As retailers aim to improve the customer experience the Point of Sale (PoS) continues to be a vital component in an Omnichannel strategy.  More and more retailer executives will face the decision to commit their organisations to a far-reaching customer experience transformation.  The immediate challenge when designing better customer experiences is to decide where the competitive advantage can be most effective and sustainable.  The PoS, or the Point of Interaction (PoI) with the customer will have huge implications for the retailer’s operations, organisation, technology, store design and the staff.

Personal Identification Number (PIN) entry technology, for example, used to capture the cardholder’s PIN is normally implemented using a physical keypad.  A set of 10 buttons are arranged in a block which bears the digits 1 to 9, plus a zero, is probably regarded old-fashioned in the age of the touchscreen.  After all, it is compliant with ISO 9564, the international standard for PIN management and security.  PIN protection principles and security techniques found in the ISO 9564 standard can be traced back to 1991.  The entry of a PIN using a physical keypad goes further back in history when you look at the first cash withdrawal machines.  ATMs using a physical keypad were first deployed in 1967 in the UK.  Thank you Barclays bank.

Today, we all use smartphones and tablets that use touchscreen technology and when it comes to entering your security PIN on a touchscreen, i.e. PIN on glass, it feels entirely natural.  Any smartphone or iPad tablet user will unlock their device using the touchscreen.  However, when it comes to entering your credit or debit card PIN we rarely see PIN on glass, touchscreen technology.

The Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SCC) PIN Transaction Security (PTS) allows for touchscreen technology.  The use of a ‘Display that can detect the presence and location of a touch within the display area, and enable the cardholder entering his or her PIN’ is clearly permitted.  The deployment of PIN Entry Devices (PEDs) where a touchscreen is used to capture the PIN remains rare.  AEVI (a subsidiary company of Wincor Nixdorf) claims that their new PoS product called ‘Albert’ is the world’s first PCI-certified touchscreen payment terminal.

Albert, which uses PIN on glass, or PIN entry on a touchscreen, has been a technical challenge within the industry for some while.  Mobile point of sale (mPoS) solutions, such as Square and Miura Systems, typically circumvent this by pairing a mobile phone with a hardware accessory via a physical or wireless connection.  Cardholders enter their PINs on the mPoS hardware accessory, which encrypts all card data to pass on to the merchant’s mobile device.  This does not require any special hardening of security on the mass market consumer devices that merchants may own.

A PTS-approved device, such as Albert from AEVI, includes special security in the touchscreen and in the methods used for translating the touchscreen into PIN digits.  Could it be possible to wipe the screen clean and examine it after it was used for traces of the cardholder’s fingerprints to reveal the secret PIN?  Anyone familiar with a locked smartphone can simply hold the device against the light and looking at the grease patterns that fingers often leave on the screen could make a reasonable guess of the PIN.  Additionally, malicious software within an app running in the background could capture the PIN as cardholder uses the touchscreen.  PCI SCC aims to mitigate these risks with PIN on glass.

The point of sale device is already using touchscreen technology today

Back in 2015 Commonwealth Bank of Australia started to roll out the Albert tablet from AEVI to its merchants.  It had an app-based marketplace which provides a variety of non-payments related cloud-based applications, such as inventory, loyalty, and other efficiency tools for hotels, restaurants and general retail merchants.  It is estimated that over 40,000 devices have been deployed in the Australian market since its launch.  This does not mean that PIN on glass has been fully embraced by cardholders.  Nor does it mean it will replace the traditional PIN Entry Devices in the short to medium term.  Also, let’s not forget that the limit for contactless card payment transactions in Australia is $100 AUD – about twice as much as the UK, where the contactless limit on payment cards is currently £30.  Many Australian transactions at a PIN on glass device will simply not require PIN entry because it falls inside the contactless card limit.

AEVI is not the only PoS supplier of PIN on glass solutions; Yello is a European company that launched YelloPad in 2016 which is a PIN on glass tablet PoS.  Clover and iZettle are also planning PIN on glass product launches for 2017 and there are others that are in the pipeline.  Therefore, PIN on glass is more likely to be seen in Europe within the next 12 to 18 months.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of PIN on glass for merchants?

Omnichannel is blurring the line between what’s offline and online and merchants are already using tablets and self-service kiosk technology in store to help consumers help themselves to a wider range of payment and fulfilment options.  Retailers are now placing greater emphasis on customer experience design (CXD); from product research, selection through to the payment checkout.

