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Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

How can you transform your retail business overnight? Start by encouraging your staff to step out from behind the counter - and support a greater focus on the customer with new business payment systems.

Australia’s retail industry – a $68.5 billion contributor to our gross domestic product in 2012-13 – is experiencing radical change. Faster connectivity, new technologies and innovative business models are forcing retailers to overhaul traditional processes and become more open to change.

This industry-wide transformation is making the retail experience more personal and fulfilling for customers and enabling retailers to respond faster to changing market trends. “As always, customer relationships are key assets for retailers,” explains Jerry Macey, Executive Manager − Industry Insights, CommBank. “The tools that provide the most value to retailers also make the retail experience better for the customer and add value to the relationship.”

A worker uses an Albert terminal on his worksite

A compelling retail experience

However, too many retailers are using technologies that are poorly equipped to support customer demands for a personalised, fulfilling experience. For example, traditional payment terminals force people to queue and effectively shackle staff to checkouts rather than enabling them to get out onto the floor to help customers.

Many of these payment terminals may perform only a few of the tasks today’s retailer demands, and not properly integrate with administration or loyalty systems. In addition, a retailer that installs payment terminals that rely on the vendor’s in-house development roadmap alone risks missing opportunities for innovation. 

Technology beyond point-of-sale

So what role can new-generation payment terminals play in helping retailers remain viable and relevant in an increasingly competitive environment? “The payment terminal is a very good place to start in transforming a retail business,” says Macey. “Deploying terminals that supports broad communications and a variety of payment options may seem an obvious step. But perhaps even more important is the need to roll out devices that support the evolving needs and mindset change of retailers and customers.” While these devices should support standard payment terminal tasks such as processing secure cash, card and contactless payments, providing print or electronic receipts and scanning barcodes, this should just be the start.

For example, the terminals should help retailers shift staff from the cash register to the shop floor by helping them to take payments on the move. This can eliminate queues in store or at events, while enabling staff to cross-sell and up-sell to increase the value of each interaction to the retailer.

In addition, the terminals could be used to add value to the payment interaction – for example, enabling a staff member to offer a free gift if it is the customers’ birthday, or view stock availability without having to go to storage areas to check.

The terminals should also enable retailers to integrate existing point of sale software and inventory systems into their payment processing functions, or use applications to manage sales and insights. Much of this functionality can be delivered through an ‘open ecosystem’ that enables developers and businesses to easily create new applications that can be used to improve efficiency or support new products and services.

Finally, the terminals should be able to split payments – for example, if a mother and aunt want to divide payment for a wedding dress for a bride, or housemates want to share the cost of a big screen television, a retailer can perform that task easily. For related industries such as hospitality, this functionality can also make it easier to tip cashlessly for good service. Accompanying these terminals with applications that help merchants analyse their sales data to achieve insights they can use to make decisions about their business also adds considerable value.

Having the right payment systems is a key step to managing cash flow

Read more about easy ways to manage cash flow here.

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Case study: Albert a revelation for earthling investments

For Earthling Investments, owner of wholesale fuel distributor Mogas Regional and fuel discount program EasyFuel, Albert has been a revelation. “The heart of the retail business is … service,” says Greg Patten, Chairman, Earthling Investments. “Everybody needs fuel [and] we’re always thinking about new and innovative ways to make that purchase a little bit easier.”

Earthling Investments has developed an EasyFuel app that combines the fuel discount scheme with the payment functions of Albert. “So [with Albert] you’ve got this device that can accept payments, but do so much more,” says Dwayne Bonner, Technical Director, Earthling Investments.

Albert also streamlines compliance procedures for Mogas Regional’s drivers and enables the business to capture location data to ensure they are safe. Earthling Investments can also receive sales data faster, enabling management to obtain an up-to-date view of the business and address issues quickly. However, according to Patten, Earthling Investments has not even “hit the tip of the iceberg.” “It is exciting how far ahead of the pack Albert is,” says Patten. “It’s been great working with the Commonwealth Bank because they … really understand what we’re trying to achieve here.”

Discover more about Albert

And what he can do for your retail business.

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