Merchants and brands are rightly obsessed with reaching consumers where they congregate, like social channels, but what if you could expand that to wherever they happen to be?
It’s the next generation of omnichannel selling — in this case, actuated by a merchant’s ability to dynamically push offers to a consumer’s smartphone in the moment, based on their physical location and any data the merchant can access about their product and payment preferences.
As Bobby Koscheski, global director, omnichannel payments – grocery, fuel and convenience at ACI Worldwide, told PYMNTS, “Omnichannel is coming to the forefront … with the emergence of online and mobile channels, where our customers are trying to deal with their customers more holistically and deliver a level of personalized service that’s different and more compelling than their competitors.”
Reaching consumers at the point of intent with a dash of inspiration is what makes social selling so enthralling. It stands to reason that technology replicating this effect almost anywhere in a seamless, non-intrusive way could be a game changer. Testing the theory, ACI built it.
Announcing its new ACI Smart Engage platform in early June, the company said it couples geolocation technologies with scannable media and audio tags in TV, print and radio ads — along with catalogs and window displays that will allow consumers to purchase an item with one click.
“I would characterize it as a next-generation experience that’s linked directly to a mobile app, kind of creating a superpower within the app to be able to do things that it doesn’t do today,” Koscheski said, allowing merchants to embed signals in various media such as through print and text ads, audio or on TV, connecting to a mobile app and activating a real-time offer.
As an example, he talked about someone getting gas. A Smart Engage signal pings the consumer’s smartphone, pushes a personalized offer for a drink and a snack, which turns a gas purchase into a more profitable engagement for the merchant, while giving consumers what they want.
“The payment part of that is all automagic,” he said. “It just happens because they know who I am, I’ve opted in from the app, they’ve got my credentials plugged into the app. What triggers that is an audio signal, in that use case, to the mobile app that wakes it up and says we have a personalized offer for you.”
Solving for Silos
Geofencing and pushing offers to smartphones using RFID has been happening in stores for a while now, but ACI Smart Engage is an example of that idea being set free of former limitations.
“It could be on the Jumbotron at a game, it could be in a radio advertisement, it could activate your SiriusXM device in your car,” Koscheski said. “There are all sorts of ways of using this technology, the key being that these are payment adjacent services that we link into the payment infrastructure so that we’re allowing them to sell more product.”
It’s a tidy way of solving some promotional problems that have followed merchants even into the digital shift, which is what ACI set out to fix with innovative technology. On the whole, Koscheski said, merchants have struggled to put it all together.
“For example, it sounds silly,” he said, “but I can use my gift card to make a purchase in store, but in many cases, our merchants over the years have not offered gift card services online.”
Truly connected omnichannel experiences free both retailers and customers from having to work in prescribed linear silos — driving to the store, walking in, shopping, checking out and paying at the tail end of the process.
“With digital, with mobile, all of that is changing. At the extreme, it’s an Uber experience where the payments are literally invisible,” Koscheski said. “Augmented services like Smart Engage and others that can deliver real-time offers can participate in that conversation with the customer well beyond transacting with the payment.”
The New Payments Adjacency
As consumers get used to typical mobile shopping apps, the potential for signaling offers to smartphone users passing by offers intriguing retail possibilities.
Calling Smart Engage an augmented mobile shopping app experience, Koscheski said it allows retailers to offer an entirely different experience to app users based on where they are in the store — giving retailers the ability to add value in ways they couldn’t when customers were paying with credit cards or mobile wallets at checkout.
“The geofencing capability within this application allows us to create a geofence which transcends the barriers of the store,” he added. “In the fuel segment, I’m driving down the road and I can turn right into a Shell or left into an Exxon, and it’s my choice. But if I’m a regular Shell customer and Shell really wants me to turn right, then they will give me an offer at that moment that says, ‘10 cents off gas today for you, because you’re such a great customer.’”
Using the gas pump offer example, should the consumer click on the offer, the app automatically takes payment, adds loyalty points and applies discounts in an “invisible” fashion.
Pointing to payment systems as orchestration engines, he said, “What we do is connect the person on the other end of the wire, whether they’re online or whether they’re [on] a mobile app or in the store with a card at a terminal, with all these different pools of money, pools of value. The pool of value might be dollars in a bank account.
“It could be prepaid dollars in a gift card. They could be coupons from a CPG. All of those things can happen through orchestration in real time. That’s the concept that we have of payment adjacency.”