With better-than-expected performance in brick-and-mortar stores this year, companies are looking to modernize in-store payments to keep it in line with advances in seamless payments on e-commerce sites. A recent WSJ article reported on new in-store payments innovations that are being tried out by Kroger and Halfords, a UK automotive and bicycle parts retailer.
As cited in the article, data from the National Retail Federation found that e-commerce now makes up 16.4% of all retail shopping—a decrease from 18.8% “at the height of the pandemic.” And as a result, retail executives are concerned they might lose some of the customers they regained if they don’t improve antiquated in-store technology.
Neil Holden, CIO of Halfords, spoke to the WSJ of a payment technology his company is investigating involving payment by sound wave. He said:
The cutting-edge technology, which has been used by militaries, involves encoding data into sound waves and then sending it to another device via speaker. Customers would be able to initiate the payment via an app, Holden said.
Similarly, Kroger’s CIO Yael Cosset described how his company is developing technology which could make checkout lines obsolete, by installing checkouts in individual aisles. Another idea is a shopping cart equipped with cameras and sensor effectively enabling automatic instantaneous checkout.
All of this costs money to implement, of course, and retail typically runs on a tight margin. So it remains to be seen if these solutions will be worth the investment. Furthermore, payments systems involving surveillance involve privacy concerns.
“Retailers should certainly be looking to improve the in-store shopping experience with new payment technologies to create an appealing payment process so they don’t lose more sales to e-commerce. But many new technologies won’t be a fit for their stores,” said Daniel Keyes, Research Analyst at Javelin Strategy. “Merchants should be evaluating which checkout technologies match up well with their specific retail categories, shopper profiles, and store layouts to create a positive shopping experience in the future.”