The mobile dilemma

Posted by: BT Expedite  |   Comments  No Response

The word on everybody’s lips at the recent Retail Business Technology Expo  in London was ‘mobile’.  But mobile meant quite different things to different suppliers at the event.

For some, it’s about using a smartphone to buy online and check competitor prices in-store. For others, mobile is about in-store tablets supporting assisted selling, with a few retailers already started on that journey. In this sense, it’s all about what hardware and operating system you go for – Android, Microsoft or Apple?

There are various options in the consumer market which retailers have taken and tried to make work in a store, such as the HP ElitePad we’ve implemented for our customers.

Similarly, there are different ways of looking at mobile payments. It could be using your own mobile phone to pay for goods, either online or in a store. Or using a mobile Chip and Pin payment device communicating to an in-store tablet device. Or linking a mobile phone and a Chip and Pin Payment device to take payments out “on the road”.

Hardware manufacturers (such as Ingenico and VeriFone) had various devices on show for people to peruse, while Miura devices appeared on some software providers’ stands.

During the seminars, one of the key topics being discussed was around the security of these devices, especially around point-to-point encryption (P2PE). Technology moves at such a fast pace, so for retailers trying to keep up with the competition, security can sometimes be overlooked in the rush to get mobile devices into stores.  

Contactless, NFC, mobile wallets and coupons

There was also a healthy discussion in the various seminars around other mobile-related trends, with “solutions seeking a problem” being mentioned.

Contactless has taken off, mainly due to the Olympics in London last year, but will NFC really follow suit? Will people be prepared to put all their cards into a mobile wallet of a company they have never heard of before, and which one would they choose? And what happens when the mobile runs out of power!?

Customers are more likely to go down this route when they get something out of it, with either money off or reward points. So would a retailer’s app which stores your digital wallet, containing your loyalty card and preferred payment method work better? Maybe, but I’m sure there will still be plenty of people grumbling in a queue when somebody is fiddling to unlock the phone, trying to get into the right application before presenting the phone to check-out! These issues need to be resolved first. Have a look at what Eagle Eye is doing in this space.  

Where next for mobile?

At BT Expedite, we are constantly looking at the changing mobile landscape, and working with suppliers to bring solutions to market. We already have customers live today with Windows and Apple tablets in store. And we’re working with all our PSPs (Payment service providers) on getting the right combination of mobile tablet and payment device into stores.

Many of our customers are replacing their ageing Pin Entry Devices (PEDs) with future-ready devices and we’re helping to deliver this, while enabling contactless payments on them. But will our retailers’ customers want to use them? Time will tell…

Richard Savage, senior technical consultant, BT Expedite


Work Hard. Play Hard.

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BT Expedite gets sporty and raises over £1,000 for Sports Relief 2014!

BT Expedite were great sports on Friday as the team kitted up in red and competed against each other in their efforts to raise over £1,000 for Sport Relief 2014. The great office bike-off was a huge success with an incredible achievement of 367 miles cycled on training bikes at two sites – that’s the distance from London to Luxemburg! Wii bowling, ping-pong tournaments and cup stacking challenges were also amongst the activities that made for a fun and successful day of fundraising.

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If you’ve not already submitted your entry, you’ve got just until this Friday, 21 March, to be in with a chance of winning a coveted BT Retail Week Technology Award. The glittering awards ceremony will be held in London on 11 June when retail’s best and brightest will gather to toast the very best in the industry.

After Friday’s deadline, the ten judges – technology experts from a range of leading retailers – will have the unenviable job of going through all the entries and whittling them down to a shortlist of finalists. And given the quality of winners and finalists in recent years, that’s not going to be easy!

We’ve been headline sponsor of these awards for five years now and we’ve seen some fantastic projects in that time – genuinely the very best of retail technology in the UK.
Last year some of our clients, including Liberty, Thomas Pink and The Co-operative Group were shortlisted and our omni-channel project with Fat Face came out on top as the EPOS Initiative of the Year.

So what makes a project stand out? This year’s theme is ‘Shaping the Future of Retail’ and that’s exactly what award-winning retailers will be doing. It’s all about pushing the boundaries of technology and innovation to improve the retail experience – and bottom line. Technology enabling change.

The new award categories reflect this ever-changing nature of retail and in 2014, among others, we’ll see the Digital Store of the Year, the Innovation of the Year and the Digital Marketing Campaign of the Year.

If you’ve thrown your hat in to the ring, best of luck. If you’ve run out of time, come along and help us celebrate the winners, runners up and everyone else involved in making retail technology change the way we work, shop and live.

You can find out more, enter or book a table at the event at


Posted by David Grossman, CEO, BT Expedite


Love is… cash?

Posted by: Kevin Burns  |   Comments  No Response

The payments revolution is gathering pace. More and more retail outlets now have contactless capable Chip and PIN terminals (PEDs) and, in parallel, more and more cards are now issued with contactless chips. So why haven’t retailers fallen head over heels for contactless yet?

