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Last week I impressed my wife.

Now, this isn’t normally enough to warrant a blog post, it does happen reasonably regularly (I hope). The reason it is significant is that I impressed, maybe astounded, her whilst out shopping. And it was something that has been the norm in my head for quite a while. In fact I was a little surprised at how un-mainstream the act I committed was.

All I did was pay via contactless payment.

For a few minutes after I felt like David Blaine. I had performed the ultimate magic trick. Forget freezing myself in a block office or levitating, I had managed to get out of a shop ten seconds earlier than I would have done previously. Questions were thrown at me – “How did you pay for that so quickly?”, “I didn’t see you enter your PIN”, “Are you sure we’re not stealing this?”, “Was the card machine broken?”

Surely everyone knows about and understands contactless? I hear about it regularly. Granted I work in Retail Technology but still I thought it was commonplace. This got my mind thinking back to the transaction in question. I wasn’t prompted to use contactless and there was no information around the payment device telling me I could. “Put your card in the machine” was how the instruction was given to me by the store staff.

Not a week goes by without a story in Retail Week about a new retailer adopting contactless payment. A few weeks ago Boots became the latest major high street player to deploy. This is becoming mainstream technology. The question now is how do we kick start the contactless revolution? Is there enough there to make me use it every time. I’m well trained in putting my card in and entering my PIN. I try and use contactless whenever I can but more often than not I remember too late and my card is already inserted.

If I ultimately think why I chose to use contactless I can put it down to the fact that I saw the model number of the PED, knew it supported contactless and just did it. That’s not very mainstream is it?

The next shop we came to on our shopping trip also offered contactless so I decided the time was right to reveal the secret of my success. Facing the risk of being kicked out of the magic circle, I peeled back the curtain and explained all.

“Remember that advert where the man was going down the big waterslide (or was it a roller coaster)?”  this was going well. “How do you think he paid so quickly?”

I placed my card on the screen, the four lights turned green and the receipt popped out. In this shop it wasn’t my wife that was confused but the shop assistant – “Did you enter your PIN ? You need to enter your PIN”.

I then explained to her about what I had done. My magician status restored.

The trouble is that since all this happened I have started to notice the scare stories about contactless. From people stealing card details as they walk by me or being charged multiple times if I stand too close to a counter, it is being painted as a bad thing and a sure-fire way to lose your money. The very fact you are on this site reading this blog tells me you know these stories are nonsense. For most “normal” people I really think this is the perception of contactless. People thought 4 digit numbers were less secure than a signature. Now they have to get used to the ide that just waving (holding against a screen) a bit of plastic is more secure than a PIN. They need to be educated and it has to start with the in-store experience.

I’ve made a start. Whenever I don’t get prompted to use it in a shop I will rectify the situation. Apparently shopping with me is “no fun anymore”. I’ve never seen someone adopt contactless as a philosophy as quickly as my wife does on a shopping trip together. Unfortunately I’m not talking about card payments.

Posted by Mark Denton, Head of Solution Consulting, BT Expedite

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Omnichannel is the word of the moment. But what does it actually mean? For us, it’s about delivering a consistent brand experience across every single customer touchpoint. And that means making it easier for customers to shop.

Make things difficult and people won’t come back. And the same is true for staff – make their job easier and give them the tools to work more effectively and they’ll be more motivated, more engaged and ultimately more successful.






Video: See suppliers and partners discuss the priorities and strategies that will dominate retail in the coming months>

Of course, it’s easy to say – quite another matter to put into practice; there’s a gnawing fear that the pursuit of genuine omnichannel could result in a real omnishambles. Having a strategic partner who understands retail will help avoid that. And this is really where we think we come into our own. From consultancy to software, delivery to implementation we’re confident that retailers can come to us and we’ll be able to handle everything.

Justine Arthur, Head of Communications and Campaigns, BT Expedite

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Not a day goes by without at least one email appearing in my inbox telling me about a new revolution in the world of payments. Telling me if I’m not using my mobile phone to pay for everything I am an idiot.

The year is 2013, it’s pretty much the future. So as an experiment I set out on a day trip to London with only my mobile phone in my pocket. No wallet, no cards, no cash. Foolish? Yes. Very.

I had three objectives for my day – get to a meeting, grab some lunch and find a present for my Dad’s upcoming birthday.

I live near Birmingham so a trip to London is a moderately significant undertaking. Upon arrival at the train station I felt a sense of ominous dread as the car park barrier spat out its ticket – how would I pay for this? Maybe it would be one of those ‘Pay by Text’ car parks and my mobile would be saviour. In any case, it would be 5pm by the time I was back here and I suspected that by then this would be the least of my worries.

I will confess that I had cheated slightly on the train ticket front, paid for in advance on a corporate account. No card needed here though, I could have paid with PayPal in advance.

Once I arrived in London, getting around with no money was easy and I had a load of different options – my Oyster card automatically tops itself up from my bank account, I had one of the taxi apps on my phone meaning I could pay that way (although both times I’ve tried that the taxi driver wouldn’t let me use it due to the high percentage they are charged – “great for getting jobs, not so good for fares”).

Arriving at the meeting with time to spare I immediately noticed how free it felt not to have to carry a wallet around. It was a hot day and I wasn’t wearing a jacket but didn’t need to worry about unsightly bulges in my highly fashionable slim fit trousers.

