I recently went to San Francisco – it’s a city with a well established and vibrant street food scene. I wanted to check out ‘Off The Grid’, a collective that’s been running events for three years now. Many of their traders have trucks that work in changing locations. They have all their catering equipment on board, but in the last year or so business has really taken off.
And it’s all because of mCommerce – otherwise known as traders processing payments via their mobile phones. The most well known player is ‘Square’ which has been around for a couple of years. The credit card device and app was brought to market by Jack Dorsey, who is also one of the founders of Twitter. William Hafiz of ‘HapaSF’ truck @HapaSF told me he’s been using Square. His foodie customers are excited when he lets them know they can pay via their credit card & they find it really easy to use.
Watch this video to see how it works
In March 2012 PayPal launched their solution called ‘Here’. Like Square, traders use a piece of hardware which plugs into the audio jack of their iPhone or iPad. They then download an app, swipe the card through the device which enables them to take VISA payments. The customer then signs with their finger on the touch screen. It’s really slick.
PayPal is well known for payment processing and they take the most number of payment types, including invoicing. Even the humble cheque can be an acceptable form of payment as ‘Here’ uses the camera to scan.
In the UK, the number of customers using smart phones to make purchases has soared by 254% since March 2011*. Intuit, the makers of accounting software, QuickBooks have released ‘Go Payment’ which has been launched here in the UK and Bob Fox of NCASS informed me he knows there are a few early adopters.
As a trader myself, I’m itching to be able to take credit card payments via my iPhone. It makes total sense to embrace this new technology. Its win/win, I’ll be able to increase my profits, it’s totally secure plus lightweight and portable.
My only worry concerns phone signal reception. We all know Glastonbury is notorious for phones simply ceasing to work. There was a similar issue for the organisers of Bristol’s St. Paul’s carnival last year when they tried to encourage people to donate via text message during the event. The initiative, albeit a good one, failed because no-one who attended the 80,000 strong carnival was able to receive a strong signal.
And mainstream ‘bricks and mortar’ & internet retailers are already seeing mCommerce making an impact on sales – with clothing, CD’s and music being the biggest sectors.
But it’s the face-to-face aspect of outdoor catering which means traders can reassure customers that mobile payments are totally safe and reliable. Just give me the chance to test it actually working in the UK and I’ll stick my hand up to be an ambassador for mobile commerce.
For all the latest goss from the StrEAT Food Collective, knuckling down on the cool streets of Bristol, follow @streatuk or sign up at www.streatfoodcollective.com
*According to research for the IMRG Cap Gemini e-Retail Sales index.
Article Written: by Navina Bartlett (guest blogger)
StrEAT is Bristol’s global street food collective serving up authentic street food from all over the world. The collective consists of between six to ten stalls. Vendors are people from local communities who are passionate about food and serve up ‘the real deal’.