How the customer engages with a retailer at the checkout is one of the key differentiators in a hotly contested retail space – especially in a downturn economy. Integrating multiple value-added services through multiple customer contact channels has moved from a technology challenge to an operations and marketing imperative.
The sale and operation of financial services, gift cards, couponing and loyalty schemes has taken the retail domain into a new and complex space in which retailers often do not have the required skills.
Similarly, ensuring customers can conclude their transaction seamlessly, over multiple channels, whether it be point of sale, kiosk, self-service terminal, online or through a mobile device is now a requirement for a retailer who wants to hold on to repeat business and ensure incremental revenue growth.
“The user is not aware of the technical complexity, nor should they be. It’s all about the end-user experience and ensuring customers have a great experience, no matter what their purchasing requirement. After all, the final experience of their interaction is the lasting image they will be left with as they leave the store,” explains Ian Steyn, Executive at Innervation Value Added Services.
Choosing the right technology partner means finding a company who can ensure the correct level of focus and expertise on the product the retailer wants to offer as well as the seamless integration of such a product.
Over the past year, Innervation has delivered more than 40 integrations to retailer channel applications being used by a large number of retailers across South Africa, many of them counting as a first-to-market offering.
A good example of a high profile Innervation integration is the launch of the iTunes card solution now available through Pick n Pay.
“When we were brought in to handle the iTunes integration, we were able to take the existing Pick n Pay channel integration framework and rapidly integrate the support for iTunes cards. This not only dramatically reduced implementation time, but further enhanced the basket of products that is available through the Innervation Value Added Services (VAS) Platform.
“The aggregation capabilities of the VAS Platform and its unique integration framework allow retailers to quickly take advantage of a range of gift card products, via a single integration,” comments Ian Steyn.
Innervation’s ability to support the integration of innovative technology is further highlighted by the recent MPOS solution at a national retailer.
The solution was a first of its kind at a major retailer in South Africa. The integrated mobile point of sale solution was rolled out across a range of group stores, featuring iPod touch equipped devices with scanners and key pads.
The device itself features an iPod touch that sits inside a VeriFone PAYware device, which provides a barcode scanner, magstripe and chip reader as well as a secure keypad on the underside of the device.
The device encrypts each transaction and integrates wirelessly with the retailer’s system and the process for payment is the same as a person purchasing goods from a standard Point of Sale, except that staff can now assist customers from anywhere in the store.
One of the key benefits of the solution includes queue reduction, freeing up space within the store. The device can also be used by staff to check the price of items for customers and for stock taking. From the device, the payment transaction proceeds through the retailer’s system to Innervation and then on to the acquiring bank.
“In both examples we were able to take the specific user requirements and engineer a solution around these. We built on the technical success we had in place and were able to fashion a solution which brought in additional channels and product innovation.
“If a retailer requires a new channel or product added to their offering, they shouldn’t have to wait for their technical partners to first wrap their heads around the challenges.
“Delivering a fast and agile implementation to exact requirements requires a company who has a proven track record across a host of successful operating sites. More particularly, it requires a service provider who is constantly innovating ahead of the curve. If a retailer can conceptualise a user requirement we are at all times able to seamlessly integrate the solution,” Steyn declares.
Innervation continues on its pioneering trail and the market can expect to see further innovation over the coming months. This includes a new offering which will allow retailers of all sizes to accept card payments using a device connected to a mobile phone. This comprises the ability to use chip or magstripe functionality and will be a real game changer for the smaller and informal merchants.