Payments As A Service

Giving UK Hospitality A Reboot With Full-Service Payments

In a sea of small businesses, what does it take to stand out? For the January Payments as a Service Tracker™, PYMNTS spoke with Lee Nazari, CEO of SWOOPOS, about how U.K. merchants in the hospitality trade are using beacons to find new ways to reach customers. Plus, the latest news and profiles of 109 global Payments as a Service providers inside the latest Tracker.

Across the pond, restaurant and hospitality businesses are undergoing a makeover.

Just like here in the U.S., merchants in the U.K. are finding opportunities to adopt new full-service payments solutions to improve their businesses. However, British merchants are not rushing to adopt the services, instead taking a cautious approach to introducing new payment technology and solutions into their businesses. For example, a 2014 report found that only 2 percent of U.K. micro-businesses (those with fewer than nine employees) had adopted a mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) solution to accept payments.

But while merchants might be slow to adopt new payment solution technologies, consumers are eager to use innovative technologies to make their purchases. And as a result, if merchants fail to offer payment solutions that appeal to customers, they could risk frustrating and ultimately losing long-term visitors.

How can merchants get on board with modern payment solutions? PYMNTS recently caught up with Lee Nazari, CEO and founder of SWOOPOS, a company that offers a variety of payment solutions — including a beacon that can send personalized offers to customers — aimed at helping the hospitality sector. Nazari spoke about getting merchants on board with Payments-as-a-Service (PaaS) technology and the challenge of encouraging old mindsets to adopt new solutions.

A history of hospitality

Nazari founded SWOOPOS in 2015. The company offers several payment solutions that are aimed at helping merchants accept mobile payments, enable cashless transactions, adopt mPOS solutions, create loyalty rewards and provide data analytics software, among other products.

Nazari himself has deep roots in the hospitality trade. His father moved to the U.K. from Iran during the 1970s and got his start washing dishes before becoming a restaurateur himself. As a kid, Nazari spent his youth helping in his father’s business.

“From a young age, when I was 12 years old, I was dragged to restaurants,” he said.

As an adult, he worked for financial consulting firm Morgan Stanley before embarking on a career as a freelance consultant. Now, he is focusing his energy on helping hospitality providers deliver better business.

“I’m not academically trained,” said Nazari. “I didn’t go to Harvard, and I don’t code. But I’ve put together a piece of technology that has everybody paying attention to us, and that’s because I know what product is actually going to help business.”

By founding SWOOPOS, Nazari said he is channeling his backgrounds in hospitality and consulting to deliver a technology solution that can help restaurateurs and other merchants improve their business functions and better serve their customers.

“If it helps companies, then my mission is successful,” he said.

A beacon of (marketing) opportunity

One of the more notable solutions offered in the SWOOPOS portfolio is a beacon technology solution that allows merchants to personalize offers for consumers and enables them to distribute promotions to customers’ smartphones based on proximity. The technology can also be used to target consumer foot traffic as they move closer to a restaurant’s or a food vendor’s location.

“The beacon part of this actually allows the merchant to utilize the data that it gets from mobile orders and all this data that comes in using these new cloud systems,” Nazari said. “[The merchant] can specifically pick out age, first time [at establishment] and gender and create a group around that … and then push out a special offer.”

He offered an example of a food street vendor positioned in a public location that sees hundreds or thousands of people looking for a place to eat for lunch. The beacon solution allows vendors to send personalized offers to potential patrons’ smartphones to entice some passersby to pay the vendor a visit.

“You can push out a 50 percent offer for a limited number of people, and the next 50 people, for example, who walk past will get the push notification because the beacon triggers based on proximity and range,” he said.

The beacon then sends a push notification to a mobile app to nearby customers. If they’re interested, these patrons can visit the street vendor and cash in their personalized promotion.

Nazari said he is excited by the technology’s capabilities and that SWOOPOS plans to partner with a digital sign company later this year to implement the beacon technology to reach consumers at shopping centers.

“It’s the sexiest thing in marketing that I’ve come across since email,” he said. “Really. It’s a game-changer when utilized correctly.”

Keeping up with the customers

Nazari believes payment solutions are helping to usher in a major change in the way consumers complete their business transactions. He pointed to the ridesharing company Uber and other on-demand mobile app services that have grown in popularity in recent years as the key reason behind changing consumer attitudes.

“The marketplace in general is shifting,” he said. “Consumers are demanding these sorts of conveniences in their everyday purchases now and with everything they do.”

However, in his observation, U.K. merchants have been slower to adopt to these solutions than their U.S. counterparts when it comes to the adoption of PaaS systems. He partly attributes the slowness to adopt to these solutions to cultural attitudes.

“We’re more of a conservative nation,” he said. “We’re a very skeptical people. We like to wait longer than others.”

But he understands why some merchants might be hesitant to get on board with newer solutions. Some business owners, he said, can get commitment-phobic because some solutions require years-long contracts with software and hardware suppliers.

“It’s right up there with picking the location of your business,” Nazari said, referring to the scope of the decision.

But as consumer demand for more tech-savvy payment solutions rises, Nazari urges merchants to take steps to make sure their business operations fall in line with consumer expectations.

“Obviously, if you don’t make that jump to these sorts of solutions sooner rather than later, you’re going to be left behind,” he said.

In the end, however, he believes merchants will implement the changes that consumers want.

Consumers will always lead the market,” he said. “Whatever consumers want is what everyone else has to do.”

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To download the January edition of the PYMNTS.com Payments as a Service Tracker™, click the button below…

About The Tracker

The PYMNTS.com Payments as a Service Tracker™ 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.

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Latest Insights:

Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. The PYMNTS Next-Gen AP Automation Tracker, is a monthly report that highlights the most recent accounts payable developments and automated solutions that are disrupting how businesses process invoices, track spending and earn rebates on transactions.

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