Many everyday consumers view technology as a major obstacle to overcome. Despite best efforts by developers and engineers to make all of the online services as easy to use and streamlined as possible, those efforts do not translate into real life applications. For example, in order to pay at a cashier, you have to manually feed bills into a machine near the counter, as the cashiers do not handle funds directly anymore. Yet at the same time, this shows the potential for future technology to improve on the current models.
Less Peer-to-Peer Contact Due To Technology?
Upon entering any medium-to-large-sized store these days, one of the elements that are clearly missing is social interaction. Standing in line at the cashier used to be filled with conversations going on all around you, and every time the cashier would be up for a bit of chit-chat while scanning your products and handling your payment.
Our society, on the other hand, has been spoiled with various degrees of technological innovation that slowly removed the human interaction element from the equation. On top of that, we are all being pushed and driven to consume more at a faster rate, leaving little to no room for socializing while doing everyday things.
Shopping at most locations has become far less of a social experience, and more and more a financial matter. Which products are cheaper at which location, are there any discounts involved and how much budget do I have right now? These are all questions we find ourselves asking more and more, all the while ignoring the people around us.
Even though traditional grocery shopping is not always the best place to strike up a conversation, chances are high consumers will cross paths with people they know. Other than a friendly “hello” or even a nod, no conversations are taking place anymore these days. And that trend has been spreading from the moment someone enters the store all the way to when they leave the premises again. Most consumers don’t speak a single word during the whole experience.
An often heard complaint is how “unfriendly” most cashiers have gotten in recent years. And while that is certainly true up to a certain extent, it is just a reflection of how unfriendly the everyday consumer has become as well. To explain this change in behavior, people will look for a scapegoat. In this case, the obvious scapegoat is no one else than the new technology we all love to use, yet blame for everything when things go wrong.
It is hard to say whether or not this criticism stems forth from a lack of understanding how the technology works, or whether he implementations are all wrong. Going back to the earlier cashier example, once bank and credit cards started becoming more popular, the time for social behavior was cut down by quite a margin.
Back in the day when consumers were frantically searching their wallet for the funds required, they would more often than not strike up a conversation with the cashier to counter the awkward silence. But with bank and credit cards, all a consumer has to do is insert their card, press a code, pull the card out and take off with their groceries. There is no real reason to have a conversation, as these transactions take place instantaneously, and no money-scrambling is involved.
Cashless Society = Socially Awkward Society?
Most of the new technologies we face during the shopping experience all focus on the financial part. Granted, financial matters are near and dear to the hearts of all consumers, as well as the stores where the shopping experience takes place. Facilitating the transfer of funds from the consumer to merchant and vice versa has become more streamlined over the years.
From a consumer point of view, the financial aspect of the shopping experience has become more convenient. Rather than looking for bills and coins, consumers can now use a card to facilitate payments. And more and more people are taking a liking towards this “cashless” trend, because of its sheer convenience.
For the merchant, however, these new technological innovations are both a blessing and a curse. Granted, having to deal with fewer cash transactions cuts down on overhead costs in terms of contracting a money transport to pick up funds at regular intervals. On the other hand, more overhead costs are created because card transactions are subject to various degrees of fees per transaction. Furthermore, funds from card transactions will not be in the merchant’s hands until 30 days after the transaction, which may cause an issue with paying suppliers.
Not that any of that will bother the consumer, mind you, as all they want is to get in and out of the store with the things they need as fast as possible. Faster payment methods were only the first step towards creating a socially awkward consumer society, as people have clearly forgotten how to strike up a conversation during their shopping experience.
Bringing Back Peer-to-Peer Interaction
One could go as far as saying that the entire aspect of “peer-to-peer interaction” has taken a back seat in the life of everyday consumers. In fact, most of the consumers are relying on card and mobile payments these days, all of which have one major security flaw, which most people aren’t even aware of to this very day.
Card and mobile payments rely on a centralized infrastructure, which causes a lot of havoc when that system goes down for any period of time. Bitcoin, on the other hand, has no central point of failure, and will be accessible anywhere in the world, at any given time, by any given person.It is important to keep in mind that Bitcoin, as a currency, is not here to overthrow existing payment methods, but rather wants to establish its place as an alternative payment method.
From a technology perspective, Bitcoin – or to be more precise, the blockchain – can remove the security flaw associated with traditional payments altogether. Bitcoin’s blockchain has no central point of failure, and there are thousands of users all around the world supporting the network on a 24/7 basis. Even if half of those users would face an outage at the same time – an event that is highly unlikely – the blockchain would still be able to process transactions without a hitch.
To put that into perspective versus traditional card and mobile payments: both of these services rely on the existing financial infrastructure to operate. If a major bank has system issues, all of its customers are affected, and making either mobile or card payments is impossible for an unknown period of time.
Or to take things one step further, most countries have one major payment network handling card transactions, and another network for mobile payments. Either of these networks are centralized as well, and once they face an outage, that type of payment will be unavailable throughout the country for a period. Not the ideal situation, as you can imagine.
This is where Bitcoin – either as a currency, or as a technology – can play a major role in improving the shopping experience as we know it. Bitcoin a s currency represents the truest form of peer-to-peer payment interaction in a frictionless manner, just like in the “good old days”. And as a technology, the blockchain removes any central points of failure, offering a global network that is growing month over month.
Truth be told, Bitcoin has a learning curve, both for its currency and technology aspect. But then again, any type of innovation, big or small, has had that same learning curve, and consumers managed to overcome that hurdle. There is no reason for history not to repeat itself, but this time in a way that will change the financial infrastructure – and the social aspect – for good.
Technology should never be blamed for the way our society has evolved in recent years. The only reason we use this technology is because it facilitated the way we do everyday things. But in the end, the consumer is responsible for how they “live” the shopping experience. And most of those consumers have become socially awkward, to put it mildly.
What are your thoughts on the social aspect during your shopping experiences? Let us know in the comments below!
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