Stay up with the payment play or watch the millennial money go elsewhere

As Mary Meeker’s presentation showed, modern consumers have become accustomed to getting what they want, when they want it—and modern businesses are using technology to cater to that need. Young Male Entrepreneur of the Year, law student and New Zealand representative in business strategy, Jesse Medcalf, gives a personal account of why retailers that don’t keep up to date with technology might fall out of favour with millennials. 

I tap my mate on the shoulder as I stand over the counter, the resigned sigh of the retail assistant just discernible as he braces himself for every possibility of teenage antic. “Check this out” I say as I whip out my phone and with a sense of quiet glee wave it over the payment terminal. My friend, deep in the delicate process of trying to fit a lengthy, Snapchat caption into one line, lifts her head for barely a second to watch. With a cathartic beep my waffles are paid for. Her gaze drifts back to her snap without a word muttered. “Cool, eh?” – nothing.

Semble’s partnership with Paymark, telcos and banks has finally brought mobile NFC payments to New Zealand. The technology that’s been mainstream in Korea since 2012 is certainly a step in the right direction, but for a tech-savvy generation raised on the idea of doing everything with your phone and no less, it may seem more of an overdue attempt to catch up than a novelty. But don’t get me wrong, my friend’s apathetic reaction to my gimmicky new trick is not a sign that generation smartphone are disinterested with these advancements, but rather, that to us, they’re overwhelmingly expected.

We’ve not only gorged on the Jetsons-esque sci-fi predictions that were available to our parents’ generation, but the borderless proliferation of content across social media, our omnipotent informer, has accustomed us to retail technology before it’s even hit our shores. As soon as Samsung hinted at the feasibility of a mobile wallet, we’d already seen the promo videos from every Kickstarter-funded wallet-app and the YouTube video of a Japanese man reviewing the optimal phone waving positions. Our expectations of the retail experience are rapidly accelerated to the latest version; we’ve seen the future and we want it now.

The most important thing that this technology does for us though, is that it demarcates the on-board from the dinosaurs. Because we know how to use it straight out of the box, there’s no adjustment period, no forgiving glow of novelty. We expect our retailers to be the same. Now that Semble is loaded, tested and already in my hand before I even enter the store, there are no second thoughts about my preferred payment method.

As self-important and stereotypical of the lazy teenager as it may seem, the fact is that when those three familiar curved lines that indicate contactless technology are missing from the payment terminal, I can’t help but be viscerally frustrated at having to pull my wallet out of my jeans. In ten years, paying with plastic will be ironic and give me mad hipster cred, but until then, it’s a reminder that the store I’m in just hasn’t put the effort in to modernise.

I shouldn’t be so lazy and I should be glad that I haven’t had to lug around cash and wait for change. But when I’m preparing to use my phone and an unsightly outdated terminal that’s so 2014 informs me that I’ve got to revert back to swiping and bashing in a pin, I can’t help but wonder if the fashion on the racks is just last season’s recycled stock. If they’re not up to date at the counter, there’s no chance they’ll be up to date in their style. Hell, the coffee beans probably aren’t even organic!

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