Retailers are dealing with a “tripod” situation, says Rahul Mutha, CEO of Aurus Inc. The challenges of addressing EMV, breaches and the changing demands of their customers create a complex environment for retailers to both understand and navigate. But this is something that Mutha and Aurus have been addressing over the last 14 years, and with a vision of the “Store of the Future” front and center. Mutha stopped by PYMNTS’ studio and sat down with MPD CEO Karen Webster to talk about how he and his team are helping his clients get there and how that has earned them the description of the “high speed elevator” to retail’s future.
SERVING TODAY’S RETAIL ENVIRONMENT
“It’s a pretty complex environment for retailers today,” says Rahul Mutha, CEO of Aurus told MPD CEO Karen Webster. “They have to deal with a tripod situation – EMV, constant breaches, and that comparative landscape in competition with the online world.” All retailers are trying to tackle these three things, and Aurus helps them by allowing them to do everything that they want with omnichannel while also handling the complex payments and security side of things.
“Anything we deploy has to be easy for retail chains to adopt. So, we handle all of the complexity and payment processing on the backend,” said Mutha, who noted that his company has been serving the retail community for 14 years.
During those 14 years, the mobile device has transformed the retail environment. Merchants, therefore, are also looking for an opportunity to reinvent their relationship with the consumer using mobile phones, said Webster. At the same time, merchants are presented with lots of options to help them do so, so the decision-making process could be complex. How, then, do companies like Aurus help?
WHY SECURITY IS A TOP AGENDA ITEM
Security, said Mutha, is a number one agenda item for merchants. Without it, “a brand cannot survive.” It’s a necessity, and merchants need to get things in place with it at this point. The conversation around security, however, varies across retail sectors, and even retailers in the same spectrum, said Mutha, have very unique challenges to address.
When finding a security solution for a retailer, Mutha noted that “one solution does not fit all. It’s necessary to get into the depth and breadth of each given client.”
Aurus’s solution keeps card data out of the retailer’s POS system.
“Our philosophy has been to keep the payment or credit card side of it as small of a footprint in the store as possible,” said Mutha. “We help retailers keep credit card data only through the customer-facing device and our cloud. The POS has got nothing to do with credit card data at all.”
THE STORE OF THE FUTURE
On top of ensuring security, merchants are also trying to enable consumers to do more of their own checkout, said Webster, which presents another whole layer of complexity. To manage this process, retailers must maintain a balance, said Mutha.
“From a consumer perspective, when they see the value, comfort, and of shopping and delivery, they are quick to adapt and willing to go after the solution,” he said. For example, Aurus recently enabled a gas chain in the Northeast to allow customers to use their smartphones at the pump.
In working with clients, Aurus frequently speaks of The Store of the Future – for every retailer they meet, said Mutha, it’s almost like they have a crystal ball there to predict the future. Their clients are all trying to understand how to interact with the consumer in a better way.
“From our perspective, The Store of the Future, especially for brick and mortar businesses, is very burdened,” explained Mutha. “For them to compete with the online world, they have to make it more cost effective, convenient, and interactive for the consumer.”
The Store of the Future gets people there, he said, helping retail chains understand how to bridge that gap and make it more of an omnichannel experience for the consumers walking into the store. His company helps retailers understand what areas a customer shops in-store, how long he or she spends in the store, what items he or she looks at, what digital content a retailer can play with to interact with the consumer.
When it comes to supporting all of this with its platform, Mutha said that Aurus has spent a lot of time putting all of these backend systems in place for clients, mostly on the big data, payments, and omnichannel side.
“We provide the front end with a customer’s existing backend system, and put a layer on top of what’s there to make it more of an omnichannel experience for the customer,” he said.
While there are many players currently in the space that provide similar solutions, Aurus specifically acknowledges that omnichannel is a word that is overused and confusing. But there are three key perspectives, said Mutha, that they explain to retailers: identifying the customer uniquely, identifying the inventory in real time, and identifying the consumer basket.
“If retailers can handle these three things at the same time, that’s the true omnichannel experience. And we provide that for our clients,” he said.
PHYSICAL RETAIL: 10 YEARS FROM NOW
Ten years from today, physical retail will look a lot different from a technology and human interaction perspective, predicted Mutha, and what we are seeing now is just the tip of the iceberg. Physical retail will have to work a lot harder to be relevant, added Webster.
“Today, brick and mortar stores have the weapons in place to let them compete with online retail, getting the customer back in the store,” said Mutha.
And payments, interestingly, isn’t really driving any of this.
“People look at payments more as an over-simplified system, and something they have to deal with, and we let them see it that way,” he said. “We take care of the complexity and compliance issues for retailers, and let them focus on their dream.”