The pros and cons of a cashless society for UK businesses

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A cashless society is one that operates with no cash in sight: no notes, no change, no hard cash – just digital currency. Practically, this looks like only ever paying with your debit or credit card, Apple Pay, PayPal and other contactless forms of payment.

Covid-19 has left several hard-hitting changes in its wake, one of these being a necessary move towards cashless payments. What may have started out as a necessity has now morphed into the norm.

Cashless payments have a certain level of convenience, but a new report has emerged that highlights a section of society that would be alienated by a completely cashless society.

So we spoke to cashless businesses to see what they have to say about the pros and cons of going cashless. Stay tuned to find out what they have to say, and how being cashless has impacted their business.

The pros and cons of a cashless society for businesses

Pros

  • Convenience
  • Less crime
  • Quicker transactions
  • Easier to track finances

Cons

  • Third party has complete control of your money
  • Investment and upkeep can be costly
  • Increase in transaction fees

Pros of a cashless society

Convenience

Cashless payments are convenient for both consumers and businesses. Cashless payments mean there's no need to lug around cash, and deal with finding or giving the right change.

Consumers are much more likely to part with their money when it's a cashless payment, according to Jason McMahon, digital strategist at Bambrick. He says: “Customers who do not pay with cash tend to spend more. Paying with a credit card or phone is more convenient; you won't need to bring enough cash to a restaurant or shopping outing. It also has a less authentic vibe.”

We have to agree, Jason. Next time you're at the supermarket, notice how much easier (or harder) it is to part with your money when you're using a cashless payment (or cash).

Less crime

Our gradual move over the last decade to cashless payments has significantly reduced street crime. As we step into a cashless society, cash-related robberies will become extinct, making businesses safer.

Having cash on site makes your business an easier target for thieves. Going cashless doesn't just keep your business safe from theft but it also protects your customers from encountering robberies.

Quicker transactions 

Digital payments are almost instant – quicker transactions mean there's less waiting around for your money to hit your account. This is one of the benefits for Lily, the founder and CEO of EverWallpaper, who says “The benefits of going cashless as businesses are speed and efficiency. Checks can take a few days to clear, while electronic payments are instantaneous. This means that businesses can receive payments sooner and have less money tied up in the form of slow-moving inventory.”

As well removing the hassle of having to physically deposit your cash into your bank account, you get to access your money that much quicker with cashless payments. This makes it easier for you to budget, assess your finances at any given point and plan accurately.

Easier to track finances

Digital payments create an online record that you can view, meaning you can more easily keep on top of all your business's finances. Plugged into an EPOS (electronic point of sales) system, your financial data can be turned into detailed reports and analytics, helping you to understand your sales, profits, and costs more clearly.

Brian Bram, founder and CEO of Home Gym Strength, tells us more about this: When we switched our business to a cashless model, there were some definite advantages. For one thing, it was much easier to track our sales and expenses. We no longer had to worry about making changes for customers or counting out the till at the end of the night. Plus, going cashless made us seem more modern and innovative – something that can be important in attracting new customers.”

With all your transactions being processed in the same way, it makes it that much easier to keep on top of sales, performance, trends, expenses and more. Having a clear view of your business and sales gives you the information you need to make accurate and informed decisions.

Cons of a cashless society

Third party control

It's a scary thought to some that a third party will have complete control of your money. Although, as a business we hope you're not hiding anything from the tax man. For consumers, having a third-party in control can be more difficult to swallow, especially if there are privacy concerns.

As a business, having your money accessible to you in an easy and straightforward way makes it much easier to run your operations.

Investment and upkeep can be costly

Lily Wili, the founder and CEO of EverWallpaper, found that the initial investment required to set up the necessary infrastructure is the main drawback of going cashless. Although, she does go on to tell us that this cost has been absorbed, and the company is now reaping the benefits of  implementing cashless payments.

