2016.02 | mobile wallet strategy

14DD1532-L-Mobile-Payment-CD372_52a_PCR_SPINX_Gas_Pump_Mobile_phoneOne of the most common areas that challenges retailers these days are mobile payments – or as many of them refer to it – leveraging a mobile wallet – which I now interpret from retailers to mean paying without a card or currency versus a specific mobile wallet platform.

I’ve written a number of posts on the subject of mobile wallets over the years, usually lamenting that we will never get away from a physical wallet. The potential for shoppers to not use a physical wallet are certainly more realistic now then when I wrote those posts, but the process continues as an evolution and not a revolution.

The common nirvana that all retailers seek is the ability to seamlessly and simply accept all payment options desired by the majority of regular shoppers while being able to provide a personalized and loyalty building experience. The challenges restricting vendors, payments providers and retailers from that objective are legacy systems, budget, agreements with payment processors, and time to build these payment connections into their systems.

Mobile payments are certainly a part of that over-arching strategy of enabling payment, so what is the best strategy? That will differ by retailer, but there are some universal concepts to consider:

  • To start, target your end state, and attempt to draw the long map back to where things are today. Even if there are gaps, talk to retail solution vendors, payments vendors, card providers, banks and anyone in the industry to access their vision and experience. Keep in mind that all of the technology will change in a few months and it will need to be re-assessed. Basic long term planning as should be targeted for all large scale retail solutions.
  • Don’t get stuck on offering payments within your in house mobile app, UNLESS your app provides a unique value proposition to the shopper that you are trying to leverage and payments is a logical extension of that app.  In my admittedly anecdotal experience, users have lots of apps already, and don’t look for more retailer apps as a rule UNLESS they provide a unique value proposition that fulfills a need to them.  Your most loyal customers may want your app to be able to pre-order their meal, control your fuel dispenser, or buy movie tickets, and it makes sense to enable payments to conclude that shopper interaction.  Make that in app payment as simple as possible with services that can remember the card or retrieve it with a password.
  • Consider the payment options that are already in use or are desirable for your shoppers.  If your shoppers are using credit cards, encouraging them to use a debit driven solution as part of a mobile solution is a challenge.  If you want to drive a particular payment model, be prepared to encourage shoppers with points or deals. Bitcoin sounds cutting edge, but is it worth accepting as a tender for the volume of business and it’s volatility? Having a gift card balance for coffee makes sense, but for groceries it is not logical. If the payment option you need to enable is not available, push the vendors for it.
  • How would a mobile wallet be used at the front end of your store?  If it isn’t dead simple for both shopper and cashier, it’s going to slow the queue and increase wait time.  That is a tough sell for any retail environment, and death for a high velocity retail environment.
  • Consider the full customer interaction with payment integrated. The challenge often encountered is that the majority of retailers have a loyalty program of some type. Shoppers need to identify themselves to obtain their loyalty benefits. With a mobile payment solution, shoppers generally have to show a loyalty card on their mobile, and then use the mobile to pay. Having to scan two different codes or tap more than once seems redundant, but this issue is often not easily solvable today at a traditional point of sale, as loyalty members have to identify themselves PRIOR to tendering to obtain discounts, collect points, etc, and THEN they pay the calculated total at which they pay with their device. (Starbucks manages one scan by using a stored value card tied to a loyalty account. Mobile apps to pre-order food, control a fuel dispenser or buy movie tickets have users registered with details stored and payment can be online by storing a card, so no double tap there either) Consider options to avoid the double tap/scan.
  • apple walletConsider Apple Pay and Android Pay if they make sense for your business.  With Apple Pay, there is some benefit to the security of fingerprint verification for retailers, and it is relatively easy to use with the iPhone and Apple watch, and getting notifications of payments immediately is certainly useful to some shoppers as is the ability to not carry their card.  In Canada the limitation right now is that Apple Pay only works with Amex.  Android Pay is another good option, particularly if you have an Android heavy shopper base.  The downside is that there are additional fees for these solutions.
  • Ensure you support and train users and store staff well on all the payments provided. There is nothing worse than having a customer trying to love your brand and pay with a new option and they cannot.  Payments are getting increasingly complex, but cashiers are catching up.  Many of them have received on the job training from bleeding edge shoppers who attempt every new payment and are willing to risk embarrassment or rejection with new payment types, but it would be better to have a complete map of payment options laid out simply.
  • Leverage your pinpad or contactless reader as much as possible for payments that are not over the air. Whether shoppers have to swipe, dip, tap, or enter a PIN; whether they use a card or a mobile device, the pinpad is currently the interface to which shoppers are accustomed. Keep the transaction and the payment linked physically.  If the transaction is on the mobile, pay on the screen of the mobile.  If the transaction is at a device (POS, Fuel Dispenser, Vending Machine, Ticket Dispensing Kiosk) keep the payment interaction connected to the device and pinpad.  Geo-fenced and over the air on the mobile screen solutions are an awesome concept, but are a challenging jump in logic for most shoppers today.  Unless you are a bleeding edge retailer, that is one for the future.

