Huw Thomas, Managing Director of PMC, gives his predictions for retail in 2016.

2015 did not see the great development in omnichannel retail that many (including me) had predicted. It appears that vendor presentations of application and systems capability far outstrips reality. Coupled with this many retailers' IT systems are clogged up with a legacy of bespoke applications and complex integration that was deployed when individual channels were almost seen as separate businesses. Some of these are cultural/ business issues as opposed to technical. These need to be un-done to really facilitate anything approaching true omnichannel capability.

Payment has been a significant area of investment for retailers over the past few years on the basis of keeping up with the ever changing PCI standards. More recently the potential to outsource this challenge to Payment Service Providers at a reasonable cost has become more attractive. Retailers that only have a UK presence often have a different payment providers for web sales from their provision in-store. Those that have driven into other territories often have separate payment providers for each of their channels in those other territories. Incursions into new territories often do not have integrated payment. Different standards across the regions; chip and PIN in the UK versus chip and Signature (or swipe and PIN) in the USA doesn’t help the situation. The introduction of new payment methods such as ApplePay, contactless, etc, serves to complicate things further.

My key prediction for 2016 is that retailers will properly address the ability to pay (and refund) via a common platform across all channels and regions of operation. Today’s mismatch of payment providers across the channels and regions inhibits the basic process of returns across different channels and is a big driver of customer dissatisfaction with a retailer. Resolving this situation will go a long way towards enabling omnichannel retailing. The next piece to be addressed is that of stock but that is a much bigger and expensive task to be tackled.

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