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I Can See Clearly Now: Eyeglasses and Payments Systems Do Intersect

Cora Wu |

Why, might you ask, would a vision-care specialist be at all interested in how its payments system is managed? Why not leave that to the POS system experts like Verifone or Ingenico? In fact, why not use Square Register? The answer lies in the nature of this particular industry – and perhaps other customer relationship-based industries as well.

A venture-backed eyeglasses maker, Warby Parker, recently announced that it is going to build its own point-of-sale system.

Warby Parker, an eyeglasses maker that originally blossomed online, has now moved offline into the traditional brick-and-mortar space and launched its first New York flagship store this spring. In establishing its new storefront, Warby Parker evaluated what was currently available in the POS market but . . . it was not pleased with its options. The company realized that the payments and customer service experience it had envisioned was not possible with current systems.

What they envision is seamless management of a customer relationship both online and offline.  They want to be able to view the entire history the customer has had with Warby Parker from the in-store POS system itself, which would include:

    • _____• Email communications
    • _____• Items viewed by shopper online
    • _____• Billing, shipping and payment information from previous online purchases
    • _____• Prescription information
    • _____• Images and pictures of eyeglasses

Warby Parker has brought to light two particular challenges that current POS systems are unable to solve: 1) the ability to link online purchase behavior with offline interactions; and 2) retention of customers in industries that survive on relationship-based sales.

To date, POS systems have treated the digital and brick-and-mortar world as two separate universes.  But with many online merchants moving offline and vice versa, this particular model is not sustainable.  According to Forrester Research, today’s shoppers are fluent in multiple channels: 82% of consumers research a product before buying it and 54% of the US online population are digital researchers (as opposed to analog researchers).  It is crucial for merchants to capture these engaged customers not just online through ads and emails, but offline as well.

Although mass retailers like Walmart  or McDonalds would not benefit from a detailed, intricate POS experience like the one Warby Parker plans to design, many relationship-based industries likely see great value in such a system: their sales depend on customer return visits. A tailor or dry cleaner, for example, would benefit from having a customer’s measurements on file or a picture of the customer’s clothes. A beauty shop like Sephora or Ulta would be able to suggest alternative foundation or concealer products based on the customer’s recorded skintone and online purchasing history.

There has been plenty of innovation on the consumer side of payment technology—mobile wallets, mobile payments, loyalty applications—but creating merchant-side value has been lacking, perhaps due to the complexity of the issues at stake.  An “enhanced” POS system would bring broad positive value for merchants beyond the limits of what current POS systems offer.

Topics: Payments Strategy, Retail Trends

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