Mobile payment solutions aren’t anything new. Large players such as Square, Apple and Google have been dabbling in this field for some time. The real market differentiator will be what value is added to both the customer and merchant where both parties feel the experience is slicker, and safer, for them. The recent announcement of Accolades – an app and loyalty portal to complement existing loyalty, customer analytics and rewards programs – has brought with it an anticipation in the mobile payments landscape. There is a belief that it may be the next step in digital retail.
Built by Ovations Group and Thought Faqtory, in partnership with Nedbank – which facilitates its payment integration – Accolades is the evolution of mobile shopping, powered by beacon and smartphone app technology. It is a mobile platform that connects the retailer to the customer through proximity based services and facilitates a seamless, secure card based mobile payments experience in store. The app provides the product list or menu of the participating store, letting the customer select the product and quantity and check it out of their mobile shopping cart without queues.
Chris Wood, Head of Emerging Payments at Nedbank, reveals that PocketPOS, which was the first fully certified EMV chip & pin mobile point-of-sale (POS) solution in Africa, served as precursor towards the journey of Accolades.
“When Nedbank began innovating in mobile POS technology, we required a neutral party to help us manage the often challenging internal stakeholder relationships and Ovations became our project partner in the process. After the success of the PocketPOS project, we began looking at how mobile payments could be expanded to work in the retail and consumer space. It was during this time that beacon technology surfaced and we started to look at how we could leverage off the convergence between the mobile POS and the location based services technology. The Accolades application is a proof of concept that we are supporting to better understand the crossroads of beacons, mobile payments and data analytics.”
Craig Leppan, Associate Director at Ovations, believes there is a desire for innovation from merchants and customers, which also adds significance to both parties. This is where Accolades fills the gap, as it is not only technologically-advanced, but also relevant.
“There are numerous other mobile payment solutions out there, but we wanted to create something that adds value to all parts of the payments ecosystem, not just to the merchant or just to the customer. From a merchant perspective, Accolades offers new insight into mobile consumer behaviour through the collection of a host of new data points. Through the app, retailers and brands will be able to understand and analyse consumer browsing and buying habits; therefore, being better positioned to offer them relevant products. For the customer, it complements their digital shopping experience when they are able to make payments without the need to carry cash or card and can start to receive targeted, relevant offers, loyalty points and frictionless mobile payments. Customers will be able to browse, buy, and engage with products and brands via the mobile app.”
One of the biggest concerns about any mobile app that requires personal banking information to be entered is the safety of the information. Both Leppan and Wood agree that security is pivotal, and remains at the top of the agenda.
“From a Nedbank perspective, security is paramount to everything we do. Nedbank has developed world-leading digital security capabilities and will continue to ensure that any information captured into our mobile payments innovations is depersonalised and as secure as if you were placing your card into an EMV or PocketPOS device,” Wood says. In addition, Leppan confirms that security audits are ongoing as the app goes through its proof-of-concept phase.
“Digital retail shopping should be about creating the best experience for customers and merchants. These interactions should be frictionless, add value and be fun. We predict that merchants will become big players in the app world in the near future,” Leppan says.
Wood adds, “From a Nedbank perspective, we are extremely serious about innovation in payments, but also want to focus our energy on being selective in where we innovate. By participating in projects like this, it’s an opportunity to be agile in understanding more about how the technology works and how customers are going to engage with it. In doing so, we will be better positioned to understand what our customers want and deliver exactly that to them. It is for this reason that we almost always launch products in pilot to our staff first. This is because they are the customers who are the most likely to tell you what they like – and more importantly, what they don’t.”
Ovations and Nedbank are continuing to test the Accolades beacon technology in-house at Europa Express at the Nedbank HQ in 135 Rivonia Road, after which they will assess its real world application in the retail space.