CHICAGO – For convenience-store retailers, a prime chance to unlock customers’ hearts may happen as they open their wallets. At least that’s one of the themes set to emerge at a national payments conference this week in the Windy City. The two-day conference will feature topics ranging from loyalty to data security, as retailers and providers of financial services meet to explore the quickly evolving payments landscape.
Reviewing general themes expected to emerge at the R2 Retail Reinvention 2015 conference on August 4 and 5 in Chicago, Michael Grillo, director of solution marketing for ACI Worldwide Inc., a payments-solutions company based in Naples, Fla., told CSP Daily News about the growing role payments will play in building relationships between retailers and their customers.
Q: The mobile and digital revolution seems to have elevated payment. Would you agree?
A: Definitely. We published a study earlier this year that found retailers across the board are seeing payments as a critical way of connecting to the consumer. What we’ve traditionally thought of as the payment experience changed into the “purchase” experience, with so much more happening at the point of purchase, including loyalty, couponing and making the process seamless for customers.
Q: How does the evolution apply to convenience stores?
A: It’s particularly important for convenience. People are on the go. They want a place to stop, fuel their cars, pick up some things and keep going. It’s a faster pace than a restaurant or hotel, so the less friction in the purchase experience, the better off merchant will be.
Q: What other things are retailers concerned about?
A: Cost. Across the board, 50% or more see payment costs increasing. They’re looking for ways to shrink those costs, but still invest in technology that will help grow the business and at the same time, keep the brand safe.
Q: Where do you see mobile fitting into the picture?
A: Undeniably, the mobile phone is changing how consumers want to shop and purchase. The power consumers have in their hands is tremendous. They have access to more product insight than reps on the floor. In that light, mobile should be part of a merchant’s omnichannel approach. If customers can do something in the store, they should be able to do it online and from their mobile phones. It should be seamless, regardless of the payment method or what they want to buy.
Q: When you talk about the payment experience, how does digital couponing fit in?
A: Coupons are part of a rewards-management solution. Everyone is looking for ways to improve the stickiness of their brand or product.
Q: Going back to something you mentioned earlier, security, what are your thoughts?
A: Absolutely, it’s a concern, but in many ways, it’s another hurdle. Things are still in flux. There are some factions of merchants who are moving faster than others, taking on the ability to pay with ApplePay or a smart phone with wallets like Google. Other merchants haven’t dipped their toes in and are deciding what to do. There’s a little bit of apprehension to invest in new payment technology because of security concerns. It’s counter intuitive to me, because a lot of new solutions offer tokenization and point-to-point encryption. But our survey data says many are skeptical and holding back on payment investment due to security. Merchants are either in the camp of listening to the consumer and staying current or there’s another type of retailer who’s figuring things out. They don’t have a lot of time to wait.
Q: Many in our industry have been on the fence with Europay MasterCard Visa (EMV).
A: EMV can be an opportunity to look at the payment-acceptance terminal as a whole. If we need to be ready for EMV, maybe it’s time to look at mobile. It’s an opportunity to look at payment acceptance as a tool and upgrade in several ways.