It was a record-breaking Christmas shopping period for Worldpay in 2014, with the payments company saying it handled 600 million credit and debit card transactions during December alone.

The single busiest day of the year was apparently 23 December, when the business reported 26 million transactions across its network in the UK.

Such figures lead Worldpay to believe that cards will still be the payment vehicle of choice in 2015, although the organisation does expect various new patterns to emerge in terms of how consumers transact with the retail industry. Essential Retail caught up with Worldpay to hear what the organisation thinks about the latest retail technology innovations, retailer attitudes to security and the companies using technology well to grow their businesses.

What are the key projects your organisation is working on at the moment?

We’re always looking at ways to make it easier for UK businesses to accept card payments, anytime anywhere. A major focus for us at the moment is Worldpay Total – our flagship platform which finally makes omnichannel retailing a reality. Clients already on board have found they’ve been able to maximise sales by offering their customers a seamless shopping experience, whether they’re paying in store, on the move or online.

Our latest offering, Worldpay Total Mobile, allows retailers to reduce queues and offer a more personalised shopping experience by taking mobile payments in-store. All that’s needed is a portable Chip and PIN reader, a tablet or smartphone and the Worldpay Total Mobile application. This integrates with the retailer’s in-store PoS and eCommerce systems giving them a single view of their customers as they buy in-store or online. Retailers can use the omnichannel solution to help them to manage staffing, stock levels and daily reconciliation.

Customers are surprised and delighted by the Apple Store-like shopping experience it delivers and staff feel empowered as they roam the store, helping customers. It not only helps retailers maximise sales but also makes for happier shoppers – a win-win all round.

Which retailers do you think are using technology well to further their business?

The exciting thing about the UK retail space at the moment is that there are several innovators really blazing a trail for others to follow by rolling out next generation payment platforms like ours. Offering more choice for the customer ultimately results in happier shoppers, bigger profits and a better run business all round.

UK toy retailer The Entertainer uses Worldpay Total Mobile to reduce queues in its stores at busy periods like Christmas and weekends. Ian Pulsford, head of IT at The Entertainer, tells us: "As a toy retailer, our business is heavily skewed to the two months before Christmas. That’s why it was easy to see the benefits of Worldpay Total Mobile in terms of helping us reduce queues and provide better customer service. The technology enables staff to assist customers away from the till also giving them a more personalised service, resulting in happy customers. Apart from offering increased practicality this use of technology has also increased the amount of sales that are made on the shop floor."

UK furniture company, Hammonds, is another pioneer in the use of in-store mobile payments with Worldpay Total Mobile. It’s helped the firm improve customer service and speed up the payment process for purchases made on the road. "With Worldpay Total Mobile we have cut out data entry processes, paper admin and manual reporting," said Hammonds finance director, Tony Farmer.

Hammonds’ designers normally take a 20% deposit for kitchen and bedroom design, which is usually made at the customer’s home. They’re now using Worldpay Total Mobile to take Chip and PIN payment, which not only speeds up the payment process but also secures the sale for Hammonds and offers a safe and convenient way for customers to pay.

The Entertainer works with payment technology provider Worldpay (Image credit: Newsengine PR NV)

How has technology impacted consumers' path-to-purchase requirements?

Customer expectations around the shopping experience have never been higher. Recent Worldpay research found that a third of consumers would be unlikely to give a retailer a second chance if the item they were looking for was not available. These expectations have in part been raised thanks to the growing influence of mobile and digital channels on the shopping journey. We found that two-thirds of shoppers check the internet if an item is out of stock in-store, for example.

Technology has made the path-to-purchase at once more user-friendly for the consumer and more complex for the retailer. But it’s also given those businesses with an omnichannel, customer-first approach a great chance of success. Offering as many payment choices as possible in-store is, of course, a no-brainer. But retailers can also interact with prospects further up the purchasing path, for example via social media marketing. Facebook, Twitter and other platforms are a great way to promote your brand and offer inducements to potential customers like discounts and special offers.

Mobile is also beginning to have an increasing influence on the path-to-purchase. Consumers are now researching items on-the-move via their smartphones or tablets, and sometimes even in-store – a trend we’ve tried to tap with our new Worldpay Total Mobile platform. There’s a great opportunity for retailers to improve the shopping experience and maximise sales by offering shoppers the chance to browse online in-store. This means that any items not in stock can be bought then and there for home delivery or collection at a later date. The advent of Apple Pay will only spur mCommerce to even greater heights, as consumers actually begin to purchase in-store via their smartphones. 

What's your view on retailers' attitude to security?