Last year Edgar, Dunn & Company suggested that ‘Omnichannel’ was a buzzword in retailing that had a life expectancy of five years or perhaps ten at most.  Omnichannel means that no matter which channel is the customer’s touch point – whether a payment device or a self-service kiosk in-store, or on the web, or a retailer’s app on a smartphone – their experience should be seamless, streamlined, secure and optimised for the needs of each channel.  Any payment acceptance strategy and an Omnichannel strategy must be cohesive and established concurrently.  PIN on glass is expected to help streamline the customer’s transaction at each touch point.

The ability to pay anywhere in the store is part of the Omnichannel strategy.  Payments need to be quick, simple, secure and painless leaving the sales assistant free to extend their relationship with the consumer who can then engage on their own terms.  PIN on glass will be a step closer to creating an omnipresent shopping experience.  Retailers will use PIN on glass solutions as an opportunity to redesign the physical checkout and redesign the customer experience at the checkout.  In fact, soon there may not be a checkout in the traditional sense of the term.  The Point of Interaction (PoI) with the consumer is changing and PIN on glass will be one of those changes that will encourage retailers to re-think the point of interaction with the consumer and the role of the Point of Sale (PoS) device will further be eroded.  Moreover, it will be integrated into the physical shopping environment.  PIN on glass is expected to be woven into the structure of the shop, such as the shelves and display units, and into the consumer’s shopping journey.  Touchscreen points of interaction in the fitting room of a fashion retailer or within the shopper’s grocery trolley or a tablet at the end of the aisle will become the everyday shopping experience.  As we see the rise of the internet of things (IoT), the point of interaction is expected to change faster and faster.  Augmented reality via the shopper’s smartphone, or robots that can navigate the store using driverless car technologies will offer consumers new ways to interact and transact.  PIN on glass will be integrated into the customer experience.

Immersive technologies

Omnipresent is the new Omnichannel.  Omnipresent retailing is universal, borderless, frictionless, and pervasive.  Retailers want to achieve a unified customer experience.  In the future, the sales channel will be irrelevant and shoppers will not care about the channel or even realise the difference because there will be no difference.  Omnipresent retailing is the future.  Shopping will be an immersive experience. Last year, for example, we saw Visa Europe and Blippar demonstrate the world’s first augmented reality payment solution at the House of Holland’s London Fashion show.  The consumer could use their smartphone to ‘view’ an item of clothing in the show and purchase on screen.

The immersion of the consumer into the augmented and virtual realities will rapidly become mainstream and the payment transaction will be integrated into the customer experience.  Digital transformation will be delivered via screen technology and the walls of the store will become touchscreens defining the consumer’s immersive reality.  This will be a huge benefit for merchants to offer more opportunities for consumers to transact but this could equally confuse certain consumers, such as an older or a vulnerable consumer.

Touchscreen technology can be a big issue, for example, for blind or partially-sighted consumers.  A traditional PIN pad has raised buttons that offer a tactile element, usually on the middle button ‘5’, but this doesn’t exist on a touchscreen device.  This tactile element helps blind or partially-sighted people to recognise the other digits from the central position where the number 5 digit is located.  How does PIN entry on a touchscreen work for blind and partially-sighted people?  Software technology can help to adjust the touchpad to ‘centralise’ itself thus helping a blind or partially-sighted person to find their way around the set of 10 buttons arranged in a block which bears the digits 1 to 9, plus a zero.  This may not address all the accessibility laws that different countries have in place to help blind or partially-sighted consumers but it is expected to be resolved very soon.  Apple, for example, using its ‘Taptic Engine’, has already rolled out the ability to detect different pressures as users tap and press on the touchscreen.  This is expected to add even further features and functions to the PIN on glass experience.

PIN on glass is only the start of something that will change the way we shop in the future.  The point of interaction continues to evolve and the way we pay will equally change and become more frictionless as shopping becomes omnipresent, frictionless and pervasive.

Defining a customer experience vision

At Edgar, Dunn & Company we find that the following key questions underpin a successful customer experience design:

  1. Is the retailer’s senior executive committed to the strategic goal of implementing a customer experience design methodology?
  2. Is the retailer prepared to make fundamental changes to every point of interaction with the customer?
  3. Are the gaps between the customers’ expectations and the current customer experience been identified?
  4. How can the retailer gain a competitive advantage by improving the customer experience journey?
  5. How can technology at the point of interaction help enhance the customer experience?
  6. How can payment acceptance and the issuance of payment methods improve the customer experience?
  7. How do the capabilities of the employees support the customer experience the retailer wants to provide?

Today, shoppers have more choice and they want that choice to be aligned with their personal preferences and to be part of a meaningful customer experience.  Edgar, Dunn & Company can address these key questions to create customer experience journeys that are designed to help consumers spend more.