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EMV, NFC Make Case for Feature-Rich Devices

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Our company [Equinox Payments] often fields questions from customers about why we put large color touchscreen displays and video-capable processors in our L5000 customer-facing payment terminals.

We made these product decisions to help retailers deliver technologies that will be omnipresent in the U.S. within the next few years.

You’d be hard-pressed to open a retail trade publication without finding an article on Europay, MasterCard and Visa (EMV) chip-and-PIN payment coming to the United States or growing momentum in Near Field Communication (NFC). The two topics and technologies recently converged in VISA’s August Technology Innovation Program bulletin, which entices retailers to install payment terminals that can process transactions from EMV chip-enabled cards (contact and contactless) and NFC-enabled smartphones. These technologies will change how retailers interact with customers at the point of sale, and therefore increase the utility of feature-rich customer-facing payment terminals that make the new technology easy to use.

Contact EMV, whereby a customer inserts a chip card into a payment terminal and signs or enters a PIN — hence, chip-and-PIN — is new to the U.S. marketplace, so unless they have traveled abroad, Americans are not familiar with inserting a chip payment card and entering a PIN before removing the card. (We frequently dip cards at gas pumps and ATMs, but unless the card reader has a motor that grabs your card and later gives it back, rarely do we leave the card in a payment terminal as we continue to interact with the device.)

An EMV transaction, therefore, represents new technology with a new process. New technology necessitates an intuitive user experience. Large, bright, interactive icon-capable and customizable displays offer a user interface to help make the process more clear to customers.

Added value
NFC, which for the sake of simplicity we use synonymously with “contactless,” also brings new technology to POS in the form of customers presenting either chip cards with contactless antennae or NFC-enabled smartphones a la Google Wallet that can be tapped against an NFC-capable payment terminal.

We often hear about the value NFC will bring to all involved parties — customers carrying their wallets digitally in their phones; retailers leveraging offers, coupons and location-based services to bring more customers into stores; search engines and wireless carriers monetizing purchase behavior at the point of sale — but what we hear less about is the impact NFC will have on the checkout process.

An NFC transaction is technologically complex because the smartphone and payment terminal can pass data back and forth to one another. For example, instead of cashiers asking customers if they want to sign up for the store’s loyalty program, the payment terminal can offer the loyalty program to customers directly. Customers can then grab the loyalty application by simply tapping their NFC-enabled smartphones against the terminal. An NFC use case like this one offers clear opportunity to the retailer, but the payment terminal will need to present clear, intuitive information to the customer.

NFC-transmitted loyalty applications and EMV are just a glimpse of new technologies that will find their way to checkout. Development communities like the Mobisocial Computing Lab at Stanford University are demonstrating new use cases for NFC that will usher in another wave of innovation at point of sale.

As Steve Jobs taught many of us, we can introduce new technology to customers as long as we make it easy to use. As new technologies reach the point of sale, we should take a lesson from Apple and focus on the user experience by pursuing large-screen, interactive, icon-capable user interfaces that make technology more accessible to our customers. Our most technology-adverse customers can embrace new technology — we just have to make smart decisions about how to present it.