History is littered with software companies that have failed to adapt to rapidly changing market conditions. Verifone is determined to not be of those companies.
The point-of-sale manufacturer has a history of providing static kiosk and mobile PIN handset payment solutions for retail. Lately, however, the company has been aggresively pushing mobile commerce on tablets and smartphones.
Verifone recently showed a raft of new hardware and software at the National Retail Federation (NRF) convention in New York, and – more poignantly – moving to acquire Global Bay Mobile Technologies in November of last year.
Global Bay may not be a household name to the average consumer, but its move into the VeriFone family could be a key to pushing the acceptance of mobile payments from smartphones and tablets in the retail sector.
The firm specializes in providing mobile point-of-sale software across the various platforms, and has developed its Mobile Point of Sale solution for tablets and smartphones to take payments off the back of existing POS, e-commerce, and traditional store systems.
Global Bay, which also develops software packages for inventory management and logging customer details, has already deployed the solution into the stores of Coach, Guess Jeans, Timberland, True Religion, Crocs, and Pacific Sunwear.
This acquisition seems to tie in nicely with VeriFone’s PayWare Mobile Enterprise Solution, first unveiled in the summer of last year. This solution combines POS software with an NFC-supporting card reader for mobile payments, allowing transactions to be made via iPads and Android tablets, as well as Windows and BlackBerry handsets.
Change on all fronts
VeriFone’s approach to mobile, specifically tablets and smartphones, is straightforward and open. The company trusts that the movement of mobility, one of four pillars of its ‘Reimagine How’ vision for 2012, will play a significant part in changing the face of technology in retail.
“Everything is changing at the same time as far as retail technology in concerned, and that’s never really happened before,” said VeriFone’s vice president of product marketing, Erik Vlugt, when speaking to TabTimes. “With mobile, it’s changing – not just by payment in a mobile way, but for retailers to do everything with tablets and smartphones. These devices are really tying the shopping experience together.”
Harlan Eplan is a Global Bay employee but now holds the title of vice president of product development at VeriFone, and believes that retail is going through a monumental and historic shift that will transform the industry.
“This change now is arguably the greatest change is retail technology since the introduction of the Internet into the retail infrastructure. Four years ago, you wouldn’t have seen an iOS or Android device being used by a retail store, but all of a sudden there are better options and a tsunami of options for leveraging mobile in retail,” said Eplan.
“The last piece of driving mobile commerce is to come. We haven’t seen a lot of payment-enabled tablet technologies to take items to checkout, but that is changing with solutions like our PayWare Mobile, which enables us to put secure PCI compliant swipe technology and encase it in a usable device. I think this will see a huge number of iPad deployments in retail this year, with Android not far behind it.
TabTimes was interested to find out how retailers are approaching tablet and smartphone deployment, and specifically how retailers are viewing these devices for use in their stores.
Eplan said that both, and mobile as a whole, remain a nascent technology, but believes that the portability of these form factors will see them complement, and not compete with, the integrated sales kiosk.
“Mobile point-of-sale is really a way to check people out faster, or for product and payment support during high volume periods on weekends or during the holidays. The devices are being introduced instead of rolling out a new register”, said Eplan.
“iPads are going into stores as an assisted-sell, self-service device that can engage customers and support checkout features. The smaller device typically tends to be deployed in higher volume and can be used for inventory look-up for taking orders in high-peak periods.
“Retailers, though quite conservative when it comes to new technology, are realizing that with these products they can roll-out fewer kiosks. That said, the kiosk is not going to go away; it’s just that retailers are looking at alternatives for the first time."
It would seem, as expected, that these ‘alternatives’ are largely Apple devices at present, but Vlugt is adamant that Android rivals have the chance to catch-up in the space, even if he does put the OS as to being two years behind iOS in market terms.
“Today, mainstream retail is all about iOS when it comes to tablets”, stated Vlugt. “It’s one version of iOS, and it looks the same across different devices. There haven’t been a lot of alternatives”.
Eplan did cite Cisco’s Cius, and Motorola Solutions’ ET1 retail-orientated device as strong rivals, but said that Apple is leaving manufacturers in its wake. “People are starting to show interest in Android, but it’s still a couple of years behind”.
Eplan continued on this point by saying that Apple’s market share, both in retail and enterprise as a whole, owes in part to Apple ramping up work behind the scenes. “Apple has hired a lot of enterprise sales staff. They [Apple] didn’t initially go after the sector but are now going full board and are working with IT departments to aid iPad, iPhone and iPod deployment. Ultimately, they want to push through Macs and desktops through to businesses”.
NFC: "It's going to be a multi-year effort"
Any conservation on retail payments must reckon with the short- and long-term possibilities of near-field communication (NFC), a new but popular technology which is starting to be adopted in a smattering of smartphones.
According to Vlugt, the technology represents an opportunity for consumers to expand their retail horizons, while also offering an opportunity for NFC and mobile POS systems to interact in future. But the VeriFone spokesman warned that retailers should not get carried away.
“A lot of people are staring themselves blind at the year of NFC but are now starting to realize that it’s going to be a multi-year effort. NFC is working, however, and we’re starting to see merchants getting ready to accept mobile payments.”
NFC acceptance also appears to be occuring across the board within retail, with VeriFone stipulating that it was the lack of any industry pioneers that led Google and Isis, both NFC heavyweights, to carry out their pilots geographically, and not based on a particular segment.