RBTE 2016: MasterCard says great service comes from seeing retail as entertainment

Retailers can gain a competitive edge by using connected technology to improve online experiences, according to Scott Abrahams, head of acceptance and digital payments at MasterCard UK and Ireland.

Speaking on Wednesday at RBTE 2016, Abrahams said MasterCard is helping businesses to improve the quality of service through the use of innovative payment mechanisms.

"Technology can drive a higher level of satisfaction," he said, quoting research that claims three-quarters of customers believe technology can help produce better retail experiences.

"Customers now see shopping as entertainment – and great service through technology is part of that," explained Abrahams, who added that there has been a huge growth in the use of digital technology in eCommerce. That trend is expected to increase rapidly with new, advanced developments, such as the Internet of Things.

MasterCard believes every connected device can be an outlet for eCommerce. There will, said Abrahams, be 18 billion connected devices globally by 2018. "Every device could be set up to allow secure payments," he noted.

The challenge for MasterCard is to help offline firms develop successful online payment mechanisms. He pointed to leading-edge specialists, like Uber and Airbnb, that have made payment an enjoyable part of the customer experience.

Abrahams referred to a project that MasterCard has implemented on behalf of restaurant chain Wagamama. The firm allows customers to pay through mobile technology using an app called Qkr! "The customer demand for easier payments is huge," he said.

MasterCard continues to look for innovation and has seven labs around the world, including a recently opened facility in Kenya. MasterCard will soon be launching a digital payment system, called MasterCard ID, which will help authenticate a transaction online.

"We invest a lot of money in innovation and we're very excited about how we can help improve service," said Abrahams. "In the future, almost everything will connect to the internet. When that happens, payments must be secure – we're approaching a turning point."