Payment Innovation Will Bring Customers Back to the High Street

In this piece for RetailTechNews, Andrew Mitchell, vice president, development and infrastructure support, JCB, explains why there were dark clouds hanging over the baubles of Britain’s shopping streets this Christmas. PWC’s latest report declared there were 14 retail store closures per day in the first half of 2018. Recent figures from CBRE reinforced the shrinking confidence in UK retail, with capital property values shrinking 0.6% in October 2018. Stiff competition from online rivals is also highlighting consumer’s preference to shop, eat, drink, and entertain at home.

Brits seem to have little love left for the department store; but the biggest casualties this year were in retail, fashion, and electricals. Despite offers to lure in the crowds, restaurants and pubs also suffered heavy losses. Unfortunately for online retailers finding it difficult to transition to online, the world’s biggest brands are easily making the opposite move, as shown by Facebook recently opening pop-up stores at nine Macy’s locations across the U.S, to promote Marketplace products of its brands.

Payment shouldn’t be an afterthought

Solutions to save the high street were slim in the Chancellor’s Autumn budget, with meagre promises to cut business rates for small firms. But this won’t help change consumer taste for easy online shopping as brands battle it out to be the king of speedy deliveries, hyper convenience, and extensive product portfolios. Card scheme providers can certainly help retailers start to help themselves by proactive consultation.

Online payment nowadays is so slick and simple that retailers can utilise online methods to lure shoppers back onto the high street with new, nifty ways to capture money in-store. To do so, shopkeepers need to alter their perception and start viewing payments as a tool, not just a method of funds exchange. As a starting point, retailers can review their acquiring strategy in order to find more ways to integrate alternative payment methods, reduce transaction fees, and speed up payment processes. There’s so much payment technology out there to improve the speed and security of transactions that reduce operating costs, making it a simple solution for retailers looking for new ways to innovate the in-store shopping experience by adopting simple tactics, such as queue-busting payment forms and alternative payment methods that broaden the inclusivity of the customer base.

Innovate in-store experiences

The downward trend in 2018 shouldn’t be taken lightly, but thankfully the dystopian vision of retail’s future isn’t all doom and gloom, as industry experts predict better times from 2019 onwards. Consumers still want to go out and buy physical goods and experiences from the high street if shops stock items consumers can’t find or try-out elsewhere or stores can offer a unique customer experience. So shopkeepers must work on their offering, and take some of the responsibility for reviving the customer’s appetite to shop in-store. Innovation is key to survival and can be as simple as transforming a payment system from a mere support function into a marketing tool and create their own customised ecosystem.  

To get the edge over competitors, both on the web and in brick-and-mortar stores, personalisation is increasing in importance. Consumers are used to online shops customising their shopping experiences, and so are increasingly expecting physical stores to catch up and offer a high street version of this digital trend. Retailers who ignore the link between personalisation and customer loyalty will see their customers lost to competitors. Other tactics include keeping unpurchased items saved in a trolley and highlighting in-store promotions akin to the buyer’s purchase history.

Digitise loyalty

If card providers give retailers the right tools, stores along the British high street have no need to fear innovation. To digitise and streamline the in-store customer experience, and improve on the success of contactless and convenience of the prominent wallets such as Apple Pay, retailers and card providers can work together to innovate and bring back old school couponing and loyalty reward schemes to the high street by ‘appification’. Simply tweaking and digitising a tried and tested method could start getting customers shopping via conveniently available apps whilst shopping in-store, as such an approach harmonises the competition between mobile application and high street shopping.