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Financial Solutions
01 Nov 2016

There has to be a smarter way to pay

Why an unexpectedly long lunch queue was worth the wait

Have you ever been in a situation where hundreds of people want exactly the same thing as you, and you happen to be last in the queue?

That happened to me at Slush 2014. There were 14,000 people at the Helsinki Exhibition and Convention Centre that year for Europe’s leading startup event, and the restaurant had nowhere near enough capacity. It took me an hour to have lunch. You might think that’s not too bad, but when you spend 50 minutes queuing and have only 10 minutes to shovel food into your mouth, something’s wrong.

I got to thinking about what could be done to improve the purchase flow. The queue moved along as people loaded up their trays, but it stopped moving when they got to the cash register. Naturally there could have been more cashiers, but that was only part of the problem. More often than not people started looking for their wallets just before they had to pay, and then there was the usual back and forth with cards. I suppose they could have taken only cash and demanded exact change, but that would have felt like going back to the 1960s. In theory the process could have been speeded up by making NFC payments (the PoS terminal had NFC functionality) but with so many people paying for each other the €25 limit for contactless payments was easily exceeded.

And that got me on to existing payment options. To my knowledge there were none that would have made things any smoother or quicker. The number of people who could use mobile apps with NFC was limited by Apple’s then refusal to adopt it for the iPhone (although that’s all changed now, of course, with Apple Pay). I also recalled reading about a rock festival where they had a disaster with NFC bracelets and the infrastructure did not work.

After the painfully long queue at Slush, I decided to dig a bit deeper into this problem as I felt that Arvato might have something to contribute in solving this challenge. Then, in December 2014, I met mobile services and technology provider mFabrik’s CEO Atte Kniivilä and we had a chat, the fruits of which will be revealed next week and should mean a lot less waiting and a much better way to pay.

– Jouko Tossavainen

e-Commerce Manager, Arvato Financial Solutions Finland

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