NYC public transport finally gets the mobile payments memo

Despite the US being the leading voice in the technology industry, adoption of some pretty well-established technologies has been lagging across the country.

That is about to change in New York before too long, as the public transport system gets a much-needed upgrade to include Near-field communication (NFC) payments. Last week, Google announced it had integrated its payments system into the New York public transport system, and now Apple is getting in on the movement.

The contactless payment revolution has been sweeping the globe in recent years, drastically changing the way we work, play and get around. In London, for example, you can almost hear the groans of waiting customers when the now “old fashioned” chip and PIN method of payment is used. But contactless payments are now much more wide-spread than a speedy round of beers down the pub.

Contactless payments were first introduced on London buses in December 2012, and later extended to Underground and National Rail services in September 2014. The Oyster Card system is quickly becoming a thing of the past, with Transport for London (TfL) now claiming more than 50% of journeys are completed using contactless payments. In fact, TfL believes it is saving between 9-14% on fare collection because of the introduction of contactless payments.

Of course, London is not the only city which is making use of the new technology. Globally, there are now more than 100 cities making use of contactless payments, including the likes of Sydney (introduced in 2018), Moscow (2017) and Madrid (2017).

What is worth noting is there are different types of systems. Madrid, for instance, requires you to buy a specific ticket as opposed to using your debit of credit card, while Sydney only upgraded to NFC mobile payments earlier this year. That said, progress is progress.

And the benefits are more than just operational efficiencies for the public transport systems. It is substantially quicker than traditional means, a very important factor when you consider how many people are moving out of the countryside and into the cities nowadays. According to the UN, 68% of the world population is projected to live in urban areas by 2050, up from c.55% today. There will be considerable strain placed on public transit systems before too long.

In New York, this is an upgrade which is long-overdue. Google is introducing its mobile payments systems to the Subway from May 31st, as will Apple. The tap-to-pay system will only be available on the 4/5/6 lines between Grand Central Station in Manhattan and Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center in Brooklyn to start with, as well as the buses in Staten Island. This is only the beginning however, as the plan is to rollout the system across the entire public transport network over the next few months.

Over time this system will begin to improve. Google has already said it will continue to work with The Metropolitan Transportation Authority to bring more features with Google Maps and Google Assistant, much like it does with many other cities around the world.

Welcome to the digital world New York!

Brits can’t be bothered with Black Friday

Americans like to spend a whole day giving thanks for stuff and then spend the next day buying loads more if it. Over here, not so much.

Thanksgiving is a national holiday in the US that seems to be some kind of harvest festival, complete with traditional feast. For some reason they like to spend the next day engaged in a retail frenzy that has become known as Black Friday due, apparently, to the fact that this is the first time retailer’s balance sheets move into positive territory (in the black, as opposed to the red).

Because retailers like nothing more than calendar imperatives to buy stuff, such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day, etc, UK ones have been keen to import this compulsion over here. But according to new research from Genesys 80% of UK consumers won’t bother to hit the high streets this Friday, with the majority of them paradoxically saying they’ll stay away because things get too busy.

“This year, the vast majority of British consumers are planning to stay away from stores on Black Friday because it’s not worth the bother,” said Richard McCrossan, digital lead for Genesys. “They prefer shopping online in the comfort of their own home – or whatever location is convenient –  to the chaos of dealing with crowded high-street stores.

“Shopping has become as much about the experience as the purchase – and during the holidays, that means speed is of the essence and convenience is king. Only 5% of respondents said a low standard of customer service is a reason to avoid physical stores, so it’s other aspects that put consumers off.

“With an estimated 14 stores per day closing in the UK, retailers must meet consumers’ expectations for hassle-free experiences at every touchpoint – from making payments to finding answers to questions, to getting personalised, friendly service. It’s not just about the purchase – it’s about making the experience great.”

So it remains possible that we will buy loads of stuff on Friday, but over the internet. US etail giant Amazon tends to go big on Black Friday and the internet arms of UK companies may be tempted to follow suit. In semi-related news it looks like the use of smartphones to make contactless payments is exploding in the UK, with recent research revealing they now account for 7% of all such transactions.