Why Aren't We Cashless Yet?

For roughly 10 years, we’ve all heard that mobile payments have been positioned as the fastest, most convenient way for consumers to pay. But in reality, that’s not how consumers see it. To better understand why, we conducted a research study to uncover the truth. We wanted to understand what’s getting in the way of fully embracing a cashless culture, and how businesses can help.

Our conclusion: there are three key deterrents to the cashless craze.

Americans are addicted to cash. Yes, mobile payments are growing at rapid speeds, but as a society, we’re not fully ready. While we like to play around with the latest tech, the majority of us have just started using mobile payments within the past year, and infrequently at best.

Let’s face it, we don’t want to give up our cash: 55% of survey respondents would go as far as saying they’d “hate the idea of living life without cash.” And, we’re even more addicted to our debit/credit cards. There is something so reassuring about the physical nature of holding money or signing for your card that you can’t get with mobile payments. It feels more comfortable, more natural, more legitimate. And it makes sense--we’ve been carrying cash since 6th Century BC and cards since the 1950s.



We’re making it too hard for consumers. It feels like new mobile payment options are popping up every month, making it more and more difficult to keep track of them all. And with each platform, comes a new process. Why do they all have to work differently? Some use QR codes, others require you to open a specific app, while others feel like you have to stand on one foot while saying the alphabet backwards in order for it to work. With all this complexity, the convenience factor goes right out the window. Over half of respondents in our study stopped using mobile payment apps due to a lack of a universal system (acceptance, signage, experience, etc.).

Similar to everything else in our lives, we’re hungry for simplicity across the board. And right now, brands aren’t helping the cause. It feels like you have to jump through hoops to figure out 1) who accepts mobile payments, 2) which forms are accepted (Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, the list goes on), and 3) how they all work.

 Is a universal system too much to ask?

Technology lets us down far too often. If you can’t keep the technology working, how do you expect us to feel comfortable paying with our phones? For those who’ve found a retailer that accepts their mobile payment of choice, having a successful transaction each time can feel like an anomaly. Our research found that 41% of respondents stopped using mobile payments because stores lacked the tech to support cashless payments.

Whether the POS machine breaks, the wifi goes down, an app crashes, or an employee is less than helpful, these hiccups put a negative taste in consumers mouths, and can close the door for any repeat visits. 

What will it take to get us to go cashless, and what does it mean for marketers?

For all the hype around the convenience and ease, you’d imagine mobile payments would have much less friction. It is 2019 after all. Before companies start rolling out even more advanced payment methods, brands and retailers can take some simple steps to help keep their current customers happy, and ensure that cashless customers don’t walk out the door. 

Recognize that people have an addiction to cash and cards, and figure out how to help them. Give customers the option to pay however they want (cash, card, mobile, etc.), and ensure the value-add that mobile payments can provide is more easily understood.

Make it more frictionless to go cashless. Establish, and embrace, a more unified and streamlined user experience, making all of our lives much easier and our bottom line more impactful.

Recognize that changing behavior can be frustrating, so get the tech right. Keep the tech working and the employees educated on how to troubleshoot so frustrations at the register are diminished. 

In short, if marketers hope to deliver the type of seamless experience that customers not only want but expect, they need to start with the basics. 

Check out our full findings HERE, including a national quant study and social experiment designed to see if people could last a full week without their physical wallets.

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