The kind people at Visa Europe invited me over to give the keynote talk at their Retailer Forum in Cologne. The thrust of my talk was the transition to in-app (and the corresponding shift in retailer strategy “from check out to check in”) and the importance of developing strategies around this transition that exploit the key technologies APIs, apps, tokenisation and all that jazz. I had a great time and enjoyed the event (I learned a lot about payment data analysis from BeyondAnalysis), but I also had an interesting and weirdly self-referential payments experience
I flew into Cologne and found a taxi. Off we went, and before you could say “fourth largest economy in the world” we were at the hotel. I handed over my payment card, and the driver looked at me as if I had just handed him a piece of toast with my face on it. I tried miming tapping the card, then tapping my phone, then just blankly staring at the card. He shook his head: he didn’t take cards. I opened my wallet and showed him that I had no cash. Then I had an idea and went into the hotel and asks the guy at the desk if there was an ATM in the building, or nearby. He shook his head. “Can you give me some cash against my card” I asked him. Another shake of the head. So I went back out to the taxi and gave a shrug. The driver took out a piece of paper and gestured. I handed him the card and he laboriously copied out the card number (which was hard to make out in the semi-darkness) and the expiry date. He seemed happy with this, and I took his gestures to mean that HQ would run it CNP later on.
But then I thought… this is my MasterCard prepaid Euros card. Surely it will be declined if keyed manually? So I wrote my mobile phone number on the back of the piece of paper and then pointed at the hotel indicating that if there was any problem he could find me at the hotel. He never came back.
I used this to story to illustrate a point in my presentation. I said that no-one in developed markets uses cash for taxis anymore because you either pay by card or, as I do most of the time, in-app.When I had finished going on about how certain retailer categories in the German market might skip card acceptance and because of high smartphone penetration move directly to in-app payments, Jens Loos pointed out that normal people in Cologne used MyTaxi already.
So when it was time to head on out, I downloaded MyTaxi (which took about eight seconds) and then booked a taxi (which took about another eight seconds) and at the end of the trip I added a tip and put my thumb on TouchID (which took about another eight seconds) and… that was it. As I pointed out the first time I paid in a taxi using a phone, it’s impossible to imagine a better way of doing it. The reason is, of course, that when you sit in the back of a taxi, you have your mobile phone in your hand. Every time. All the time. So it’s the natural way to pay.
(What’s more, when we got to the destination, I got the trip half price as they were having some kind of promotion! Hurrah!)
Summary of my German payments experiences: card terrible, in-app brilliant. Make of this what you will!