Whilst many retailers in the UK have had a tough run in 2013, there have been some great success stories where retailers have improved their multichannel customer interactions – John Lewis and House of Fraser both commenting on record sales and the success of their multichannel strategy; “It’s because of how we’ve got bricks and clicks to work hand in glove”. However, as demonstrated by other large retailers after the Christmas period, the high street landscape continues to be masked with an uncertain future, with many retailers fighting to cater to consumers who are evolving how they shop; both in-store and online.
The latest British Retail Consortium figures illustrate this shift considerably; in the UK, nearly one in every five pounds spent on shopping is now done online, the highest ever recorded. To help meet this change, retailers are continuing to explore new payment and loyalty technologies to meet the demands on the modern consumer. But what will really drive the retail technology evolution in 2014?
1. Smartphones continuing to transform the retail landscape: The smartphone is undoubtedly the key piece of technology that will continue to transform the retail landscape in 2014. As consumer confidence in using mobile devices in the shopping environment increases, retailers need to continue investing in meeting consumer expectations as this trend continues to grow. A multichannel strategy is key, as not only will this channel act as an enabler through showrooming in store, but also through online shopping on the move. With retailers having the opportunity to deliver personalised messages and offers in store, together with convenient and quick ways to pay, the mobile device really allows consumers to manage all their interactions with a brand through a single portal, on a single device. Additionally, an increase in NFC and potentially iBeacon through low energy Bluetooth offers the ability for targeted rewards at not only the store level, but aisle level offers.
2. MPOS – From Mobile Point of Sale to Mobile Point of Service: As retailers continue to innovate to maintain their presence in a quickly evolving industry, 2014 will see Mobile Point of Sale (MPoS) take a few steps forward and we’ll begin to see more mobile payment pilots among major retailers. The flexibility of mobile service linked with integrated payments is considerable. Enabling customers to not only beat the queues , mobile devices will also help in- store staff to provide a better customer service by linking to back office supply chains from the shop floor to provide a limitless store, where the size and colour the customer desires is only a click away. Technology has long been guilty of reducing interactions between the consumer and the assistant, with the assistant focussing on low value / high cost transactional tasks. The Mobile point of service can help reconnect the customer and the now tablet enabled assistant. The chance to engage and smile is much underrated, step from behind the cash desk!
3. Convergence of payments and loyalty: The field of loyalty is shifting, with the emphasis moving away from pure points collecting and redemption schemes into more instant, targeted and geo-fenced rewards. 2013 saw some great success stories where payments and loyalty have started to converge to enhance the customer experience (such as the Starbucks card). With the ability to provide targeted offers and digital vouchers via mobile, 2014 will see an increase in payments methods combining with loyalty programmes to provide a seamless consumer experience. As smartphone adoption continues to increase, mobile wallets adoption will continue to increase. However without the balance between convenience and security being addressed, increased adoption rates have the potential to remain low with various data leaks making the news in 2014. A trusted partner is essential on this journey.
4. Striking a balance between convenience and security will continue to be a top priority for retailers: As technology continues to evolve, maintaining secure transactions and building consumer trust around new payments methods will remain a priority for retailers. According to The Logic Group’s research conducted by Ipsos MORI, only 30 per cent of British consumers said that they trusted major retailers to protect their personal information. To ensure that transactions are processed securely and to the most recent PCI Payment to Payment Encryption (P2PE) standards, PCI validated services provided by third party providers will increase. Recent findings from Edgar Dunn for example suggest that approximately three quarters of retailers plan to use hosted services in the New Year. The ethos seems to be shifting to hire the experts and let you focus on the business of retail.
5. Contactless payments: 2014 will see a continued rollout of contactless payment methods with key benchmarks including TFL’s rollout of contactless payment mechanisms across the majority of its network. Mobile contactless payment will also come increasingly to the fore-ground. We will start to see the use of both cloud based mobile payment applications as well as the adoption of models which store the payment credentials on the phone and leverage Near Field Communication (NFC). We expect the latter will also be supported by the adoption of Host Card Emulation (HCE).
6. The role of data and insights: Retailers will increasingly be looking to grow revenues from their loyal customer database by using data, customer preferences and personalisation to engage with consumers in an informed and insightful manner. Equally, retailers will be looking to use available data to identify the ‘unknown’ customer and provide personalised and targeted offers at the point of sales and via mobile devices. The potential to target the unknown customer through payment token and surprise and delight based on new criteria is now an enticing possibility.
7. Individualised service will be a differentiator: Delivering an enhanced individualised service that appeals to customer’s varied shopping preferences for example online, in-store, via mobile or click and collect, will be the area where retailers can really differentiate themselves in 2014. This will be underpinned by a single provider that delivers a strategic view of payments processing and is able to support all key customer touch points. Brands with multiple sub brands can also access data and insights across the various channels to build up in stronger and more contextual single customer view.
8. Retailers will have the opportunity to cater to a growing global audience – as retailers continue to develop their online offerings; the volume of international shoppers will only continue to grow. For retailers to truly benefit from this international audience, they must ensure that they tailor their payment options to the local markets and consumers they serve. Instore, retailers are starting to think about additional payment methods to cater for overseas visitors to the UK. Chinese tourists for example spend almost three times the average tourist spends in the UK. Therefore offering relevant payment options such as Union Pay as well as added value services such as dynamic currency conversion and tax free solutions are important.
There were a number of positive retail stories reported as 2013 drew to a close, but retailers are still operating in a tough environment. Customer’s Christmas shopping behaviours clearly showed the path to retail success in this new world is via a multichannel strategy. This approach offers customers the flexibility to choose how they shop, how they pay and how they want to be rewarded. Retailers that deliver this more personalised consumer experience in 2014 will sail ahead. Are you prepared?