Retailers' mobile payments use to explode

Retail industry association eyes mobile payments as a source of customer loyalty and spending amid retail downturn.
Written by Tim Lohman, Contributor

The use of mobile payment technology among Australian retailers may be set to explode, thanks to a strong desire among bricks and mortar retailers to cut transaction times, access customer loyalty programs and boost face-to-face interactions.

Speaking to ZDNet, Russel Zimmerman, executive director at the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) said that the adoption of mobile payments by major retailers — such as Coles own rollout of a contactless payment system — was creating confidence among smaller retailers that the technology was becoming "the norm" and was here for the long-term.

"If you asked retailers fifteen years ago whether they would be using Tap & Go technology they would have said: 'No, why would you do it?'" he said.

"All of a sudden you now have Coles, Woolworths, Bunnings, 7Eleven and McDonalds using Tap & Go technologies. Why? Because they now see that it assists their business, gives them greater speed, is simpler, easier, and saves money... it has become a great opportunity."

Innovations by major banking players, such as Commonwealth Bank's Pi point of sale (PoS) system, which allows CommBank to offer a number of apps for various transactions or services that customers need in the store, were also building confidence as well becoming viewed as a means to generate customer loyalty and business amid the retail downturn, Zimmerman said.

"The reason smaller retailers will pick mobile payments up is that there is loyalty [and loyalty programs] associated with it," he said. "It could be that you automatically get your tenth coffee free, or your fifth meal free or a free glass of wine if you can accrue loyalty points every time you pay with a mobile payment.

"Anything a retailer can do to help build loyalty helps, and the fact that it is digital means you don't have to have your coffee card or your Subway card punched every time. The loyalty card is built into the system."

Despite less than half of Australian small businesses having a website, and fewer still having e-commerce facilities, according to Zimmerman, the apparent lack of tech-savviness among retailers would not be a cause for slowness in adoption of mobile payments. This was because mobile payment technology was a spur to the face-to-face interactions bricks and mortar retailers wanted.

"Mobile payments are about daily interactions with customers," he said. "Retailers are looking for ways in which they can engage with customers and give them extra services. If you actually have a customer in your store you can do add-on sales. That is really what smaller retailers are good at doing and what big retailers are really lousy at doing."

The comments from the ARA chief follow the news that PayPal has begun fleshing out its offline payments business, teaming up with hospitality partners to expand the reach of its payments service to thousands of eateries across Australia.

The payments company partnered with EatNow, part of the Catch of the Day family, and hospitality POS provider OrderMate, increasing its reach into thousands of cafes, restaurants, and bars nationally.

In May EFTPOS announced that it had teamed up with mobile transactions technology firm C-SAM to kick off mobile payment trials with selected Australian retailers.

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