the Insiders


May 4, 2012 6:54 PM


The Lazy Shopper

The human animal is a wondrous, industrious creature with finely tuned faculties that have been put to work reshaping the world....

The human animal is a wondrous, industrious creature with finely tuned faculties that have been put to work reshaping the world. But when it comes to shopping, we're total slugs.

Merchants get this, or they're starting to.

Amazon has made a high art of frictionless consumerism. Once you have an account with your shipping address and so on, you can surf around the site and buy things with a single click. It's billed to your account, it shows up at your door. It's retail magic.

Apple gets it, too. Hang around in one of their stores long enough and someone will not only ask if you need help, they'll take you to the object of your desire, swipe your card on the spot, e-mail you a receipt and send you on your way. The cash register literally comes to you.

Was there ever an easier way to spend $499?

And the distance between one's back account and a retailer's till is shrinking even further with what's known as "contactless payments," a card or small device that can be pressed onto a sensor to transfer your hard-earned dollars at checkout.

A study by MasterCard Advisors showed that people who started using the MasterCard PayPass system increased their spending with the related account by an average of almost 30 percent during the first year.

That doesn't mean that they went on a spending spree. Those people might not have spent more, they might simply have used their other cards less, or not forked over as much cash. Some novelty factor might also be playing a role.

Even so, 30 percent is a big increase. Contactless payments might be the wave of the future or not, but they work, I think, because they appeal to our intense laziness.

There's a lot of talk about retail being a mature industry. About all the cut throat back and forth. The overstoring of America.

Retailers compete on everything -- on product, on price. They square off in marketing campaigns filled with print ads, TV, social media and celebrity spokespeople.

All that stuff matters, but the next retail winner might well be the one that makes life easiest for shoppers.

Who's going to let them be laziest?

The cash register has already broken its bonds and is roaming around the store, actively looking for customers.

What's the next step?
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