I work in Barclaycard’s payment gateway team. We create gateway solutions that allow our merchants to transmit important transaction data between all the relevant parties, which enables payments to be securely processed. I like to think of us almost like a secure courier company – we transfer the payment data securely so it can be verified and signed off.
But more than that, Barclaycard’s role is to ensure that our payment processing systems create a positive and engaging experience for our customers, so these merchants can in turn create payment experiences that fit their brand, their culture and their infrastructure.
Our customers will each have their own development areas, infrastructure, suppliers, and so on, and we need to be able to work with everyone in that ecosystem. We do that by creating simple integration models and APIs that allow multiple organisations to link in with what we do.
In recent years there has been a fundamental shift in technology which is already having a huge impact on both the payment sector and retailers.
The main change we’re seeing is that younger generations are becoming increasingly reliant on their smartphones. They use their phones to access content everywhere, which is changing the way retailers interact with their customers. The idea of a connected customer journey, or a connected experience, is absolutely critical.
I think what’s interesting is that the infrastructure in face-to-face retail cannot possibly keep up. The only way to work with customers in future is through greater use of mobile, because it’s far easier to create and adapt experiences on mobile versus in-store.
And we’re now seeing that it’s becoming more common for people to use their mobile device to transact in-store. They’re not even that worried about the in-store retail experience – for them, the retail experience is linked very much to the mobile experience they already enjoy. They just want to feel and touch the product, and don’t need much interaction with customer service agents to be able to achieve that.
A consequence of this shift is that retailers need to have a clear purpose and a clear mission statement that sets out why they need their big brick-and-mortar stores. The big high street retailers need to think like their online competitors and find ways to interact with these heavy mobile users.
Things like mobile point-of-sale, click and collect, and mobile apps are really changing the way organisations think about service culture. It’s about providing the right level of interaction in-store for the different groups of customers you have, and giving them the right choice as early on in that journey as possible, so that you can maximise the benefits of those interactions.
If you consider mobile point-of-sale technology, it has been around for a while, but it’s evolved a lot in the last couple of years. Retailers can use this tech to efficiently manage the flow of footfall around the store and speed up the transaction process, removing a number of the issues that typically deter customers from wanting to go back.
Ultimately, retailers are being forced to make calculated gambles on in-store technology. It’s a balance of picking systems that reflect this change in the customer experience, but that don’t cripple you in terms of the cost and effort needed to implement them.
The traditional service culture model for retailers was to train all their staff in the same way, so they lived up to a certain set of values, and every customer enjoyed the same experience. But because there’s a diverse set of customers now, using technology in different ways and wanting to have different service experiences, it’s more difficult for a retailer to create a one-size-fits-all approach.
Retailers need to be much smarter about what they do and arrange their service resources in a way that can accommodate those different customer journeys. In some cases, you may even have to change the locations, or create smaller shops to showcase certain products and give people a sense of what you offer.
Screwfix is a good example of this new approach. It offers the perfect out-of-town shopping experience, with a shopfront that is basically a 10x10 box with the product range displayed in its catalogue. People who work in the building trade, and even DIYers now, will travel there because they can check stock before they go or order via click and collect. It offers a really slick, transactional experience, but there are also knowledgeable people there if you want to speak to someone.
Another example is in the automotive sector. Tesla has setup small showrooms in town centres, which typically just display two cars, but then use an array of interactive technology to show them off. It creates a new type of retail experience where customers are bought into the Tesla brand as much as the product itself.
In my opinion the biggest opportunity lies in the mobile app experience. No retailer is really nailing that interaction between their app and their stores, and how it creates that all-round service experience. There’s an opportunity for a bold retailer to centre their brand proposition around their mobile app, using their store and other communications to help deliver the experience around it.
From a service perspective, the app would be the main point of interaction with customers. We know that people do a lot of research before they even enter a store – they’ve been online, looked at reviews, looked on Instagram, spoken to friends, etc. – so the decision-making process has already been done. In this model, employees would really be there to help support the app, rather than to support the customer.
I think a retailer could really set itself apart by refocusing its service model in this way. Everyone else is still gambling that there’s a role for brick-and-mortar stores in the future, and that the high street will always be important, but I’m not convinced one way or another. And I think some app technology might help drive the shift to new retail experiences.
Company founded: 1966, the same year Barclaycard introduced the UK’s first credit card.
Global reach: Barclaycard is an international payments business with offices in Europe and the USA. In 2015 we processed more than £293bn in transactions globally. Barclaycard is a pioneer of new forms of payment, and is at the forefront of developing viable contactless and mobile payment schemes for today and cutting-edge forms of payment for the future.
Contact: To find out about how your business can get ahead of the game, visit our website: www.barclaycard.co.uk/business or call us on 0800 096 8237.
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