Why retailers should embrace 'omichannel' ATMs

| by Richard Buckle
Why retailers should embrace 'omichannel' ATMs

Exercise is good! Peddling away on a stationary bike or simply running on a treadmill has its merits, particularly for someone like myself. Business pursuits tie me to my laptop and the sedentary lifestyle that this fosters isn't entirely healthy. Or, so I have been told.

The one upside of an hour at the gym is that I get to watch lots of news channels simultaneously, and for an avid multitasker this more than makes up for the drudgery of exercising.

Recent business headlines have focused on the mixed performance from retailers. The big box merchants clearly have their work cut out for them as they watch e-commerce businesses like Amazon eat their lunch, and indications of a quick turnaround aren't evident in the companies' results.

Take Walmart, for instance. In a story on May 19, "Walmart knows it has problems; how it plans to fix them," CNBC reported that "[g]rocery accounts for more than half of Walmart's U.S. sales, and the retailer is facing increased competition from fellow big-box store Target, which has made grocery one of its key pillars for growth". 

The reason this comment stayed with me was that just a day later, CNBC ran the story, "Target's CFO: Focus is not on groceries yet," in which CEO John Mulligan said, "When it comes to food, the company will test and learn throughout 2015 and roll out changes next year."

Yes, Target's first-quarter results beat analysts' estimates. But the exchange on CNBC made reference that Target was looking to ensure greater support of omnichannel shopping.

A Forbes article on Feb. 12, "Why Is Omni-Channel Retailing So Important For Bed Bath & Beyond?," said that, "[t]o subdue this threat and translate e-commerce into a meaningful business, the U.S. retail industry is gradually shifting towards omnichannel retailing, which refers to providing a seamless shopping experience across stores and the online channel."

Furthermore, Forbes suggested, "Though omnichannel retailing is still at a nascent stage, it is very promising for big retail chains such as Walmart, Target, and Bed Bath & Beyond, whose business model is heavily lopsided."

The CNBC report showed that Target was ahead of the game with the example of a guest who is looking for an item on special but finds the shelf empty. Switching to a smart phone, the shopper scans the product bar code and is given the option of having the item shipped directly to their door. After confirming the transaction, the shopper can then move on to purchase additional items without leaving the store.

When it comes to the world of ATMs, such seamless transition between channels has been the subject of many presentations at events I have attended of late.

"Seamless transition" refers not only to facilitating one person's interactions with multiple technologies, but also to accommodating multiple people's interaction with just one piece of technology, such as we have today with the ATM.

Case in point? While I could never get my father to use his phone for anything other than making calls, millennials — as we heard at this year's ATMIA event in Las Vegas — want to use their phones for everything, and Gen Xers are equally adept at using technology.

Yes, the ATM will need to handle one group of users' contentment to press keys and another's desire to capture a QR code — and still another group's expectation that Siri and the like should be able to get them their cash!

All of this is making it necessary for payments solutions — even the ones we rely on today for payments processing — to manage not only different channels but also the rapid fire switching between them.

Almost overnight, it's becoming the new norm for modern payments solutions to manage networks of ATMs anchored by hubs that make any feature accessible by any device.

It seemed only natural to engage in this discussion with Yashs Kapadia, the CEO of a company called OmniPayments Inc.

"Anyone considering the fundamental changes taking place in payments [is] aware of the discussions about payments services hub — a term promoted by Gartner as far back as 2009," said Yash. "Central to the concept of hubs is the recognition that any transaction could be supported from any channel and this has become central to the architecture of OmniPayments."

Fair enough, but what of omnichannels?

"It's not surprising to read how retailers in particular are rushing to omnichannels — to the casual observer, any shopper with a smartphone or tablet is likely to take advantage of multiple channels even as they walk down a shopping aisle — and it has been this rush to omnichannels that has influenced the placement of our OmniHub offering at the very heart of our OmniPayments payments processing solution," Yash told me.

And is this only applicable to retailers like Target and Walmart?

"No, it's not just shoppers equipped with smartphones that need to be supported as the switch between channels to execute a transaction as in passing an ATM, these same shoppers expect a continuation of service seamlessly and instantly," Yash said. "Why should the presentation on an ATM be any different to that on a phone or tablet or even laptop, and why shouldn't a transaction that may be started using one channel not continue on another channel? This indeed gets to the core of why we have made the investment in OmniHub."

It might be hard to conclude that omnichannel support will be the salvation of big box retailers as they fend off the likes of Amazon, but the need for ATMs to be tightly integrated with other channels is an obvious conclusion to anyone exposed to omnichannel initiatives.

In Oregon recently, I shopped at a Safeway store that didn't take cash and was unable to give me cash at the cash register — so I had to find an ATM. Whereas here in Colorado, I shop for a pound of apples and a box of detergent and take back $60 cash — all the while seamlessly interacting with systems via every channel supported. Much better, and it leaves even more time to exercise!

photo istock

Topics: Customer Experience

Richard Buckle
Richard Buckle is the founder and CEO of Pyalla Technologies LLC. He has enjoyed a long association with the IT industry as a user, vendor, and more recently, as an industry commentator. wwwView Richard Buckle's profile on LinkedIn

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