Typically, when setting up a new system or process you may have to face the inevitable sting of the initial investment. Whilst this may put you off considering going cashless, the initial cost in this case is usually balanced out when switching to cashless payments, as there are fewer operational costs to deal with.

We spoke to Kriti Mawji, marketing manager at Belledorm, who discussed the costs of keeping it digital: “The technology is constantly changing, making it easier for your digital platforms to become outdated, which can lead to decreases in efficiency and security regarding transactions and storage of sensitive company and consumer information. While we are saving money with our cashless systems, we also pour a significant amount of money into maintaining our digital platforms to prevent potential data breaches or technical issues when the system is at capacity with transactions.”

Security can certainly be a concern for those wanting to go cashless, as there are worries around hacking or access to digital accounts. It seems that costs will be incurred in attempting to keep your platforms and accounts secure.

It's a good idea to shop around and find the best EPOS system that suits your budget and is secure enough to protect your funds.

Increase in transaction fees

This isn't every business's experience, but some have found that the increase in transaction fees can cause issues.

Stella Scott, co-founder of EasyPaydayLoan, spoke to us about going cashless. She said: “Credit card transaction fees can go up to 4% of the total purchase amount. This is considerably expensive, and it created a dip in our revenue. However, we recover this through the reduced operating costs [of going cashless]. We also negotiated for better rates with our credit card processors rather than having to impose a credit card fee on clients.”

Whilst transactions fees may increase, the cost of going cashless tends to reduce other costs over time, so the transaction fees do not cause a substantial dent.

Should your business go cashless?

There are a few concerns that may prevent you from going cashless, such as giving up control of your money to a third party, and costly expenses. The benefits of going cashless include increased convenience, quicker transactions, and less crime.

Another concern is that some parts of society may be alienated by a cashless society. A new report published by the RSA has shown that ten million adults in the UK would struggle in a cashless society. The report lists a number of interesting findings, such as:

  • Whilst most people are using cashless forms of payment, the section of society that would be alienated in a cashless society (as identified in the Access to Cash Review, 2019) remains almost the same
  • A completely cashless society could lead to loss of control and spiralling debts
  • Rural communities and vulnerable citizens may be unable to access cash
  • A cashless society could lead to more isolation and less human connection

Notable statistics include:

  • 96% of people withdraw cash frequently
  • 25 million people in the UK said it would be an issue if there was no cash in society
  • 15 million people use cash to budget
  • 15 million people said they would cope in a cashless society, but it would be inconvenient

Depending on your customer demographic, you might find that going cashless won't alienate your customers. If your customer demographic would be alienated by going cashless, it might not be the right option for you right now.

The report offers suggestions to support the move away from cash to provide an easier transition for those who are not yet in the position to go cashless. Whilst COVID-19 has been a catalyst to cashless payments becoming the norm, there is still some work to be done to ensure that people are able to use cashless payments and have access and control of their money.

The report suggests that the UK should maintain and adapt its cash infrastructure to ensure that it remains inclusive, in order to meet the needs of those who need it most.

To accommodate the inevitable, the report also suggests that digital inclusion is required to slowly reduce reliance on cash and offer an easier transition.

In the meantime, as a business you can opt for an EPOS (electronic point of sale) system that includes the ability to process cash payments. Lots of EPOS systems, such as Square, offer small and sleek hardware to take cashless payments too. This way you can give your customers the option to pay with and without cash.

Verdict

The idea of a cashless society is being embraced by many, while alienating others. Businesses that are thinking about going fully cashless are on the cusp of a new world, yet the old world still requires some attention.

Finding a balance between moving towards a cashless business and still including those reliant on cash will enable you to look after all of your customers. Of course, whether you need to take cash or not will depend on your industry, location, and customer demographic. Weighing these factors up can help you make the decision on whether to cut out the cash.

Zara is a law grad with a penchant for wordsmithing. As Expert Market’s CRM and payroll expert, she relishes researching and writing expert content.