Essential Retail's View from the Top is a regular series of interviews with executives operating at the heart of the retail technology industry. This week, in a special sponsored feature, the spotlight falls on Kevin Kane, marketing director at Tag Retail Systems.

Consumers' willingness to use near-field communication (NFC) technology is opening up new opportunities for retailers to better engage with their customers, and shoppers are now expecting contactless touchpoints throughout the purchase journey.

That is the view of Kevin Kane, marketing director of digital receipts, loyalty and tech solutions provider Tag Retail Systems, who says traditional retailers can use the popularity of NFC technology to help compete with online pure-play retailers in terms of how well they know their customers.

Figures from the UK Cards Association, released earlier this month, show that monthly contactless card spending passed the £2 billion mark in July as the number of contactless transactions grew by almost 10% to reach 240 million. Some 19% of all card payments were made using contactless technology in July, the organisation said.

"NFC is absolutely transforming the retail space; people are so much more used to NFC – certainly the contactless payment route," Kane explained to Essential Retail, adding that initial security concerns of the public have typically been alleviated.

"Customers expect transactions to be done via contactless, whether that is payment, loyalty, digital receipts or cards management. There's an expectation among customers that it is a really easy thing to do and 'why isn't everything that way in the shopping purchase process?'."

It is partly due to this climate that Tag launched its Tap & Tag product to market 18 months ago. The solution can sit between a retailer's existing point of sale system and the receipt printer, and it generates a digital receipt when a customer taps their contactless card or NFC-enabled mobile against it.

An initial set-up is required, and the first time the system is used sees a paper receipt with an ID pin generated for the shopper. Customers can then set up an online account, before inserting the pin and their email address in order to receive paperless receipts for any future transaction.

Tag Retail Systems' Tap & Tag solution uses NFC technology

Digital receipts are just one example of how traditional retailers – particularly retailers with multiple stores – have an opportunity to better understand their shoppers' habits due to the advancement of technology in recent years. Internet pure-plays have always been able to use analytics to gain a picture of their customers' online search activity, but there are now various technologies helping brick and mortar retailers gain this level of information about in-store behaviour.

The platform to collect customer data is one thing, but retailers are beginning to understand the real commercial power comes in harnessing that information to market to shoppers across channels in a way that is most relevant to them.

With Tag Retail's product, as soon as a customer taps on the digital receipt the retailer is alerted via app or online. It's then up to the retailer to choose whether or not, or how, it would like to market to that shopper, based on the data it has.

"It's about closing the loop between the high street and online," said Kane.

"This technology allows retailers to get on a par with online retailers and compete with some of them by attracting people to store. There are all sorts of stats showing if customers are involved a multichannel experience they are far more likely to make a purchase."

A UK supermarket chain has been trialling the technology at two of its superstores near London, and Kane is confident the retailer has seen the benefits the service can bring its customers. More on how this particular retailer is using the technology will be published on Essential Retail in the weeks ahead.

Kane says Tag's solution stands out from other digital receipt offerings because it is competitively priced, does not require existing retailer software to be modified and emails are not collected in the store, thus avoiding delays in queuing.  

"I've stood in long queues and sometimes you see people give up when trying to give retail staff their email addresses – often people have a complicated email address or surname," noted Kane.

"Every lost digital receipt is a lost opportunity to engage with that customer."

Tag Retail Systems launched its product to market at RBTE in 2015. Kane said the European retail tech expo and conference provided a "fabulous" industry showcase for its product. "We set up the stand and we were inundated with visitors. The response from retailers was excellent, including a major UK retailer who brought the wider team back the following day to look at it."

In 2016, Tag took a place on in-store technology provider Epson's stand at RBTE, and the company will be back with its own stand again in 2017.

Commenting on the new solution, Kane remarked: "Retailers looking to invest in digital receipts were thinking, ‘how can we get over capex challenges, software integration and friction barriers’ – so we came up with our product which directly addresses those issues.

"It's got to be simple, inexpensive and easy for the customer to use. Anything that doesn't enhance the customer experience is not worth having, so that's how Tap and Tag came about."

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Tag Retail Systems