduced queues or lines for example. How many times have we walked up to a fast food or drink outlet, seen eight people waiting, and moved on? So moves like this reduce customer loss and increase customer throughput. They also mean less cash is handled by the merchants – with attendant risks of errors in counting, theft, mistakes in giving change and slower transaction speeds.

this is why several research organisations are forecasting a big future for mobile payments with nearly 1 in 2 of us having made a mobile payment of one sort or another by 2014. With iconic fast food and drink brands like Starbucks and McDonalds leading the way, we’re sure to see more launches in the future. After all, 2011 has only just begun….  But what about the small retailers, what can they do to get a slice of this market?  Well perhaps one of the first things to consider is getting your own business mobile apps in place and then look to belong to a partner offering a wider service and mobile access to consumers passing outside your shop front.