By Barry Bevan at Thames Card Technology
The contactless revolution is not only upon us, it is gaining momentum every day. As of May 2016, a total of 89.9m contactless cards are in circulation in the UK, with almost £1.9 billion spent that month (UK Cards Association). Shops, bars and other retailers that have embraced the technology are already benefiting from increased check-out speed and customer convenience, not to mention less sales being abandoned and streamlined operational costs.
If retailers fail to create an environment where the customer feels in control, though, these advantages fall at the first hurdle. With this in mind, here’s a few tips for retailers to ensure they get contactless acceptance right at the point of sale…
Loud and proud
It’s lunch time on the high street. Shops are full and time is precious. A fickle shopper is on the hunt for a bite to eat and has identified two similar-priced options. Which will win? With a glance at their watch, our time-poor friend can’t queue behind people digging for change and opts for the shop that shouts: “We accept contactless”.
Customers shouldn’t have to ask if you accept contactless. Can a sign go in the window or door? Where is footfall highest? Can the payment terminal go on the counter with information on contactless? People are still getting used to contactless and they need to know they can use it, otherwise many won’t and queues will linger.
Get the interaction right
The most important bit; interaction between cashier and consumer. A quick Google throws up confusion and frustration in equal measure from shoppers. All too often the terminal is out of sight or reach of the customer. This causes a couple of common issues.
Firstly, some cashiers seem to guard the terminal and are requesting that customers hand over their card. This should never happen. In the grand (not so) old days of chip & PIN, this was not as much of an issue as the payment had to be authenticated. Now, some see handing over a contactless card as tantamount to proffering their open wallet.
This leads me to the next faux pas. Customers need to check the value of the transaction before the card is tapped. If their card is taken from them, it can easily be tapped and returned without the customer having any idea what is being taken from their account.
Both of these scenarios are easy to avoid so that the consumer feels secure and in control. Here’s a step-by-step example of how a best practice transaction with a hand-held contactless POS might go:
- Cashier, having scanned the items: “That’s a total of £23.56, please.”
- Customer, keeping their card in-hand: “I’ll pay with contactless.”
- Cashier, after keying the amount into the POS and handing it over: “Here you go, please check the amount before tapping the card.”
- Customer, having confirmed the price and tapped their card: “Thank you, can I have a receipt please?”
- Cashier, taking the terminal back from the customer: “Certainly, here you go.”
Communication breeds confidence
As you can see, much of it comes down to communication. Customer confidence will be enhanced by the vendor highlighting that contactless payment is available, sharing the correct price and following best practice. And confidence will increase usage and spend value.
Thousands of retailers across the UK are getting this etiquette right. A little staff training and knowledge sharing is all that is needed to ensure a consistent user experience and maximize the benefits of contactless.
Siemens Healthineers gains EU nod for $16.4 billion Varian buy
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – EU antitrust regulators on Friday cleared with conditions Siemens Healthineers’ $16.4 billion acquisition of U.S. peer Varian, paving the way for the German health group to become a world leader in cancer care therapy.
The European Commission said Siemens Healthineers pledged to ensure that its medical imaging and radiotherapy equipment will work with rivals in return for its approval, confirming a Reuters story. The pledge is valid for 10 years.
“High quality medical imaging and radiotherapy solutions are crucial to diagnose and treat cancer. The efficiency and safety of treatment relies on the ability of these products to work together,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.
Varian is the leader in radiation therapy with a market share of more than 50%. The deal received the U.S. antitrust green light in October last year.
(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee)
Battling Covid collateral damage, Renault says 2021 will be volatile
By Gilles Guillaume
PARIS (Reuters) – Renault said on Friday it is still fighting the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a shortage of semiconductor chips, that could make for another rough year for the French carmaker.
Renault reported an 8 billion euro ($9.7 billion) loss for 2020 which, combined with gloomy take on the market, sent its shares down more than 5% in late morning trading.
“We are in the midst of a battle to try to manage a difficult year in terms of supply chains, of components,” Chief Executive Luca de Meo told reporters. “This is all the collateral damage of the Covid pandemic… we will have a fairly volatile year.”
De Meo, who took over last July, is looking at ways to boost profitability and sales at Renault while pushing ahead with cost cuts. There were early signs of improving momentum as margins inched up in the second half of 2020.
The group gave no financial guidance for this year, although it said it might reach a target of achieving 2 billion euros in costs cuts by 2023 ahead of time, possibly by December.
Executives said they were confident the carmaker could be profitable in the second half of 2021, but that they lacked sufficient market visibility to provide a forecast.
Renault struck a cautious note, saying it was focused on its recovery but warned orders had faltered in early 2021 as pandemic restrictions continued in some countries.
The group is facing new challenges as the European Union tightens emissions regulations and after rivals PSA and Fiat Chrysler joined forces to create Stellantis, the world’s fourth-biggest automaker.
The auto industry endured a tough 2020 but a swift rebound in premium car sales in China helped companies such as Volkswagen and Daimler to weather the storm.
Auto companies globally have since been hit by a shortage of semiconductors that has forced production cuts worldwide.
“The beginning of the year has shown some signs of weakness,” De Meo told analysts, but added the chip shortage should be resolved by the second half of 2021. “We have taken the necessary measures to anticipate and overcome challenges.”
Renault estimated the chip shortage could reduce its production by about 100,000 vehicles this year.
The group was already loss-making in 2019, but took a sharp hit in 2020 during lockdowns to fight the pandemic, which also hurt its Japanese partner Nissan.
Analysts polled by Refinitiv had expected a 7.4 billion euro loss for 2020. The group posted negative free cash flow for 2020.
The 2018 arrest of Carlos Ghosn, who formerly lead the alliance between Renault and Nissan, plunged the automakers into turmoil.
In a further sign that the companies have been working to repair the alliance, De Meo told journalists that Renault and Nissan will announce new joint products together in the coming weeks or months.
Renault has begun to raise prices on some car models, and group operating profit, which was negative for 2020 as a whole, improved in the last six months of the year, reaching 866 million euros or 3.5% of revenue.
Analysts at Jefferies said the operating performance was better than expected. Sales were still falling in the second half, but less sharply.
Renault is slashing jobs and trimming its range of cars, allowing it to slice spending in areas like research and development as it focuses on redressing its finances. It is also pivoting more towards electric cars as part of its revamp.
It was already struggling more than some rivals with sliding sales before the pandemic, after years of a vast expansion drive it is now trying to rein in, focusing on profitable markets.
De Meo told journalists on Friday that the French carmaker will make three new higher-margin models at its Palencia plant in Spain, where manufacturing costs are lower, between 2022 and 2024.
($1 = 0.8269 euros)
(Reporting by Gilles Guillaume and Sarah White in Paris, Nick Carey in London; Editing by Christopher Cushing, David Evans and Jan Harvey)
UK delays review of business rates tax until autumn
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s finance ministry said it would delay publication of its review of business rates – a tax paid by companies based on the value of the property they occupy – until the autumn when the economic outlook should be clearer.
Many companies are demanding reductions in their business rates to help them compete with online retailers.
“Due to the ongoing and wide-ranging impacts of the pandemic and economic uncertainty, the government said the review’s final report would be released later in the year when there is more clarity on the long-term state of the economy and the public finances,” the ministry said.
Finance minister Rishi Sunak has granted a temporary business rates exemption to companies in the retail, hospitality, and leisure sectors, costing over 10 billion pounds ($14 billion). Sunak is due to announce his next round of support measures for the economy on March 3.
($1 = 0.7152 pounds)
(Writing by William Schomberg, editing by David Milliken)
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