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Consumer choice should never be ignored when companies are looking to drive forward technological solutions.
What comes first; does consumer behaviour change in response to new technologies or are technological breakthroughs driven by changing consumer demand. In truth, there is probably no one straightforward answer. Whilst some technological improvements (Google glasses for example) have not resonated with the public in the way in which their makers and industry experts predicted; other developments such as cash machines and contactless cards have come about as a result of an identified consumer need to have instant access to funds and means of payment.
And when technology responds to consumer demands, the chances of its adoption are greatly increased. So much so that according to a Payments UK report, 2015 was the first time that cash was used for less than half of all consumer transactions (45.1%) and, if the trend continues, by 2025 cash is expected to account for only a quarter of consumer transactions. Its demise has been hastened by the enthusiastic adoption of contactless cards which saw a threefold increase in use in 2015 alone.
But technology will only be successful when it responds to identified consumer needs. More importantly, consumer choice should never be ignored when companies are looking to drive forward technological solutions. So when the banks tried to force the demise of the cheque, arguing that it would be easily replaced by electronic payments they had to give way in the face of public protest. In fact, despite the fact that many retailers now refuse to accept cheques, Payments UK commented that cheques are still seen as a convenient and secure method of payment with 546 million cheques being written in 2015.
It’s an important lesson for businesses. Innovation for innovation’s sake is not necessarily going to be adopted by consumers. On the other hand, innovation which is designed to create a solution to an identified need can result in enthusiastic adoption and a profound change in consumer behaviours.