One size never fits all in retail — so why should it be any different with payments?
Commerce is done across brick-and-mortar and online conduits, with plastic cards and in-app payments. Merchant acquirers — and, of course, merchants — must be aware of how consumers want to pay, and when and where. No easy task when point-of-sale systems are limited, in function and scope, by information conveyed. Simply speaking, limiting commerce to a terminal is … well, limiting.
In an interview with PYMNTS, Martina Jeronski, vice president at AEVI International, based in Germany, said the movement beyond hardware means embracing software and services. It’s a trend that will last several years for providers and the merchants they serve, with a focus on an “open ecosystem” that connects disparate parts of the commerce experience.
To underpin such inexorable trends, she pointed to the emergence of the “smart POS” that uses software to connect various parts of a business — all geared toward creating a robust “point of interaction” with the consumer. The interaction point comes amid a steady flow of data as devices, software and the continuum of commerce itself all play across any number of apps.
“A revolution is going on within our industry,” Jeronski said. “We all know what happened in the smartphone industry with Nokia, with Apple, with Android.” Other tech disruption has come with the likes of Uber and Airbnb, she added, and alongside new business models, “the payment industry is changing.”
Perhaps with some education, the change could come a bit faster. That sentiment comes amid findings from PYMNTS that a majority of retailers know that innovation could help improve sales, and yet a significant number do not seem to be embracing such technological initiatives. As Jeronski noted, the store that has better, faster and flexible POS systems can connect merchants to sales-conversion possibilities “of which they are not yet even aware.”
Customization means that, for example, an in-store tablet (not necessarily connected to a payment system) can provide rankings on customer service, offering up information that can be leveraged to boost the personal touch and also the top line. With “smart” platforms in operation, the payment device connected to a tablet that is connected to the Bluetooth printer in a restaurant can help shorten lines, and wait times.
In essence, the brick-and-mortar setting becomes streamlined in a manner that once was only reminiscent of online commerce. (Starbucks, making headway into mobile order-ahead efforts, points toward this evolution, said Jeronski.)
Smart POS deployment also adds new dimensions to the consumer experience, transforming the point of sale to the aforementioned “point of interaction.” The consumer buying a coveted TV in an electronics store may be approached by a salesperson armed with a mobile device, facilitating the sale then and there, sans line — and perhaps even with a financing plan available. Freed from the confines of the countertop setting, the sale comes to the consumer, Jeronski said.
“Today, we need to go to the consumer and close the deal as quickly as we can,” she told PYMNTS.
Yet educating stakeholders of the possibilities inherent in flexible technologies and smart POS systems is a “challenge,” even though AEVI’s own studies show that as many as 90 percent of merchants are interested in such use cases.
Outreach efforts to merchant acquirers and merchants should include workshops and training seminars, focusing on the “plug and play” nature of smart POS offerings, which also are scalable enough to grow as a merchant grows, and where integration costs fall by the wayside as upgrades can be seamless.
Now, Jeronski said, for merchant providers, selling “a true payments solution incorporates not only payments, but also customer-facing and back-office business functions. So it’s important to understand that the market is changing and we need to change as well.”