The UK Post Office has launched a barcode for cash service aimed at providing businesses with a way to offer their customers promotional incentives or payments cheaply and speedily.
The Payout service allows businesses to send their customers a barcode by mobile phone text message, email or post, which the recipient can redeem for cash at any of the 14,000 Post Office branches.
It follows electronic payments firm PayPoint's launch of the Shop Scan Save mobile-phone based loyalty scheme, devised by mobile marketing firm the Light Agency. The Shop Save Scan scheme, designed to replace discount coupons, also works by sending barcodes to customers.
Last month Chiltern Railways installed self-service scanners to read ‘mobile tickets’ sent as barcodes to passengers' phones.
The Post Office Payout service can be configured to include identity verification for higher value transactions. Payout also includes an optional data capture service, allowing companies to gather market intelligence about customers' preferences and purchasing habits.
The Payout service has been piloted by British Gas and Unilever, both of which are understood to be looking at extending the service.
Unilever direct communication executive Joanna Weston said: "We didn't have a clear fulfilment process in place to make a large quantity of small payments to our customer base. This could have been problematic for us as raising a check is 600 percent more expensive than using the Post Office Payout postal order service.
"We found the whole process of issuing 22,000 payments was extremely efficient. Very little effort was required on our part."
The Post Office said the scheme would help businesses making payments to people who do not have a bank account, and could be used to make instant refund and compensation payments as well as promotional schemes.