There has to be a benefit to both the retailer and to the shopper for there to be a reason for mobile payments, and the benefits are slowly tipping the scales towards increasing the usage of mobile.  There are too many things that favour it, and the landslide of devices in the hands of millions means it’s coming sooner or later.  Be sure to stay ahead of it and have a strategy.

2013.15 | Tables, Glass, Showrooming, Holographic Shoes


Interactive Table MenuInamo in London’s Soho has been providing a menu on the table that enables orders to be placed directly to the kitchen.  The projection system powered by e-table interactive allows the menu, table themes and games to be shown directly on the table.  It’s gimmicky, but the restaurant’s been in business for years, so they are definitely doing something right.

Google Glass Apps – Now that Google Glass is starting to make its way into the real world, we can look forward to some specially developed android powered apps to appear.  Wired has a few interesting ideas for initial apps.  Scanning apps seem a natural fit for a camera enabled solution like glass.  It would be a short jump to enabling Evernote to remember things you want to buy.  Also expect showrooming with products like RedLaser or Amazon to become even easier to use if people start wearing these kooky glasses.

Showrooming – Speaking of showrooming, that term is increasingly being turned on its head as e-tailers move into the real world.  Stylish and innovative online glasses seller Warby Parker recently opened a real world shop in NYC. Given the recent findings from Forrester that indicate visiting stores is what matters most to consumers, is it only a matter of time until we have stores from pureplay e-tailers like Amazon and JackThreads?


Holographic Shoes –  A recent ad campaign for Nike Free 5.0 made use of a holocube that realistically portrays an actual 3 dimensional shoe inside of a box that moves and flexes on its own, showcasing the flexibility of the design of the shoe to advantage.  The ad, installed in some bus shelters in Amsterdam has been effective in capturing the attention of passersby if the video is to be believed.

2013.09 | Barclay Center App | Reddit

Barclay Center – I find myself more than slightly jealous of visitors to Brooklyn’s Barclay Center.  The Barclay Center App has all of the nonsense we expect from all apps we download, team schedules, and pictures of the venue, but they also have some really incredible features made available from wifi in the stadium including:

  • play_e_slamcam1_gb1_576access to live in game video
  • access to the live TV feed
  • replays with rewind capability
  • up to four different camera angles
  • ordering food from your seat
  • submit messages for scoreboard display

It appears this is primarily used by the Nets, but is able to work at concerts as well.  What better way to allow fans a better view of the game from the worst seats than by leveraging the screens in their hand?  Not only that, but enabling in seat ordering is a real treat.  I’d be interested to see the operational side of the food ordering.  If it got too popular, it might be challenging to fulfill orders for delivery in a timely manner.  I’m sure the team at the Barclay Center would love to tackle that problem!

Reddit – While it doesn’t have the wide audience of Facebook, the ubiquity of Twitter or the slick visual appeal of Pinterest, Reddit represents a tremendous opportunity for retailers in two ways: to gain information and to influence customer experiences.


While Reddit is not nearly as well known as these other online communities, they still represent a huge swath of humanity with 37 BILLION page views in 2012 alone.    I would encourage retailers to get on Reddit as I have to read through what is being said about their brands and technology and see what can be gleaned from it.  Like any other wide open discussion, you can expect incredible enthusiasm, fantastic negativity, and lots and lots of stories and comments.  Take all of it with a grain of salt, but the information may change your perspective or drive discussion in your organization and is 100% free consumer input.  Visit reddit.com and type in your company name in the search box.  Before you visit, you may want to understand how it works.