A report by the UK Cards Association shows that the number of plastic cards capable of being used in a contactless environment grew by 38% in 2012 to reach an estimated 31 million, while the number of terminals accepting these cards also increased – ending the year on 144,000.

There’s clearly investment in near field communication (NFC) to further the use of the contactless technology – enabling loyalty or dynamic couponing through your mobile at the point of purchase via the contactless capable PED. And underlying this is a push to use an electronic wallet, PayPal  and Starbucks have theirs and we expect Visa and MasterCard to launch theirs soon (they exist in the online world only at the moment) along with most high street banks and more retail brands.

Soon you might be able to pay with your phone and exchange some data with the retailer at the same time, perhaps in return for an immediate discount or a coupon for the next time you shop with them. Indeed MasterCard and Weve made an announcement recently that confirms this.

So what’s not to love?

Don’t get me wrong, I love technology, I love payments, I love the way the two together can make great things happen… but the problem here is ubiquity.

For something to succeed it needs to be simple and it needs to have a standard, something that is common and understood by many so that it can be implemented in the right way and without conflict. These things don’t exist at the moment, so when my customers ask which way to go I can’t give them a clear answer because in order to get to ubiquity, where they can accept any eWallet/NFC data exchange, they may have to do tons of integrations.

See how our own Mark Denton got on when we challenged him to a shopping day out in London - without his wallet!

Over the coming months we’re looking to work with the UK Cards Association to see if we can make some headway in terms of reaching an appropriate standard. In the past six months BT has hosted an NFC forum which asked similar questions. Working together, a solution should be possible. But today retailers are left as bemused as their service provider partners.

For now, at least, it’s still OK to love cash.

Kevin Burns, Director, BT Payments

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It sells itself as retail’s big show – it’s based in the Big Apple – and this year NRF was bigger and better than ever. With100 breakout sessions and 300 guest speakers, the 30,000+ visitors were able to pack a year’s worth of retail insight into just 4 days. With so much to see it was impossible to get round everything but I did manage to pick up on the big trends and see what the main players had to offer this year.

Overall: bigger and better

NRF is a genuine ‘must-attend’ retail event. And overall the whole NRF experience was better this year. For one thing it was busier. But more importantly the quality of attendees was very high. It kicked off with George W. Bush and, whatever you think of his politics, that was a real statement of intent. He talked about leadership and the importance of perception – touching on his reaction to hearing the first reports of 9/11.”

The stand-out themes

Mobile was absolutely everywhere. Every stand had iPads galore for mobile POS, payments and customer experience solutions. The show was dominated by big players who had made a real effort to re-create the store environment – with aisles and shop fronts on a much bigger scale than ever before to create a real immersive experience.

It all seems part of this drive to square the omni-channel circle. Retailers need the tools to personalise the customer experience, regardless of channel, with customers now being thought of as ‘guests’. All of that means getting a tighter control of fulfilment and a better understanding of re-stocking needs. So we’re about to see CIOs become much more business focussed rather just technology focussed.

The also-rans

One of the things that didn’t work for me was a ‘4D immersive store’ on the Wipro stand. There was a buzz about it and I waited 20 minutes to try it but the 3D glasses felt a bit gimmicky and ultimately the technology didn’t work. It seemed a case of pushing a solution beyond a problem – and the glasses made me feel sick!

Top five technologies on show

What stood out for me were the practical applications based around the two main themes of mobile and RFID. At the other end of the spectrum, it’s always great to see the way retailers push new technology. So although not necessarily applicable for everyone, I’d pick out:

  1. Mobile POS and payments. Talked about for years, but at the forefront of this year’s conference in a much more practical way.
  2. RFID/tagging. More manageable, much more cost-effective – with fantastic potential business benefits driven by a more accurate view of stock.
  3. Wearable computing such as glasses and watches. Although some people are not convinced that this will have the same impact as smartphones, I can see it being a growth area in the next few years.
  4. Quirky ideas that make your company stand out. So I saw a chewing gum that after 20 minutes has a scent, like a perfume.
  5. Decision-making engines that choose for you, based on your preferences and history.

Movers and shakers to watch for in 2014

Partners and suppliers that can offer value in the video and visual analytics space will have something that retailers want. I heard representatives from Tesco talk about using this kind of technology to link Product, People, Customers and Location.

Big data was also a key theme. With lots of data being collected retailers need help to turn this into something useful. So retail analytics is a must.

Why attend?

You certainly get a sense that this is ‘the biggest event of its kind for retail’. Having met the likes of Tesco and Kingfisher, they certainly find it valuable as they can get all the latest views from within the industry, meet all the top key suppliers and network with their peers from other organisations – all in one place. Essentially they can consolidate diary time (which outside of NRF would normally take weeks or months to organise) into three days.

It was a unique opportunity to see partners and suppliers with the right people around and available. I was in the same hotel as the senior executive team from Tesco so I saw them each morning and evening and we could share our findings.


By Paul Skelt, General Manager Retail & Gambling, BT Global Services

Useful links

NRF online resources and videos

NRF Top 10 Takeaways

NRF Top 5 News and Trends

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