With Apple Inc.'s launch of the near field communication (NFC)-based mobile wallet scheme Apple Pay, the mobile wallet ecosystem all of a sudden looks brighter. On the heels of Apple Pay's Sept. 9, 2014, debut, national retailers made news concerning mobile payment implementations, underscoring how mobile technology is transforming the retail environment.
Department store operator Macy's Inc. and quick service restaurant (QSR) chain Subway recognize that mobile payments and other mobile-based applications are impacting the retail experience. On Sept. 15, Macy's stated it will support Apple Pay, pilot a same-day delivery service, launch new apps to take advantage of web functionality and expand the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) tags for its fashion apparel merchandise.
Macy's reported that its stores, as well as Macy's-owned Bloomingdale's stores, will soon be able to accept Apple Pay transactions. "The convenience of mobile payment at the point-of-sale is becoming increasingly interesting to customers, and Apple Pay offers an opportunity to further simplify the point-of-sale process," Macy's said.
Macy's will also roll out a same-day delivery pilot program that leverages mobile technology. Deliveries will be managed by crowdsourcing delivery provider Deliv, with several national mall operators taking part in the pilot.
Additionally, Macy's is testing new handheld POS devices and tablets in Georgia and New Jersey stores. By equipping sales associates with the devices, Macy's hopes to improve the in-store shopping experience. Another improvement is in the form of "smart" fitting rooms, where wall-mounted tablets are used to scan merchandise items so customers can see how accessories can, as Macy's put it, "complete the look."
Yet another Macy's implementation involves enhanced shopping apps. One new app called the Macy's Image Search allows customers to "search the merchandise assortment on macys.com by taking and submitting a photograph of any outfit, accessory or merchandise item they see in daily life," Macy's said.
Macy's has also launched a mobile wallet designed to allow users to store coupons and loyalty offers that can be easily accessed in whatever environment, virtual or brick-and-mortar, that customers are shopping in. "Storing this information in a single destination eliminates the need for physical versions of special discount offers or other shopping incentives," Macy's said.
Furthermore, the retailer reported that RFID technology has increased efficiency and boosted sales, as the tags provide Macy's actionable data about what store items are most popular. "In recent omnichannel pilots in fashion categories – social dresses, men's sportcoats and men's slacks – Macy's documented RFID's ability to significantly improve sales, gross margins and markdowns by better leveraging inventory counts that are real-time and accurate," Macy's said.
In addition, Macy's is expanding its use of Bluetooth low energy (BLE) technology through its partnership with Redwood City, Calif.-based shopkick Inc. The shopping app developer offers shopBeacon, which leverages Apple's iBeacon technology for location-based devices that plug into wall sockets and establish remote connections with users' Apple smartphones, allowing for the automatic download of offers and discounts to Apple's Passbook mobile wallet.
Macy's said it will be enabling this BLE solution nationwide in the fall of 2014, with enhancements to the program expected in early spring 2015.
With the rise of the Middle East terror group calling itself ISIS, the mobile wallet scheme of the same name decided to rebrand to Softcard. The new name comes with a new partner – the sandwich chain Subway.
In October 2014, Subway and Softcard will launch NFC payments nationwide in over 26,000 Subway locations in the United States, marking one of the largest U.S. deployments of NFC-based payments. Via the Softcard app, consumers will be able to pay for meals using mobile devices communicating with contactless readers.
Softcard, which is a joint venture of AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA Inc. and Verizon Wireless, is integrating both American Express Co.'s Serve reloadable prepaid card and Subway's own rewards card for the delivery of discounts and special offers. The Softcard app operates with Softcard's proprietary SmartTap technology embedded into POS terminals to enable NFC payments.
The partners cited a recent National Restaurant Association survey that said four in 10 young-adult consumers would likely pay for meals at QSRs with mobile devices if they could.
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