Crystal Gazing Into The Future of Retail Payment Solutions
Everybody wants to know what’s coming down the tracks in their own industry or sector, and it’s no different for retailers. Electronic payment solutions have already revolutionised how retailers do business, but what’s up next to make the customer journey even smoother when it comes to the Future of Retail Payment Solutions?
The first point to make is that when it comes to retail payment solutions nothing new will happen in the area of retail payments unless the customer wants it to happen. In other words, it’s not just a matter of retailers coming up with new technologies or marketing innovations – it’s also about whether the customer has an appetite for the initiative.
But let’s assume that the solutions of tomorrow meet with approval from the customer, what form are they likely to take? Assuming we’re looking forward no more than three to five years, it’s likely that new solutions will not involve new technological breakthroughs. Instead, they will be dependent on newer and smarter ways of using existing technology.
We already have access to technology that can deliver online booking, contactless payment, shorter queues and less hassle for customer and retailer alike. The next big battleground will involve imagination and innovation – how to take the technologies that we already have and harness them in new ways.
By way of example, ‘Click and Collect’ has been with us for quite a while now, allowing customers to reserve goods in a retailer’s online portal, then collect it in their bricks and mortar outlet. Argos was one of the first retailers to utilise this type of functionality.
But now, this same technology is being harnessed by retail chemists, who are allowing customers to forward their prescription in advance, and have their medication ready and waiting – with no queuing – when the customer turns up at the chemist’s outlet. It’s simply a case of taking an existing technology but finding a pain point that it can address and harnessing it accordingly.
Similarly, the restaurant industry is waking up to the power of on-table technology to help their upselling efforts. For example, a simple tablet solution can let the customer drill down through the wine menu in a way that would be impossible on a traditional, paper-based wine list. And the more the customer knows about their wine options, the more likely they are to spend more on their choice of tipple.
Another example of old technologies being ‘re-skinned’ comes from McDonald’s, who are trialling an ordering kiosk in their 14,000 U.S. stores. Customers can order via touch screens, pick up a number with a digital locator, and have their meal delivered to their table. And next year, customers will also be able to order and pay on the company’s mobile app, which has 16 million downloads already. This is really a variant on the Drive-Through experience but aimed at the Sit-Down trade.
It’s a case of spotting how technology can do away with the more annoying or time-wasting elements of the sale and payment elements. And it might surprise you to hear that this is happening in the most unexpected of places. Lunch money, for example, has been a part of the daily off-to-school routine in millions of homes each day, but some forward-looking schools are now moving to eliminate cash (to thwart those fiendish bullies, perhaps) and operate instead on the basis of a pre-paid card. It’s a win for the school, a win for students, and a win for parents.
The increasing role of wearable technology
Wearable technology has had something of a bumpy ride, and early predictions that we would all be wearing devices like Smartwatches, fitness devices etc. have fallen somewhat short of the mark. But remember that there is a single piece of ‘wearable technology’ that pretty much every one of us owns – the mobile phone. It may not have been included under the term ‘wearable technology’, but the fact is that most of us have this wonderful piece of technology on our person for pretty much every minute of our waking lives.
The addition of Apple Pay and Android Pay to the mix has added even more potency to the mobile phone, but there is still plenty of scope left to make your phone even more important as you go about your daily business. Already, we are seeing what this might look like. Electronic donation boxes, for example, are a revolutionary new way for charities to collect funds in a smarter, cash-free manner. The donor simply taps a mobile phone (or smartwatch) against the box and a donation is made instantly and securely.
And it’s not just traditional retailers who are benefiting from this ease of payment. Everyone from your local plumber or electrician – even your window cleaner – can accept payment in the same way.
And make no mistake about it, once the consumer has started to make payments in this manner, they will be very slow to revert to cash or the almost defunct cheque option.
Don’t wait – the future of retail payment solutions is here already!
There is very little doubt but that the retailers who profit from new retail payment innovations will be the same retailers who are nailing it today. In other words, you shouldn’t wait until the ‘next big thing’ comes along, but rather you should invest in the best available technologies on the market, safe in the knowledge that many of the emerging solutions will simply involve add-ons rather than a complete re-investment on your part.