Someday soon, money as we know it — the bills and coins we count and carry with us — will be as quaint and collectible as vinyl records. Consumers are already comfortable with credit and debit cards, and mobile payment apps like Rakuten Pay, the QR code payment platform most frequently used by Japan smartphone users, are quickly growing in popularity around the world.
Now the next evolution is upon us: the completely cashless business. This will usher in new advances in business efficiency and consumer convenience.
This spring, we debuted completely cashless stadiums for our sports teams, the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, who play in the Nippon Professional Baseball league, and Vissel Kobe, who play in Japan’s top soccer league. This is an opportunity to showcase our technological innovation and provide convenience for our customers, but there are many more reasons to take a company cashless – to serve both the business and the customer.
The business benefits of going cashless
Increasing customer satisfaction: We can learn a lot from a cashless transaction. Perhaps the customers buying less expensive seats at sports arenas are buying more food and beer and so focusing on their needs will lead to happier customers and better business returns from those seats. Cashless transactions make this information readily available. This data can teach us about our customers and guide the way we interact with them in the future. We can also learn how they are responding to our offers and work to tailor them for greater customer satisfaction.
It increases speed: By removing paper money and coins from the equation, cashless payments have the potential to increase the speed of each transaction. By speeding up transactions, we can serve more people and provide better customer service. This connects to the Japanese concept we embrace at Rakuten called omotenashi. Omotenashi is a level of customer service that goes beyond what is simply necessary and seeks to provide the best hospitality possible for our customers. We believe respecting the use of customer time is part of that process.
It connects to an ecosystem: A cashless transaction can be easily recorded in our business ecosystem, potentially allowing us to deliver marketing, rewards and other services tailored to the individual, across our array of diverse services. This allows our businesses to better serve customers in ways neither may have thought of in a paper money economy.
Managing through change
Of course the transition from cash to cashless will not always be smooth. In some places, consumer advocates worry that cashless businesses will hamper those who do not have credit cards or smartphones. Some businesses are addressing this concern by delivering pre-paid smart cards to customers to introduce them to cashless options.
Transitions involving money are always a process. Human beings have refined and evolved their relationship with money many times over the course of history. When we first began the practice of putting money into banks, there must have been many who worried it was dangerous or unwise. The same is true for credit cards. Once viewed as less secure than cash, now they are a staple of everyday life.
The cashless business is just the next evolution. It’s up to us to make the most of this new technology and ensure that this is a positive experience for all involved.