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The real cost of money in retail

Monday October 29 2012

The taking, counting, securing, processing and transmitting of money as cash and electronic payments is as vital as ever to any consumer-facing business

Tracking the latest technology products available in the areas of electronic payment systems, such as chip and PIN and self-checkout this year sees mobile and other digital, contactless transactional system components gaining popularity. Meanwhile, cash management systems for handling money efficiently and combating fraud must also be considered.

Mobile begins to make its mark

Richard Johnson, group strategy director for mobile banking and payments service provider Monitise, told Retail Technology: “Aside from the rise of online shopping and instant mobile price comparison, the new technology challenge for retailers will be over customer data as m-commerce makes its mark on how we buy goods.

“We know from our own activities in both Britain and around the world, m-commerce technologies are super-charging business with new dimensions of service and engagement. It has never been easier for the consumer to find and switch allegiance to those who best serve their needs, creating risk for traditional providers who do not embrace the revolution. The way consumers pay for their goods – the payments infrastructure – can become a valuable data source.”

Multichannel trends emerging

Neil Bonsor, European technology solutions director at coupon specialist Valassis, predicted: “Pinpoint promotional marketing is coming. Retailers are partnering with technology experts to create and distribute pertinent offers and coupons to the right individuals at the right time using their preferred media. For example, two major supermarket groups are currently testing a Wi-Fi system that identifies a customer’s mobile device once they have registered, and even pinpoints their exact whereabouts in store to deliver offers relating to the product ranges they are near to.”

However, Bonsor added: “There are, as yet, no industry standards supporting the redemption of coupons via NFC [near-field communications] at the point of sale. In our experience of working with retailers and brands, we’re finding that many retailers are testing different solutions as they wait for a predominant technology to appear before they invest in a particular system.”

Tessa Unsworth, chief information officer at prepaid payment services provider PrePay Solutions, also emphasised how retailers are capitalising on both mobile and social media, as the channels consumers are already using, to engage more successfully during the transactional process. “We are seeing many retailers embracing technology for gifting or loyalty programmes,” she said. “They tend to be early adopters of new developments as part of their drive to find new ways to reach out to new and existing customers.”

Finding the right partner

One route for retailers to access the expertise and innovation they need to tap into this technology is through partnerships. Unsworth added: “Debenhams partnered with us to launch the Debenhams Beauty Club iPhone App, which features a unique Virtual Beauty Club Card – the first of its kind within the beauty industry and a first for a UK High Street retailer. As well as being able to buy products, customers receive additional rewards to increase their connection with the brand. These include exclusive offers, news, expert tips and advice.”

Mobile technology may open up new opportunities for engagement beyond processing payment but, as with cash and all digital communications, security threats are also always present. Tim Critchley, chief executive of secure voice transactions provider Semafone, commented: “Despite technology developments, security threats are continually evolving and it’s vital that retailers remain vigilant. The prominent threats of the next 12 months will concern the transfer of information such as customer, credit card or company sensitive data to mobile and tablet devices, which can then be removed from premises without trace.

“Even a small breach can have a real effect on company cash flow and will carry the potential to ruin customer confidence with long lasting effect.” Critchley concluded that such risks and challenges demonstrate that it is now just as important to have a budget dedicated to securing financial transactions and data as it is for marketing and research and development.

Tagged as: Retail Technology magazine | September/October 2012 | Monitise | Valassis | PrePay Solutions | Debenhams | Semaphone | cash | money | payments | app | mobile