Forcing vs. Facilitating Mobile Commerce

Having a bit of time to kill while traveling through London’s Heathrow Airport yesterday, I stumbled across what might be an interesting lesson for mobile payment aficionados.

Many frequent international travelers likely have either seen or been through one of WHSmith’s 600+ stores at airports, train stations and motorways.

The store I visited at Heathrow yesterday had a traditional checkout lane, with an understandably long line in the popular shopping location, but checkout was dominated by about a half dozen self-checkout devices.

People were repeatedly told to go to self-checkout where the one overseer was available to assist any of the many bewildered self-checkout travelers.

It was somewhat painful to watch, as countless, befuddled travelers from around the world fumbled to find and scan barcodes on packaging and then pay with credit card or, heaven forbid, with the wrong currency.

The self-checkout approach is no-doubt business efficient, transferring the chore of scanning, paying and bagging along to the shopper. And the concept is hardly new, with self-checkout available at many supermarkets since forever ago.

The difference here is that shoppers were essentially ‘forced’ to self-scanning and checkout or face a much longer wait. In fairness, the checkout monitor was quickly available to help shoppers navigate their way through the system.

It strikes me that this may be where some mobile payment programs are heading, to whether mobile payments will be taught (forced) or learned.

There are many examples of companies attempting to facilitate rather than force mobile commerce.

For example, Panera Bread is rolling out new mobile features allowing consumers to order remotely and pick up food at a pre-determined time without waiting in line.

Another feature allows eat-in customers to place their order while inside the restaurant and have the food delivered to their table.

The key here is that the business is facilitating rather than forcing diners to use mobile commerce. Anyone who doesn’t want to can stick with the traditional and tried-and-true model of waiting in line, ordering, dealing with restaurant staff and paying with cash or credit card.

The restaurant is not causing pain to force customers into mobile commerce.

Not everyone will immediately adopt mobile payments or other aspects of commerce, preferring to stick with what they’re used to or comfortable with.

But the smart businesses will facilitate it so that those who want to can.

2 comments about "Forcing vs. Facilitating Mobile Commerce".
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  1. Ken Anderson from, April 11, 2014 at 10:53 a.m.

    Interesting that Panera was used an example. Not having seen or participated in their new mobile ordering process, I do know that, in the OH, SC, FL, CA stores I've been in (maybe I eat at Panera too much), when you call in or order online, all this does is inputs your order into a databank and assign it an order #, from which the store clerk can use to retrieve your order. It saves everyone the time it takes for you to stand at the menu board and decide what you what and the clerk having to manually entering your order...that's it. You still have to stand in line and wait to get to a clerk to give them your order #, you still have to pay for the order...and only then, do they start to make your the net time-save is 2-3 minutes +/-. You still have anywhere from 5-15 minutes wait depending upon what was ordered, how many orders are in front of you, and if the restaurant has someone dedicated to preorders.

    Essentially, this reinforces Chucks last line, the smart business will offer the service to those that want it...with that said, a business would be smart to understand what their customer wants...not always an easy thing. It is a smarty company that does business rather than run a business.

  2. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, April 11, 2014 at 10:59 a.m.

    Well stated, Ken. The Panera roll-out is brand new and just starting to happen. The smartly also are creating a pickup space and process in store to match the mobile system.

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