Following the meeting I set out on the quest for food. Immediately realising that many independents were even further back on the payment curve, not even accepting cards, I went out to the big chains. Still a lack of mobile acceptance; it was at least four or five attempts before I found one of the large pizza chains that would accept payments via their app. I didn’t want a huge lunch but was stuck.

After tucking in I went to the app, not only paying but securing a discount for doing so and walked out. On the way I was stopped by the waiter who was a bit confused that I hadn’t left any method of payment. He had heard of his own chain’s app so let me off, with only a slightly dubious look in his eye.

Now I just had my Dad’s birthday present to buy.

Working at BT Expedite, I’ve been involved in a number of implementations of mobile vouchers and payments so finding a shop was as simple as going through our customer list. That’s not to say the item I selected will be my Dad’s first choice of gift (I’m not sure how ladies sizes relate to men) but don’t they say it’s the thought that counts?

This was going OK, maybe I could live without a wallet. As long as I had narrow expectations and didn’t mind being restricted in many ways I was OK.

One of the big restrictions in all this however is not the growing number of places that accept mobile payment. It is my phone. Already I was getting low battery warnings. I had a 90 minute train journey to go – if I had any hope of getting home safely I would have to sacrifice music, emails, browsing and Candy Crush Saga. Martyrdom awaits.

Alas, even this didn’t take into account that someone might phone me up. They did and despite my best efforts as I got off the train my phone finally gave up.

To the payment industry, which wants me to seriously utilise my phone as a payment device, I would suggest either investing heavily in phone battery development or realising that my phone has many other uses. It isn’t as dependable as a card, which is always there when I open my wallet. My card never runs out of battery, doesn’t need charging. I can’t break the screen and it doesn’t become unusable when I take a phone call or read an email. In 2013, we are supposed to be multi-tasking machines. I read a story the other day about a lady who was refused service in her local supermarket while she was on her phone. At least that doesn’t happen in the world of mobile-phone payments.

So this leaves me here, in the station car park. No form of payment, no way of contacting anyone to help me pay. Without breaking the law I’m stuck.

Does anyone know if the police take bail payments via mobile yet?

Mark Denton, Head of Solution Consulting, BT Expedite

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Trying to deliver a seamless omni-channel customer experience, can put a huge strain on traditional systems and processes. But by integrating things behind the scenes, you start to create a more joined up experience for everyone involved – including customers. And that’s just the beginning of the potential benefits as you streamline processes, improve efficiency and empower sales associates to sell anywhere.

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See how a single view of stock and clever back-office integration can mean: more time selling – less admin; more products finding their customers – less discounting; and the ability to respond instantly to changes and trends.

For a taste of how this is working in the real world, check out the award-winning  Aurora Fashions ‘Anywhere, Everywhere’ initiative.

Posted by Mike King, CTO at BT Expedite

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It doesn’t matter how good you think your product is – research shows that online shoppers trust other people’s opinions more than any marketing claims. So the ideal way of promoting your goods is to get your customers to do the selling for you – by using a ratings and reviews and customer recommendations engine on your site.


The e-commerce landscape is forever changing. What once seemed like super-whiz-bang functionality is now just table stakes. Two perfect examples of this phenomenon are ratings and reviews and product recommendations. There are some exceptions, undoubtedly, but the vast majority of e-commerce sites will benefit from allowing their customers to review the products they have purchased and dynamically recommend other products for up-sell and cross-sell.

 

Ratings and reviews
BT Expedite & Fresca’s in-house Ratings & Reviews service lets you show customer comments and ratings on a product details page, while an average star rating shows customers the most popular items in a category or search result. You can restrict reviews to registered customers, and send feedback reminders to people who have bought something from the site. Administration screens let you find all the reviews that have been placed using the same email address and you can require approval for reviews or remove any that are inappropriate.

 

Ratings & Reviews

 

Recommendations
The FrescaCommerce Platform Recommendations service allows retailers to cross-sell and up-sell by providing dynamic recommendations. It comes with a fully-featured administration console enabling retailers to modify recommendation rules on the fly so that they can achieve the highest possible conversion rate. Rules can be based on product attributes – for example products in the same category or with the same colour– or based on previous sales data – “customer who bought this, also bought that”. The rules engine allows retailers to refine the basic rules so that only products over a certain price or with stock above a certain level are displayed. Rules can be A/B tested against each other on an ongoing basis to ensure that the highest-performing rules are enabled.
 

Recommendations

 

Recommendations are typically shown on a product detail page, but the BT Fresca Recommendations service supports recommendations across the website, with the ability to use different rules in different places. Want to cross-sell on your basket page where the recommendations take account of what’s already in your basket? No problem. How about a recommendations spot on your homepage that takes account of the product categories that your visitors looked at on their previous visit. We’ve got that covered too. And much more!
The Ratings & Reviews and Recommendations services are fully hosted by BT Fresca, and share the same administration console. They will work together or independently and, although each integrates fully with websites built on the FrescaCommerce Platform, they can also be used as standalone services on any e-commerce site.

 Posted by Jonathan Bowen, Head of Client Services, BT Expedite & Fresca

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