Analysis: Why has the physical retail landscape lagged in its innovation?
The shopping experience has been transformed in many ways by the growth of eCommerce, as consumers become more adept at seeking out the best deals and discounts online.
But as Verifone‘s Nathan Gill, VP, European Media Development & Global Innovation, explains, the in-store experience has lagged behind.
"We all know that year-on-year merchants receive less and less footfall as the conveniences of online become more readily available to consumers, whether it is the personalisation, delivery options or really up-sells and cross-sells," says Gill.
The proliferation of contactless cards and mobile payments have gone some way to streamlining the customer experience, but this isn’t just a question of convenience, Gill explains.
"These innovations have been much slower to make their way into the physical retail environment and understandably so; in order to deliver that stuff you need to know who that consumer is, how often they shop with you and what products and services they purchase.
"There’s a certain level of insight that goes into this and often in the physical environment the consumer is more anonymous."
These better experiences are provided by the PC, but increasingly the mobile device as well. Of course, the whole point of a mobile device is that you carry it with you.
This is a gap that Verifone hopes to bridge with its new Engage platform, which turns the humble payment terminal into a computer itself that can interact more profoundly with your phone.
"When you think about the mobile landscape, when mobile devices first came out they were good at making voice calls.
"It wasn’t until you had the first iPhone that the mobile device became so much more capable and had lots more applications you can use."
The payment terminal itself is connected to the internet and can be synchronised with other channels as well as the consumer’s own mobile device.
"One application would be that you have a mobile coupon that you have available on an app on your phone and you want to redeem it," Gill explains. "Currently to redeem it you might have to give a code to a cashier or scan your phone. With the common platform you can redeem it simply through NFC or Bluetooth.
"A lot of retailers have started to install physical pedestals with a smile and frown face on them. Currently it is only a small number that use it, usually the customers who are upset about the service they receive.
"We will have a rating app that will make it very easy for customers to rate their experience at the point of sale. Retailers can get real-time feedback deployed through an analytics application, see exactly how each region, store and cashier is performing."
However, Verifone hopes that by opening the platform up to the ever-innovative developer community, they will generate not just the "low-hanging fruit" as he describes it but entirely new ways of engaging customers.
"If we’re truly able to embrace the developer community they will come up with some pretty cool things that we’ve never thought of before.
"A prime example would be you’re sitting in a queue, and we know that over 60 percent of consumers from 18-49 use their mobile devices when standing in a queue.
"Our new terminals and commerce platform will be able to communicate with the consumer on their mobile devices, so that they can decide what offers they want to apply to today’s purchase. You can decide how you want to pay for it so that when you get to the terminal it already knows what you want."