RAMP Show Schools Retailers On Mobility

ramp125Retailers came together at the RAMP Show to discuss how they are incorporating mobile payments and loyalty and what the future holds in this new space.  

The Retail Ramp (Advanced Commerce & Mobile Retail Services Summit) Show drew retailers from all channels to Chicago’s McCormick Place from Oct. 28-30, to share the latest trends, innovations and challenges in the world of mobile and technology.

“The people making the most in-roads in mobile payments aren’t thinking about payment at all—they’re thinking about commerce,” noted Doug Wilber, chief revenue officer, PYMNTS.com, as he led the RAMP State of the Union Address Keynote Panel discussion.

Dodd Roberts, executive of the Merchant Customer Exchange noted that the challenge is to introduce something to customers that amazes them. Banks also are trying to figure out their own mobile strategies and might not have confidence in what retailers are trying to build. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” he noted. “We have a long way to still go yet. It’s time to make decisions, but we have time still to evaluate.”

For most customers, the credit card isn’t broken, and yet there are some 350 mobile wallets available. The victors still standing in the end of the mobile war are likely to be those who can drive the experience for the life of the customer.

During a panel on how Mobile is Reshaping the C-Suite, the c-store industry’s own Jenny Bullard, CIO, Jones Co., which operates 172 Flash Foods Stores in Georgia and Florida, noted retailers don’t create their brand overnight and the same is true with developing their mobile presence. She compared diving into mobile apps and payment to when the c-store industry first began scanning and the learning curve that existed as retailers coped with an influx of new data. A long learning process with the ability to make changes and adapt and grow with new technology and developments is crucial as retailers begin to dip their toes into the world of mobile.

“This is my first trip to RAMP,” Bullard told CSD. “I was really intrigued by what RAMP was all about because there is a lot happening now with mobile payments and with payments in general in retail right now. I knew there would be a lot of larger retailers here at the show and I was excited to hear what they were doing as far as mobility.”

“This is a great forum and venue to hear about what is going on in the mobile space, and how it interrelates with omnichannel and big data and how that all relates to loyalty. I like to come and hear what vendor partners and what technology folks are saying about it, and moreso what retailers are also doing in the space,” noted Howard Curtis, director of marketing & CRM at Mapco Express.   

In a panel on Mobilizing Your Loyalty Strategy, those already in the space noted that retailers should keep in mind that rewards don’t have to be gifts. A VIP line at the supermarket is an example of one way to reward loyalty customers in a way that makes them feel recognized—a key want from customers. “Loyalty is about building relationships,” the panelists echoed each other. At restaurants for example, some loyalty programs seat VIP customers right away and a manager comes to the table to ensure they are satisfied with the meal. Recognition is especially important to Millennials. Instead of only texting deals and coupons, think about incorporating recognition into your messages, such as sending a happy birthday message. Above all, panelists agreed it’s crucial to make loyalty simple. Customers need to know what they need to do to earn a gift. They need to know how many points they have. Millennials don’t want to carry around loyalty cards, and they don’t want to sign up for something. They want to be recognized and rewarded, and they want sign up to be fast—they’re not going to fill out a form.

One thing for certain is that mobile payments are on the way. There will be 24 million projected mobile devices by 2020. The Millennials want it. Now is the time for retailers to launch and make mistakes and learn from them so they can be there with a working payment option when this takes off, experts agreed.

Mobile Wallet Takeaways

“It’s still early,” speaker Jack Philbin, co-founder, president and CEO of Vibes, noted in a presentation that introduced the result of the Vibes Mobile Consumer Survey, fielded by independent panel research firm Equation Research, in July. “We are in the very early days of non-payment mobile wallet transformation. This is not surprising because Passbook debuted in Sept. 2012 and Google Wallet Objects is expecting to launch soon.” At first mobile wallets just focused on paying for things with a phone. But with the introduction of Apple’s Passbook for iPhone, that all changed, because customers can use it to store loyalty cards and physical coupons right on their mobile device. But not everyone knows this benefit exists. In fact, 33% of consumers think mobile wallets are only for making payments, 48% are aware of the non-payment side of the mobile wallet, and 19% have no idea what mobile wallets are. What’s more, only 19% of smartphone users have noticed any retailer offering mobile wallet-specific promotions in the past six months.

Demand, however is high with 85% of consumers saying they would receive some benefit from non-payment mobile wallets, and 59% said they would have a more positive view of retailers if they started to deliver digitized mobile content. Great news for retailers is they don’t even need their own app to get started. “You don’t need an app to add something to Passbook. Stores can offer payment (like Starbucks) or a loyalty card or coupon options through a Google Wallet or Passbook (on iPhone)—it’s like an app light. Think of the app as something that includes loyalty, and store locators, any maybe payment. In addition or in place of, you can launch mobile payment or just a loyalty card through a mobile wallet,” Philbin explained. 

Payment Push
While the RAMP Show made clear payment is on the way, it also showcased the numerous options available for delivering mobile payments—from NFC to barcode and QR Code scans, to messaged codes that can be entered at the pump—signs it’s still very much the wild west for payment possibilities. The c-store industry’s Bill Deichler of Murphy USA, noted everything that is going to win the mobile war will be cloud based because EMV is a sore for retailers that retailers do not want to embrace.  

The conference took time to honor its founder Melissa Morrissey, director of the Morrissey Group, producer of the RAMP Show, who was killed in a car accident this summer. Attendees clapped for her memory and hard work and dedication in bringing the Retail RAMP conference to life.

The next RAMP Show is set for April in Chicago. Dates and times are set to be announced soon.




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