Today saw the start of a quiet revolution on the British high street. We announced that PayPal’s 15 million UK customers can use their smartphones to pay for their shopping at Coast, Oasis, Warehouse and Karen Millen.
We took journalists shopping at Oasis’s flagship store at Westfield Stratford City. Our aim was to show how simple it was to pay with a phone. We also wanted to show that shoppers don’t need to buy a new handset: most Android and iPhones will run PayPal’s new in-store app. And retailers don’t need to rip out and replace their systems. In short, near field communication isn’t needed. As I told Techcrunch:
“We think that it will take years for NFC to get any kind of traction in stores, but we are helping retailers roll out mobile payments quickly and cheaply now,” said Rob Skinner, PayPal’s spokesperson in the UK. “We’re not dismissing NFC but our point is that the world may have moved on by the time NFC gets some kind of scale.”
The Daily Mail‘s story sums it up nicely.
Check out the PayPal video showing it in action:
You can find out more on PayPal’s UK website.
The most sceptical note was sounded by Harry Wallop, the Daily Telegraph‘s retail editor. I explained to Harry that the move to ‘pay by mobile’ echoed the original online revolution in the late 1990s. What seems odd today will soon seem like the most natural thing in the world. And PayPal, like its rivals, is testing and learning. This is the start of the journey. We’re finding out what consumers like and dislike about using a mobile to pay in-store. (And let’s be clear: shopping is the fun bit. Paying just makes shopping possible.)
One of the biggest advantages of PayPal’s new high street service is the fact that applicable offers are automatically applied to a transaction – there’s no need to remember to hand over a paper coupon. We expect this to become a really powerful reason to pay by mobile in the next few years.
Today’s UK announcement follows PayPal’s big move ‘offline’ in the United States. The Home Depot started taking PayPal in-store earlier this year, and PayPal last week announced that 15 extra national US retailers were joining the party.
The future’s bright. The future’s mobile.
Disclosure: I’m head of PR for PayPal UK.