When self-service kiosks work well at an airport, they are an incredibly useful innovation that can make moving through the shifting terrain of a busy airport a much better experience.
Unfortunately, as Karen Webster pointed out in a recent interview with Joe Mach, president of Verifone North America, those self-serve kiosks have something of a mixed track record — with an unfortunate tendency to get “goofed up” trying to read a mag stripe whenever one is running late for a flight.
A situation that may be somewhat less likely to occur in the future for customers, Mach noted, as last week, Verifone announced news that it will be working with SITA, the world’s leading air transport IT and communications specialist, to offer a unique payment solution integrating an airport’s shared IT infrastructure and Verifone’s payment devices.
“When you look at what SITA does in airports in North America and around the world … they really handle anything you see in an airport from an infrastructure perspective that isn’t restaurants or the retail side of things. Check-in counters, gates and self-service kiosks, that is SITA.”
The partnership, Mach told Webster, is the culmination of a two-year effort between the two firms and an opportunity to really drive Verifone’s security and payments solutions to many different parts of the airport ecosystem — and at a scale around the world that is “pretty interesting.”
It’s part one of the “niche plays” that CEO Paul Galant mentioned when Verifone announced earnings a few weeks ago, and part two of the firm’s recent push to redefine itself from that “countertop terminal” company. Verifone these days, said Galant, is less a hardware company as it is a payments solutions firm. The goal is to let their partners do whatever it is they are in business to do — commerce, airport IT infrastructure — while leaving the complicated world of payments — particularly securing them — off their plate.
It means the kiosk experience in airports will often be less likely to get “goofed up.”
But more important, he noted, the internal payments infrastructure of the airport will be much more secure.
Securing the Experience
Unattended airport kiosks, Mach noted, often aren’t a first thought when people consider card security — just because of the nature of card fraud. EMV, he noted, hasn’t seemed like as pressing a case.
“[Airports] haven’t had as much issue with liability shifts, because your average thief isn’t taking a stolen credit card to pay a baggage fee. But credit cards get stolen in flights, and we can push a variety of better and more secure experiences for customers with things like end-to-end encryptions.”
And, he noted, the securing of kiosks is mirrored in other parts payments touchpoints — at ticket counters and at gates. The kiosks are the first place, he said, but Verifone is doing similar secure payments at the check-in counter, at the gates and other places throughout the airport.
The goal, Mach told Webster, is to build a secure infrastructure of payments within the system and then leverage those tools to upgrade and improve the customer’s average trip to the airport.
Those expansions, Mach noted, could include leveraging Verifone’s mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) devices to make it easier for customers to check in at curbside.
“The first out is to get the infrastructure in there for end-to-end encryption in the core places, and then figure out how we can change the experience and expand that into other parts of the airport.”
The changing airport experience — and what it takes to build it out — is part of a bigger story Verifone is telling, noted Mach. Because, he noted, despite all the tales of retail apocalypse and the end of the world as payments players know it, the explosive transformation has been slower in arriving than the headlines about that change. For all that has changed, 90 percent of payments still happen in stores.
But, he noted, the digital upgrade is less something that is speculated about as coming as something that is actually showing up, albeit in unexpected ways — like Amazon suddenly becoming a very big factor in physical retail.
“We’re going to finally get to that point where everything that has been talked about changing that [retail] experience and going more digital [is happening]. We had started to see it, but now it is going to go into overdrive,” Mach emphasized.
That change is evident in their partnership experiences, which have helped some of these large players go digital and go omnichannel. Panera — which began a digital reset two years ago with Verifone as a partner — is predicting more than $1 billion in digital transactions in 2017 and is using Verifone terminals and software as the bridge between Panera’s bricks and clicks.
“When you think about mobile and how it has really become not just a niche for specialty retail, our mobile business continues to double year over year over year. It used to be about line busting. Not it is about endless aisles or save the sale.”
Mach noted that mobile is even growing in market, where it was once thought impossible — like grocery — where the old conventional wisdom was that it just wasn’t possible because of the nature of the goods being sold.
“We’re working with several national brands where it’s order online, pull into a special parking spot, groceries are put in the trunk, the customer is handed a tablet with a Verifone device attached to it to confirm payment. Within a few minutes, she is on her way home with her groceries.”
Verifone, Mach said, is more than pretty good at using new technologies to meet consumers and merchants at the point of transaction — wherever they might be. That means thinking about POS devices in a very different way: countertop terminals, mPOS, kiosks, vending machines, mobile devices. The number of devices that Verifone has to commerce-enable has expanded, Mach emphasized, but not what it has to do — make the transactions happen and keep them secure and free from fraud.
And as much as possible make them seamless for both the customer making them and the merchant taking them.
Airports, Mach said, are just the latest stop on that trip.