While change is constant, it seems things are really picking up at the point of sale. Here’s where it’s happening:
Coupons: There has been a great deal of excitement and change around electronic coupons over the past year. The combination of a tough economic climate and cheap technology has driven many to look for a better way. Various couponing platforms are now available online or on mobile devices. Retailers, suppliers, and third parties are all part of the trend which is now growing faster than the traditional paper format. The challenge is to rein this in to the consumer’s benefit and to align it with a retailer’s strategy. The best bet is for retailers to embrace social media to track usage as much as possible, and ensure that their target markets are best served.
Payments: With all of the changes to payments in Canada over the past few years – PCI, NFC, and Chip and Pin along with the entry of other players to challenge Interac with Visa Debit, Maestro and even Enstream – it’s easy to overlook changes in other parts of the world that are even more groundbreaking. A colleague sent me an article over the weekend (thanks Douglas!) that discusses how mobile payments are surpassing credit cards in Africa. It seems that much in the way that they skipped over landline telephony with mobile phones they’ve skipped from cash over plastic to mobile. Payments still aren’t making their way to mobile yet in Canada, but Enstream is claiming NFC phones are coming to Canada, and perhaps Square can get things rolling in this area as well.
Mobile: The most important challenge facing retailers is how to connect the mobile experience with the store experience. This article covers the opportunity well.
Still to come is the killer app that manages to bring the offers, the electronic world as well as the bricks and morter experience completely together – a way of linking how consumers wish to interact with the retailer to get the most out of those interactions for the retailer by making it seamless to the consumer. There are applications to make this happen, but I’ve not yet seen any consumer facing organization that has established an ongoing conversation with consumers that makes the channel of interaction invisible. [For full disclosure, I work as part of a team to sell a solution with this capability at NCR.] Given the increasing interest in electronic offers, it is a perfect time to implement. The technical issues are surmountable. The greater issue is being the first retailer with the will end effort to fit these technologies to their business.