Unattended Retail

Beyond Unattended Retail, There’s Unattended Payments

Amid the Amazon and Uber effects, retail is changing, and the unattended model is gaining traction. Worldnet CEO Will Byrne tells PYMNTS that the shift to unattended retail also means payment solution providers must be mindful of a shift to ‘unattended payments.’

Most have heard of the Amazon effect, and the Uber effect. It’s no secret that those tech behemoths are helping to shape consumer expectations about the ways we shop and pay — the whole continuum of action across transactions is streamlined, efficient and fast. If there’s one word that defines it all (what consumers and merchants want, and are pursuing in a world where omnichannel is a Holy Grail across brick-and-mortar and online activity), it would be “frictionless.”

In an interview with Karen Webster, Will Byrne, CEO of omnichannel solutions provider Worldnet, pointed to what he termed the “Uberization of the payment experience.” There is no longer much tolerance, or enthusiasm, on the part of consumers for digging into one’s pocket to find money or a payment card, or doing the mental math (well, OK, a smartphone has a calculator) to figure out how much to tip a driver.

Nowadays, one’s card is on file with the ride-hailing service. Basically, the consumer steps in, selects a button tied to the tip amount at the end of the ride and steps out.

Writ large, the unattended retail model can be thought of, too, as an unattended payments model, where everything revolves around an authenticated user wielding a registered payment credential — two components that, once in place, can truly take advantage of an omnichannel experience. Use cases span the gas pump, the retailer’s aisle, the kiosk and, of course, online. In other words, the notion of “unattended” need not be confined to the self-service kiosk-driven environment in a retail establishment.

To make it all happen, Byrne said the rise of unattended retail has been “changing the way that [Worldnet and others] have been providing payment solutions.”

The Unattended Retail Advantage Goes To …

For now, he noted, the advantage in giving shape to, and taking advantage of, unattended retail lies with digital players like Amazon, which can rely on an existing customer base that they know, and has been identified. That sentiment, of course, has been echoed in this space by Webster herself, who noted that Amazon’s share of eCommerce has grown to as much as 50 percent in just a few short years, and where Amazon Go is likely to ride a wave of Amazon Pay transactions.

Along that blurring of lines between in-store and online commerce, a shift is occurring, added Byrne.

“I think what we’re seeing is that the world of payments used to be conveniently divided into cardholder-present and cardholder-not-present formations,” he said. Speaking of firms such as Worldnet, and peers that offer the tech and services underpinning the transactions themselves, “most players fell into one or [the other of those] delivery concepts. Those two environments have actually crashed together to form a whole series of different requirements” across automated retail, intelligent retail and online.

Broadly speaking, as a matter of policy, these solutions should support EMV, contactless, near-field communication (NFC) and tokenization for recurring transactions — and solutions for in-app payments.

In terms of near-term opportunities, he noted specifically that contactless transactions represent less than 1 percent of the overall market in the U.S., but have gained relative traction in Canada, where contactless accounts for as much as 47 percent of transactions. (It should be noted here that, in recent news, Worldnet partnered with ID TECH to provide EMV support to unattended retail locations.)

The Partnership Model

There is too much technical heavy lifting for the merchants to take those efforts fully in house, so Byrne maintained that a partnership model works best, offering the “fastest route” to satisfy that customer experience and preference.

“What we see is a combination of those [tech] requirements effectively driving a cloud management platform and omnichannel payments,” he told Webster, “in a frictionless environment. The next generation of automated solutions covers any area, where a cardholder can be able to transact at a time and place of their choosing.”

That’s especially important, with research suggesting that millennials are 50 percent more likely to visit a store that has automated retail, automated checkout or an online presence than they are to visit retailers that, well, don’t have those offerings.

“You’ve got a generation coming through, which will actually drive the whole intelligent-retail, unattended, frictionless payment model into the future,” he said.

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