British Shell petrol stations are going to make it easier for some smartphone owning customers to pay for their fuel using a smartphone and either the Shell Motorist or Paypal applications, which will be available for Android, iPhone and Windows Phone devices. Shell touts the advantages of the Paypal option is that it’s quick and easy and expects that the vast majority of its one thousand service stations to adopt the technology.
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The application will work by letting the customer pick the pump that he or she is going to use via a QR code. The application then authenticates the transaction and the customer can then pump their fuel. Once they’ve filled the car’s tank, a receipt is automatically sent to the handset so that the customer knows it’s safe to drive away having paid for the fuel. Shell trialed the Paypal payment options starting in 2013 for a number of Drivers Club members (I was distraught at not being picked!). Michael Hominick, the Retail Marketing Manager Retail, has this to say on the matter: “We’re committed to providing a fast, safe and secure service. We’ve listened to our customers and know they will benefit from this innovation. They will now have the flexibility and convenience of paying without having to leave their car. Those who want to go in store and pay or purchase other items will still be able to, with the benefit of reduced queues.” I’m assuming that Michael means the forecourt rather than the car itself because every Shell petrol station I’ve been to in the last decade and a half has been self surface, but let’s not lose the point here: once customers are used to how the Paypal / Shell service works, it’ll mean it’ll take less time to stop and fill up and this is a good thing.
The deal with Paypal highlights the barriers to entry that any bank, carrier or other business that wants a slice of the mobile payment market. Apple Pay has a chance of disrupting the market; that Shell has managed to steal a march is beneficial. But perhaps the real news here is that it might bring an end to the “don’t use your cell ‘phone here” signs that adorn pretty much every UK forecourt. Then again, perhaps Michael’s comments allude to this, as it’s (generally) considered acceptable to use a cell ‘phone in a parked car on a petrol forecourt.