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How beacons and mobile wallets are helping brick-and-mortar retail

September 12, 2017

How beacons and mobile wallets are helping brick-and-mortar retail

For instance, omni-channel commerce solutions give customers the ability to shop online and return in-store, while retailers have details about their inventory and availability in real-time. Digital signage with content automation can draw customers in with tailored messaging. Mobile apps further engage customers. From the moment customers walk into a store to the time they pay, retailers are reinventing the experience.

One area of the shopping experience that’s changed quite a bit is the checkout process. Competing with something like Amazon’s “one-click” purchase option means retailers need to streamline how payments take place in-store.

Ironically, this need came at a time when U.S. retailers were also being forced to upgrade to EMV payment terminals. As we’ve all experienced, EMV chip cards—while great at reducing fraud—actually create a slower transaction and a slightly worse experience. Luckily, the payment companies had been hard at work on alternative solutions.

NFC and mobile wallets

Today’s popular mobile wallets—ApplePay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay, etc.—rely on NFC (near-field communication) capabilities within most recent-generation smart phones. At the time of checkout where a swipe or EMV card dip takes place, the customer can tap their smart phone to a compatible payment terminal and the payment is made. Since most retailers upgraded to EMV-capable payment terminals, the ability to accept mobile wallets is built in and ready to go.


Whereas customers need to bring their NFC-equipped phones to the payment terminal, beacons use BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) to emit a signal out to customers. A store app on the customer’s smart phone senses the beacon and a connection is made. Retailers will typically have many beacons strategically located in a store to provide complete coverage of the shopping area. Beacons can be used to alert customers to deals as they walk throughout a store. When a customer is ready to pay, the store associate can scan the items and push the transaction details to the customer’s app for them to approve. For an even better customer experience, it’s also possible for the customer to handle their own checkout via their smart phones.

Beacons can have a significant impact on the customer experience, but the current downside is the cost associated with installing the beacons throughout a store.

Time to take action

Payment technology is evolving at a breakneck speed. Still, that doesn’t mean you should take a wait-and-see approach with your customers. Retailers aren’t in a position to drag their feet on create better customer experiences. They need your help now.