Bleu Bluetooth Payments

Almost everyone dreads downloading yet another app as they sit down for dinner at a restaurant. 

As Covid-19 drove the need for contactless ordering and payments, app fatigue became a secondary symptom. Bluetooth technology is set to streamline these financial transactions by allowing touchless payments at long ranges, leveraging existing apps to do so. A recent study explained how the pandemic significantly accelerated the adoption of digital payment technologies.

4 out of 10 US consumers have switched to contactless cards or mobile wallets as their primary payment method since Covid-19 hit.

PaymentsSource and American Banker

But how does Bluetooth technology measure up against the advances in other contactless payment technologies such as QR codes or near-field communication (NFC)? 

It’s simple: Consumer empowerment. Gender, income, and community all influence how willing a consumer is to use mobile payment technology. But as everyone has access to Bluetooth, it offers promising prospects for diversifying payment methods and has the potential to reach diverse populations. Here’s how Bluetooth is opening up new frontiers for financial inclusion. 

Democratizing Contactless Payments 

Covid-19 radically changed consumers’ attitudes towards contactless payments as less physical contact at Points of Sale (POS) became a necessity. And there’s no going back – the accelerated adoption of digital payment technologies is here to stay. 

Let’s take the situation with the shortages of microchips that have already severely affected supply. It means cards will disappear before cash and, in turn, that would have an adverse impact on people’s access to bank accounts. Therefore, there’s a real urgency to improve payment processes before this happens.

Then, even with cryptocurrency, there’s a strange dichotomy. We have a digitally stored value of currency, yet all of these crypto exchanges and wallets still deploy and issue cards. The tech behind this currency is digital, so it seems incomprehensible that there isn’t a method to make digital payments. Is it the expense? Inconvenience? Or down to mistrust? 

While a financial institution is always looking at ways to deploy merchant services, they can’t seem to get their hands on terminals. That’s where alternative methods are needed to deliver positive experiences at the front-end. 

It is Bluetooth technology that gives merchants and customers accessibility, flexibility, and autonomy in the way they choose to exchange value with one another. Any dining or retail experience can be streamlined as there’s no need to download different apps or even scan a QR code. By reducing friction, these experiences become convenient, inclusive, and within reach for all. 

Ubiquity Across Different Types of Handsets

When observing emerging markets and lower socioeconomic communities, it’s evident that they have been historically kept out of traditional financial institutions. This is because NFC technology, such as Apple Pay, is not supported across all devices and not everyone can afford an iPhone. This limits progression and reserves certain features and services for an elite tier with access to specific electronics. 

Even seemingly ubiquitous QR codes require a high-quality camera and not all handsets are equipped with that function. QR codes simply don’t present a scalable solution: Customers still have to be close to a code for a transaction to take place. This can be either a physical piece of paper or hardware that acts as the intermediary between cashier, merchant, and consumer. 

On the upside, for the last two decades, Bluetooth has been enabled on every handset, including lower-quality devices. And with that comes the opportunity to conduct financial transactions with Bluetooth, allowing users to leverage technology that was previously out of reach. This equates to consumer empowerment as hardware is removed altogether and the transaction just involves the merchant’s POS and customer. 

Bluetooth Brings More Opportunities for Women

Men express more interest than women in using a mobile wallet for online and in-store purchases but around 60% of payment decisions are made by women. Here lies a disconnect and a huge opportunity for women to grasp the power of new, emerging technologies. 

Payment technologies’ design and UX are often designed by men and, looking at wealth creation or cryptocurrency, it is obvious that women have been left out. Bluetooth payments offer inclusivity for women with easier, frictionless, and more convenient checkout experiences. 

As the Founder of a financial technology platform enabling touchless payment experiences, it was critical to have women in mind for UX decisions, particularly in emerging markets. We also felt it was of the utmost importance to hire female executives through connecting with networks in the payment industry like the European Women’s Payment Network*.

In the past decade, the percentage of venture capital deals that went to women founders nearly doubled. And some of the best apps available have either been designed by women or have women in payment manager roles. Think Bumble, Eventbrite, and PepTalkHer. With this in mind, women should also be at the forefront of the Bluetooth revolution. 

The latest advancements with Bluetooth can communicate from a merchant’s POS device, hardware terminal, or software to an application directly. The idea that an existing mobile banking app can be leveraged to transact over Bluetooth, paired with Bluetooth’s ubiquitous nature, pose opportunities for those from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds, genders, and trades.

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*Disclosure: EWPN President sits on the board at Bleu.

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