The blueprint to the modern shopping experience

As consumers, the majority of us would rather not think about Christmas just yet – especially as we cling to those last few days of sunshine. Yet, for retailers preparations are already well under way.

Whether it is toys, clothing, electrical goods or food, each retailer will be taking stock of the lessons learnt the year before to create their sales and marketing strategies. However, if we learnt one thing from last year, it was that retailers who mapped their omni-channel ambitions to the shopping preferences of the modern consumer were rewarded with ever higher sales and even more loyal customers.

The concept of omni-channel shopping has been gaining traction in the industry for some time and 2015 is proving an important milestone for this strategy. It has moved from an interesting new development that could potentially increase the convenience of shopping, to becoming a customer expectation and demand. Last year, research suggested that almost 43 million Britons were using a combination of in-store, online and ‘Click-and-Collect’ to purchase products. This figure will only grow this year, as retailers strive to create the best possible customer experience that meets consumers demand for quick, simple and convenient fulfilment of their shopping desires.

Despite its popularity, however, some retailers are struggling with the challenges of an omni-channel world, especially when it comes to creating a consistent and seamless customer payment experience across offline and online channels. The need to ensure consumer data and payment infrastructure is kept secure as new innovation is introduced and being able to monitor an increasing number of the customer interaction points has increased in complexity. Complying with Payment Card Industry (PCI) rules around customer payment data can make it very difficult for brands to get a full and omni-channel, view of customer spending.

One new technology, tokenisation, is helping to overcome some of these obstacles, by encrypting consumer data at the point of sale while still enabling merchants to track customer payments. To mitigate risk, an alphanumeric code, or ‘token,’ is substituted in the place of payment data when a transaction is being processed. Information about a consumer’s card and personal details is reduced to a string of numbers and letters, indecipherable to any fraudsters who have obtained the data via a data breach. While retailers cannot identify an individual token, if the token is the same whichever payment channel it is used in, then they can see consumer behaviour and spending patterns attached to it, gaining a view of how a customer is using each different channel for shopping, while keeping transactions safe.

As the omni-channel approach becomes more prevalent, the next differentiator for retailers will be the insight they can gain from the customer payment experience and applying that to consumer expectations. With consumers expecting speedier deliveries, smarter location-based offers, and even greater anticipation of their desires, retailers will need to find ways of tracking these new omni-channel customer journeys.

This in turn will help them understand their customers better and not only succeed during seasonal peaks but outside of the madness of the holiday period.

Technologies such as tokenisation offer a unique opportunity to both safeguard customer data while providing a snapshot of behaviour, while providing the insight necessary to enable retailers to engage proactively and efficiently with their customers.

Marc Pettican, MD, The Logic Group.