With the recent release of Apple Pay, mobile payment is coming back to the forefront. And retailers seemingly are more eager to hop on board and create a more seamless and enjoyable customer experience. However, there are a variety of factors retailers need to consider before hopping on the mobile bandwagon.
In the below Q&A, Leon Sikes, Global Director of Retail Technology at jewelry designer, manufacturer, and retailer Pandora, discusses retail mobilization trends, challenges and best practices.
With 24 years of global business and technology experience, Sikes brings a unique perspective and understanding of the pressures retailers face with regard to driving the customer experience through mobile enablement. Sikes is slated to speak at the 2014 fall Mobile Payments Conference (MPC), which is being held October 6-8, 2014, in Chicago.
Retail TouchPoints (RTP): What is the biggest mobile payment topic/trend you’re looking forward to talking about at the 2014 Fall Mobile Payments Conference?
Sikes: Mobile payment is a topic that’s been talked about for years, but hasn’t yet become widely adopted by the majority of retailers. Advances in digital wallet technologies and the growing acceptance of digital currencies such as Bitcoin are helping to move mobile payment adoption forward. The fact that major companies such as Dell, Overstock.com, Expedia, Amazon, Tiger Direct and others are now accepting Bitcoin is a big deal, and I’m excited to share the reasons why at the show.
RTP: Despite some big-name companies accepting Bitcoin, why are so many other retailers not yet following suit?
Sikes: There’s a lot of negative publicity about Bitcoin and other digital currencies. The real issue here is that not enough people really understand digital currency and its potential to make a positive impact in the world. For example, retailers will like the fact that there are no chargebacks with digital currency.
With regards to the misunderstood side of digital currency, it’s no different than any emerging or disruptive technology. We can go back 20 + years to the emergence of the Internet to Smartphones today. Most people did not understand the Internet or email and today they cannot live without it! The financial industry will go through a similar change, either adopt and embrace or get left behind.
RTP: What are the biggest obstacles that prevent retailers from adopting mobile payment solutions?
Sikes: Legacy POS systems presents the biggest obstacle. Many of the current legacy systems don’t support new commerce platforms, mobile payments/digital currencies, and retailers are hesitant to make technology investments before fully understanding what the industry standard will be. Fortunately, we’re seeing adoption from companies such as VeriFone and Ingenico that allow retailers to accept new types of payments.
A second obstacle — especially for international retailers is addressing the inconsistent legislation among various mobile payment governing bodies. Some governing bodies have specific compliance regulations in place that differ significantly from the rules adopted by other countries’ standards and it’s a challenge to choose solutions that comply with every country’s requirements.
RTP: What is it going to take to overcome these obstacles?
Sikes: Perseverance is a trait retailers must possess, especially when it comes to educating themselves and mobile payment governing bodies. Public – Private Partnership with governments and governing bodies to foster education, innovation, and governance will be key to successful adoption.
Flexibility is another must-have trait retailers must possess with regard to mobile payment. Instead of waiting to see which mobile wallet or digital currency emerges as the de facto standard, we need to invest in technologies that support multiple payment options. This approach brings the topic back to the most important point, which is allowing customers to engage with retailers however they want rather than retailers trying to dictate what they think is best.