If you’re the sort of person who struggles to get your photos from your phone on to the computer (let’s be honest, it’s annoyingly hard), you may understand where I’m coming from when I tell you that it took downloading the wrong app, and then a few minutes tinkering on the correct app, before I got Marks & Spencer’s whizzy new Mobile, Pay, Go service off the ground.
Designed to make paying quicker, easier and without queues, the new app, which launched over the summer, allows customers to buy anything from the food hall (with the exception of alcohol, medicines and loose fruit) using just your phone. It scans the barcode using your phone camera, adds it to your basket and then, when you’re done, all you need is your fingerprint or facial recognition to complete the transaction. NB: it does involve signing up for a (free) Sparks card – which I did, in a minute or so, while chatting through the merits of Percy Pigs with Rachel, the PR who was showing me the ropes. But once up and running, it really is very easy to use.
Checkout-free and dangerously simple, when left to my own devices, I was in and out, laden with Colin The Caterpillar, Percy Pig And Pals and a bunch of flowers, in less than two minutes. That said, there’s a £30 maximum spend in place to prevent glee-induced over-expenditure, which means you can’t do your weekly shop on your phone. Instead, it’s ideal for picking up a pastry for breakfast when you’re late for work, or for easing the lunchtime rush between 12pm and 2pm, when 60% of all purchases are made. “Our customers – especially those who come to us for lunch – are so busy, any tech that can speed up the shopping experience is a massive benefit to them,” says Sacha Berendji, retail, operations and property director at M&S.
The service has already started in some stores in London (currently, it’s available at the Waterside and Edgware Road Simply Food and will be heading to Bankside, Canary Wharf, Westfield Stratford and West Hampstead in the lead up to Christmas), which will allow the tech team to monitor user feedback and iron out any kinks, before rolling it out nationwide next year.
“Already, we’ve created scan stations where customers can put their items down, scan them and bag them if they need to free up their hands,” says David Howell, Mobile, Pay, Go’s product manager, after noticing that customers tend to pick up all their items then scan them at the end in one go. And, eventually (hopefully), the brand is looking to expand into fashion and homeware, so you can pick up a pair of tights to replace the ones laddered on the way in without ever having to queue (something to look forward to). Yes, it’s another app cluttering up your phone storage, and it is a bit of a faff to download, but anything that promises easy access to the biscuit aisle and cuts down on the time spent queuing for a sandwich definitely gets my vote.