Retail Beacons: Location is Everything


In today’s highly connected world, privacy is becoming a more precious and rare commodity. Between social media and mobile connectivity, the lines between the personal and public spheres are blurring, and now people are reachable and information is accessible virtually anywhere at any time. As a result, there is mounting concern about data exposure and accessibility, particularly in the realm of retail. Consumers are worried about merchants’ efforts to extract and store data about their customers, and the increase in retail data breaches has not positively impacted their sense of security.

Matters of data security and transparency have been further pushed to the fore with the advent and implementation of beacon technology. Venture Beat explains beacons as battery-powered sensors that use BLE technology to detect the location of a Bluetooth enabled mobile device and then transmit messages or prompts to the devices, often through the use of an associated mobile application.

Even though most Americans already use mobile devices in store for research and showrooming purposes, as reported by Business Insider, consumers are wary of this technology that can tap into their phones – and ultimately their pockets. The question then is whether beacons are as invasive as consumers believe?

Read more on the Retail Merchandiser Blog.

2014: A Look Back at the Year in Payment Tech


Looking back at 2014

The end of the year is a good time to reflect on the important trends and technologies in the world of payments.  There have been a number of big stories; however it’s important not to equate media hype with true impact.   So I thought I would take a closer look at one of the most heavily discussed topics of 2014, as well as what I consider the most impactful but underreported development of the year.

The Big Story: Apple Pay

Since its announcement at Apple’s September 9, 2014 iPhone 6 event, Apple Pay has dominated payments news coverage across both mainstream and trade media.  And without a doubt, it has triggered an in-store payments movement that for a long time had been thought DOA.  However, the media hype surrounding the service has far exceeded its actual impact on the payments industry.

First of all, Apple Pay only functions on Apple devices, immediately limiting its potential influence.  Secondly, it is a niche application even among those who have it; a recent InfoScout survey revealed that on Black Friday, only 4.6 percent of iPhone 6 and 6+ owners used Apple Pay to make their purchases.  Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Apple Pay is simply a more convenient method of in-store payment; it doesn’t change the payment experience itself in any radical way.

None of this is to say that Apple Pay is not a great service; but Apple is not a payments company.  Most would agree that the company has expressed no interest in becoming, for example, a competitor to PayPal.  In my opinion, with Apple Pay, the company just wants to be a technology facilitator, leveraging existing infrastructure to provide a better customer experience.

The Underreported Story: Alternative global payment methods

Amidst the media buzz about Apple Pay, a lot of people are missing what I consider to be the year’s most important trend: the proliferation of payment methods outside the Western world.  China’s AliPay is the most obvious example; this year’s $9 billion Singles’ Day sales windfall alone should convince retailers that it’s in their best interest to accept cross-border payments via AliPay.

But it doesn’t end with China.  Yandex is a massively popular e-wallet solution in Russia. Brazil has a number of different payment options, including Boleto and MercadoPago.  Sweden has Klarna.  And it goes on and on.  Abundant growth opportunities exist for retailers who make the effort to understand and accept the preferred payment methods of the international community.

The bottom line is that this is not a ‘one winner takes all’ industry, and there is literally an entire world of payments options out there just waiting for cross-border retailers to take advantage of them.