Ollie’s World – Retail Solutions 2007

Contactless payments was the hot topic at Retail Solutions this year, seen on stands as varying as Visa’s, Barclays as well as the hugely popular ‘Store of the future’ stand from Fujitsu (Radio One managed to omit that fact too and focussed on their excellent ‘does my bum look big in this’ mirror).

We are seeing a lot of our retailers clambering for our Touchlink technology (seen on Fujitsu and Visa’s stands) however the activity in the integrated sector seems a bit more muted compared to the noise we are seeing from other European markets.

Considering that the ‘Contactless London Launch’ is only a few months away (and inside most retailers Christmas lockdown period) there has not been much in the way of confirmed contactless projects in the UK, particularly in the integrated sector. Switzerland has seen the first live contactless EMV solution at McDonalds (powered by OTI and Hypercom) and Turkey has already got an enormous number of contactless readers installed (but they do also have an average of 5 PIN pads per terminal due to highly competitive banks).

So why aren’t things moving quicker? The business case for complex solutions can be found for certain sectors within retail to adopt this technology with the increase in spend, the increased frequency of transactions and the reduced speed of transactions (which amounts to an average retailer’s Holy Grail). Above all, customers want this technology.

One theory is that we have seen a lot of thought put into stand-alone systems, the traditional domain of the banks globally. Relatively easy to certify, take a solution out of a box and it works from day 1. Integrated solutions provide a more complex challenge, particularly with contactless payments (speed, integrating to normal chip and PIN readers, integrating to EFT and EPOS systems). This will definitely slow down the launch in many targeted retailers. Another theory is that as contactless is an option and not a requirement then all of the retailers are going to sit back, watch and wait for a first mover. Historically, some retailers have not been particularly early adopters of new technology but there have been some big advances made recently. We have seen retailers look “outside the box” when it comes to integrating payments and mobile solutions, with one high street retailer rolling out the Fujitsu B-Pad as a total EPOS solution (the first of many). This technology has had a big (positive) impact on their stores and has got rid of the queues, sped up transaction times, led to increased sales and most importantly looks incredibly cool.

This raises more questions about the UK retail market, why when you have an example like this aren’t more companies embracing new technology? Why are other countries taking bigger steps sooner with new payment technologies? Why are we so rarely staggered by the use of technology in retail?

In line with Mike Hendry’s thoughts in this newsletter, I think everyone in our industry needs to make a conscious effort to ensure that we are leading the way with these new customer demands and we are ensuring that we are putting the “cool-factor” back into retail.

Friday, July 27, 2007