Every year, the holiday season brings a flurry of consumers into retail locations to find that perfect gift for friends and family. But with a weak opening to the holiday shopping season reported, some retailers are looking for innovative ways to keep their customers happy and loyal to their stores.
According to the most recent data from the U.S. Commerce Department, retail sales were only up by 0.1 percent in November compared to the previous month, indicating the holiday shopping season got off to a slow start this year. Facing a lower rate of shopper turnout, some retailers are realizing the importance of helping the customer experience go as smoothly as possible.
Offering a smooth checkout process is one way that retailers are improving payment solutions and keeping customers engaged with their businesses. PYMNTS recently spoke with Demian Wendrow, owner of London Harness, to discuss how stores like his are using payments-as-a-service (PaaS) solutions to improve the customer shopping experience. London Harness employs several PaaS solutions, including the Cayan Genius platform and a loyalty program from AppCard, to retain customers.
“The Fastest Chip In Town”
London Harness is a leather goods store that has been a cornerstone of Wellesley, Mass., since 1951. The store sells a wide range of products that include handbags, backpacks, luggage and business portfolios. Wendrow, who runs the store with his wife and co-owner, Amy Lynch, pointed out that the store also offers several “one-stop-shop” services, including engraving, monogramming services and complimentary wrapping. Wendrow also offers personalized shopping experiences for customers, drawing on his more than 20 years of experience in the industry.
Ensuring that the shopping experience goes smoothly for the customer is an essential part of the transaction. To help the checkout process go smoothly, London Harness uses the Cayan Genius platform for payment processing. While he was nervous about adopting the technology, Wendrow said he’s been both surprised and pleased with the results.
“We use the phrase to our customers, ‘It’s the fastest chip in town,’” said Wendrow. “Customers actually recognize that and realize that. We were quite pleased by how quick it is.”
Wendrow believes having an efficient EMV chip reader can be an advantage for retailers that want to offer customers seamless payment transactions. But those transactions can sometimes get delayed by EMV chip readers that are delivering an uneasy user experience for many consumers.
“Ultimately, I think a lot of customers have a bad taste in their mouth about the chip because they’ve gone to the big stores that take a while or that make an alarming sound,” he said. “People think of it as an inconvenience because it slows the whole process down.”
But Cayan’s Genius platform has delivered London Harness a smoother payment experience, which Wendrow believes store customers appreciate.
“I think our customers are pleasantly surprised [at] how quick and easy it is,” he said.
Genius is also useful for impressing more tech-savvy customers, he said.
“We also have some of the high-tech customers that want to use the Apple Pay,” said Wendrow. “We haven’t had much Samsung or Google Pay but Apple Pay people are excited to use that, and sometimes we’re the first store for them to try it on, which is always kind of neat.”
Slower Foot Traffic, But Faster Payment Processing
This past year has been particularly tough because of a decline in foot traffic into the store. In addition to this decline, Wendrow said the store is under pressure to compete with larger sellers like Amazon like many other merchants.
“Obviously Amazon has hurt us all,” said Wendrow. “Competing with them is very difficult, especially when you have free shipping, second-day and all these deals going around. It’s definitely been tough for retail.”
This tough competition from larger players like Amazon make it more important for retail locations to smoothly adapt to new payment solutions technology.
“I feel that the stores that are making it easier or quicker for the customers that make it a better experience for them and a quicker experience for them because everyone is in such a rush and time is of the essence,” said Wendrow.
“The more technical things we have in the store to make the transition and transaction go as quick as possible, the better,” he said.
Tapping A Loyal Customer Base
In addition to providing consumers with a faster payment processing solution, Wendrow said London Harness recently launched a loyalty program through AppCard earlier in the year with approximately 2,000 patrons currently enrolled.
“The great thing about AppCard is you can design your loyalty program based on your business,” he said.
For December, London Harness designed its loyalty program to offer customers 10 percent cash back toward future purchases and an additional $15 reward if the customer spends $500 or more in the store. After the holidays, the program will offer an ongoing 5 percent cash back. The program also stores customers’ mobile numbers in a database to keep them posted on relevant promotions.
“We are able to notify our customers by text if we’re running a special, or if they have points and they haven’t used them in quite some time, we can remind them,” said Wendrow.
The program also offers London Harness the flexibility to run promotions at a time of the week or month of its choosing and for a certain dollar amount. Wendrow said the real value of the loyalty program is helping the store tap into its base of loyal customers, which can be a valuable service in such a highly competitive sales environment.
“We need to compete with all these retailers and department stores and online,” he said. “Our customers are very loyal to us, but we need to maintain that loyalty because when it comes down to it, everyone is looking for the best price.”
He also said the program has been successful in bringing customers back to the store who had forgotten about their dormant loyalty points. When London Harness recently sent out a notification, it attracted patrons who had not visited the store in three to six months and who were eager to cash in on the store’s latest offer.
“Everyone likes a deal, even if it’s 5 or 10 percent — every little bit helps,” said Wendrow. “We want to give back to our customers and keep our customers coming back to us, so I’d say it’s definitely worked.”
Beyond offering a faster checkout solution through Genius and a loyalty program from AppCard, Wendrow said the store is also considering implementing mobile payment solutions using iPhones or iPads to help customers complete their transactions faster. Looking ahead to 2017, Wendrow hopes these solutions will encourage customers to keep returning to London Harness instead of purchasing items from an online retailer.
“We’re a small business, and every sale means so much to us,” he said.
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To download the December edition of the Payments as a Service Tracker™, click the button below.
About The Tracker
The PYMNTS.com Payments as a Service Tracker™, in collaboration with Cayan, is designed to give an overview of the trends and activities of merchant platforms that not only enable payment processing of new and old technologies but also integrate with other features to improve the merchant’s experience, including customer engagement, security, omnichannel retail, analytics, inventory management, software and hardware management and more.