Modern technology continues to make shopping more convenient, with easy-to-use apps and devices that make cards redundant. So should we stop and ask whether money is becoming too easy to spend?
Shopping is certainly far easier now than it used to be. In 1994, Sunday trading laws were relaxed in the UK.
1996 saw Tesco open its first 24-hour supermarkets, and the early closing of shops in town on market days is now almost unheard of. But these changes in law and high street culture seem quite insignificant compared to the convenience new technologies are beginning to offer.
How technology changed retail
Amazon opened its virtual doors in 1994, with Ebay following in 1995. And while many consumers were initially cagey about spending online, we’re now far more accepting and can act on impulse the moment it strikes.
And then came smartphones, which not only brought a shop window to your pocket, but also the opportunity to instantly spend money on applications – and then spend money within those applications.
The beauty (if that’s the right word) of sale points like Amazon and App Stores is that you only need to enter your card details once, and then you can spend willy-nilly to your heart’s content. And the way we currently think about apps looks set to gradually change too.
Let’s get connected
At present, when we think of an app, we think of phones and tablets. But as more devices become ‘connected’ we’ll be downloading apps for our cars, fridges and bathroom mirrors, with each connected product becoming a new easy-to-use point of sale.
Panasonic has recently announced its direct billing service for the purchasing of apps and physical products using the TV’s remote control, so you won’t even need to get up from the couch.
And then there’s the rise of Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, which is promising an even easier solution to shopping. As with the Oyster Card on the London Underground, NFC smartphones and the forthcoming Google Wallet will merely require contact for a transaction to be made.
Not easy enough for you? Well how about an application enabling you to make payments simply by speaking your name? That’s what Card Case is promising. It’s an app coming from the US to Apple and Android devices in the coming weeks, and it’s been reported that around 20,000 businesses have already signed up to use it.
I can’t see the downsides
It all seems rather worrying, but when I try to think of the possible detriments, none really come to mind. There are questions around security of course, but common sense usually irons these out. Then there’s the often-lamented loss of social interaction, but buying albums from record shops were never social highlights for me.
It could even be argued that if it’s easier to spend money then it’s easier to run up a debt; but I think the propensity to go into debt is a personal characteristic rather than something to be blamed on technology.
So, I say bring on these new developments. In a few years’ time we’ll be looking back on them like we are today when we remember those first days of internet shopping.