Barely a month seems to pass without another launch in the mobile payment and loyalty markets, but it’s not something retailers have taken to yet with any level of enthusiasm.
Weve is hoping to change that. The product of a joint venture between mobile network operators O2, EE and Vodafone, it points to the fact that it has access to these companies’ 80 million consumers as the factor that sets it apart from the rest of the market.
It is also running what it claims is the UK’s first iBeacon trial with food service retailer Eat.
Mobile marketing, loyalty and payment looks an increasingly hard market to muscle in on, especially when you consider that few retailers have yet taken the bait.
Despite missing the ecommerce boat, retailers appear unable or unwilling to take the plunge and innovate with mobile. While there is a smattering of excellent apps around, and the usability of the mobile experience in retail is improving, there is a world of cross-channel mobile services that retailers haven’t yet embraced.
Weve provides mobile payment services – through contactless NFC technology, which means shoppers will be able to simply swipe their phones against a card reader to pay – and mobile loyalty services through its app Pouch which uses beacon technology.
Sean O’Connell, product development manager at Weve, says the challenge often centres around retailers’ point of sale systems – mobile loyalty schemes need to be integrated into the ePos, which can be costly. As a result, retailers are hesitating.
He says: “No-one is really sure which horse to back. There is a degree of paralysis in the market. Everyone’s waiting it out.
“Point of sale systems are the sticking point. No-one wants to invest in doing the work.”
Weve offers a loyalty service that it says only requires one piece of integration with the ePos system, and says it is working behind the scenes with a large number of retailers on mobile payment and loyalty – more announcements of trials are expected in the coming months.
What no-one yet knows the answer to is what will kickstart the mobile loyalty and payment party. At the moment, the market is too confusing for both retailers and shoppers alike – no one quite knows what to invest in, what app to download on their phone, or which retailers offer which service.
Will retailers start to take the plunge, invest in mobile services and bring their customers with them? Will one of the big payment players embark on a huge consumer marketing campaign to increase awareness and usage of their service, making it necessary for retailers to follow? Or will a smaller company take everyone by surprise and grab market share while everyone else waits to make a move, as PowaTag is hoping it will?
What is clear is that retailers already missed one boat, and the ramifications of missing another could be big. It’s true they have a huge amount going on – multichannel retailers must invest in supply chain, online systems, store technology and mobile, all in a retail culture that still too often treats IT as a cost and not as a profit generator. But with payment partners all no doubt willing to share the risk and investment burden of mobile, it’s a jump worth taking.