Most retailers understand the need for security and especially the importance of keeping cardholder data safe. But that doesn’t always mean their data security strategies are up to scratch. Some retailers expect that security is the responsibly of the card processors, which is partly true. Third party payment providers need to engage with retailers and provide leadership, advice and resources to help them secure payment systems.

Worldpay does this through a number of security programmes tailored to retailers of different shapes and sizes. Most data breaches occur at those retailers who have not engaged with one of these programmes and are unaware of the potential risks they’re exposing themselves to.

It’s a two-way street and there’s a responsibility on the part of the retailer to ensure they’ve done all they can to minimise the risk of a breach. Becoming PCI DSS compliant is a major step which will make your environment more secure and ensure a liability shift in the event that card data is stolen. Worldpay works tirelessly with our clients and the wider community to raise awareness about the standard, and of wider data security and fraud issues.

Why have you booked for RBTE 2015?

We’ve seen RBTE’s fantastic growth over the past four years and recognise the popularity it has amongst the retail community. We’re really looking forward to the show. Worldpay will be showcasing our latest omnichannel innovations, sharing market insights and talking to retailers about their current challenges and how we can help them grow their business.

Worldpay will be exhibiting at RBTE in 2015

What are the main areas of focus for your business in the year ahead?

A record-breaking Christmas shopping period in 2014 taught us a lot about what we can expect over the next 12 months. Worldpay handled an unprecedented 600 million credit and debit card transactions during December – up 15% on 2013. The single busiest day of the year was 23rd December, when we handled 26 million transactions across the UK. On the eCommerce side, Back Friday, thanks to heavy discounting and promotional offers, saw a rise in online payments of 74% from 2013.

It’s pretty clear from this that card payments are the number one choice for UK shoppers, while online commerce continues to break all records. Worldpay’s focus will therefore be on helping more and more UK retailers grow their business by accepting cards and expanding into the eCommerce channel. Our wide portfolio of countertop, portable and mobile payment machines, online payment capabilities and virtual terminal for phone orders means there’s something to suit every business.

But we’ve gone beyond that to offer exciting new ways to take payments in-store and on the move with Worldpay Total Mobile. The Christmas shopping rush also taught us the value of having an answer to lengthy queues at the till which can lead to lost sales.

Arming staff with mobile devices linked to PoS and eCommerce systems, via which shoppers can browse and buy in-store, will maximise takings and re-energise the whole retail experience. It’ll be another major focus for us in 2015.

What are your retail technology predictions for 2015?

Consumer demand is often the driver behind advances in retail technology and we’re already starting to see shifting attitudes to new innovations which could present exciting opportunities. Usability is key for customers – any new payment method has to be fast, secure and easy to use. That’s why we’re predicting a break out year for contactless payments. Transactions have rocketed 150% over the past six months and they’re set to grow further in 2015, which is why all of our card machines are enabled with the technology.

Heightened consumer expectations will also force retailers to unify their sales channels to create integrated shopping experiences. Shoppers are increasingly demanding that they can buy or browse online and pick up in store or browse an eCommerce site in-store if the item they’re looking for is out of stock. It’s why we developed Worldpay Total Mobile and we expect interest to peak in 2015 as retailers realise they can maximise profits, personalise the shopping experience and become smarter about how they run their business.

Worldpay Total Mobile, is one of several current and emerging technologies selected by Ipsos retail director of retail intelligence, Tim Denison.

His view on the industry is, as follows: "Technology is transforming the face of in-store retailing at a pace and breadth that we simply haven’t seen before.

"It’s changing the ways that consumers and retailers are engaging with one another. Selling to the mass market is fast becoming a thing of the past. Retailers are now able to offer personalised services not just online, but in store, making smart recommendations on goods that will appeal to every shopper, so fostering closer connections with them.

"In this fast living, digital age, shoppers have never been so open to changes that lead to more rewarding, enhanced and interactive experiences. They also want the freedom to shop at the time and place and in the ways that suit them best."

Wearable tech will become a reality with the market expected to be worth up to $50 billion by 2019. Smart watches and smart glasses in particular will offer up new opportunities to engage with customers and complement retailers’ omnichannel strategies, although perhaps not for another few years.

The biggest headlines in 2015 are likely to be around mobile, as smartphones increasingly replace the consumers’ wallets. With mobiles predicted to grow to 5.6 billion by 2019 the only surprise is they have taken this long to impact payments. Transactions through mobile digital wallets will reach $1.5 trillion by 2017 and the use of Near Field Communication in mobile phones, especially Apple Pay and Google Wallet, will be instrumental in this growth. Apple Pay will also drive a move to biometrics as a replacement for regular PINs, as shoppers authenticate via a simple finger swipe over their new iPhones.

Worldpay will be exhibiting at RBTE 2015, on stand 320.

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