I would not recommend retailers or their representatives fake a consumer post outlining the wonders of any item or their brand.  From my many hours on Reddit I have the sense that full on commercialism will get someone downvoted to oblivion, but even worse is the commercial disguised as a post from a Redditor.

Lots of actors complete an AMA (ask-me-anything) post to shill their latest movies, and Reddit welcomes that with the understanding that for a short paragraph asking for consideration of seeing a movie or reading a book (and maybe not even that), Redditors get a once in a lifetime chance to ask a question directly of a famous person.

If a retailer wants to drive their brand in Reddit, they could have someone famous and beloved by the tech/geek/youth community speak on their behalf and not be too forward about it.    A better vehicle for leveraging Reddit is the provided messaging capability between registered users.  If retailers see a negative or positive post or comment and act to remedy the problem as many have via Twitter and Facebook, Reddit represents a vehicle for customer service.  Getting more information from a failed customer experience and resolving it can provide positive feedback from a large audience.  Combining the advice from the recent Customer Service Podcast on CBC’s Under the Influence with solving complaints and problems seen in  Reddit could drive some real customer loyalty and interest as long as the intent is genuine.

2011.48 | iPad Table Ordering

While it’s been around for a number of years, interest in ordering food directly from the table has arisen again.  Here is one prototype that allows the table itself to act as the ordering screen.  We have had a food court conceptual solution that operates in a similar way using Microsoft Surface at the NCR demo center in Atlanta for some time.    It’s really very slick, but you have to wonder about the cost and complexity of filling a restaurant or even a mall food court with Microsoft Surface multi-touch units.

A  Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant has been piloting an ordering system for iPads for a month here in Mississauga that allows customers to order directly from the tables on iPads specifically deployed to the tables for that purpose. The solution is from Hubworks Interactive.   I visited the restaurant a month ago, but did not get seated at those tables to try out the system personally.  You can see the iPads sitting on the table in the background.  I like the concept, but a few thoughts come to mind:

  • The site is in here in Ontario.  In Canada, EMV is a requirement.  A pinpad is not visible on these devices.  Doesn’t that leave the restaurant on the hook if someone challenges the charge?  That is the general rule here.
  • How is the iPad secured so some nefarious soul can’t leave with it?  The iPad units I saw just sit on the table.  While they have a large pack on them to keep the battery charged and protect them, I didn’t see any securing of the solution. There was quite a large staff on hand, and that would defeat much of that potential but in a busy situation with 58 screens on the walls, and the proliferation of beer – some will probably walk.
  • I didn’t see a printer on the terminals, so doesn’t someone have to bring a receipt to the table anyway?  It makes it more convenient for clients to pay when they wish, but it doesn’t remove the effort of wait staff from bringing a receipt.  A paper receipt is required locally for debit and credit transactions.
  • Customers inevitably have some request that is not exactly as it appears on the menu.   (Soda water with extra lime, anyone?)  I assume that is handled by wait staff.
  • What about coupons for a free appetizer?  What about gift cards?  Are those accommodated?  Special offers and gift cards are a big part of the restaurant business.
  • Who is tasked with taking orders to the tables and validating that clients aren’t waiting too long?  When I asked about it at the restaurant, they indicated that the orders from the iPad ordering system are not identified any differently on the Kitchen Display system.  What is the influence on tipping when I entered my order on a terminal?  If it goes down will wait staff avoid those tables?
  • What is the care and feeding of such a solution from a technical perspective moving forward?  I’m not aware of much in the way of remote support tools for iOS units. The Hubworks Interactive website indicates that they use a cloud based solution which should minimize the management, but that work never goes away completely.  For example, these units have to be charged by someone at some point.  Cloud based solutions also mean that if the restaurant goes offline, those ordering units aren’t working.
  • How does the ROI work on these units?  The cheapest iPads are about $500. Add the cost of the case, software and ongoing support, and it must be at least $750-$1,000 per table.  While I can appreciate that there is a great deal of expense in a restaurant already with 58 televisions, the cost of putting iPads and an ordering solution at every table will add up.  There could definitely be a benefit of a perception of customer service, but is it worth it?

I applaud Hubworks Interactive for putting it together and Buffalo Wild Wings for trying something new.  Integrating new technologies into the grind of retail is always a challenge, and the only way to work out the kinks is to try it.  Time will tell if it works out.  I look forward to seeing how these fare in December 2012.

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