Rugby deal shows acquirers how to maul the competition

While I was at WorldPay, we bought a small payment services provider and used this capability to commercialise a new proposition that included a range of terminals, EPOS integration, online payments and a single management dashboard with a merchant account.

WP Total

This is WorldPay Total and it was hugely gratifying to see this article in Computing outlining its successful implementation at the English Rugby Football Union’s (RFU) operations at Twickenham, the home of English Rugby. You have to look hard, mind. WorldPay’s PR team did a cracking job to get such a great selection of testamonials from RFU but there’s no reference to this deal on WorldPay’s website.

RFU had previously run a mixed estate of stand alone and integrated fixed and portable payment terminals through multiple acquirer contracts. Its online and telephone payments were handled through yet more third payment providers. This complexity made it hard to introduce customer service innovations, such as queue busting, as well as generating reconciliation headaches in the accounts office.

Total gave WorldPay the toolbox it needed to be able to offer a complete solution to RFU and, given the right commercial terms, the ability to win the entirety of the business available. And because the payment service is fully integrated into the EPOS and includes maintenance contracts for the payment terminals, the relationship between WorldPay and the RFU should be deeper (and hopefully more long lasting) than a typical acquirer/merchant contract.

“Since we rolled out the new service in October 2013, the value of payments has grown threefold (314 per cent)” – RFU

Total provides WorldPay with a platform to introduce new services within the overall contract and service framework. For example, the upgrade to contactless is simply a question of upgrading existing terminals.

“Now that we’ve rolled out contactless, our outlets are making more in sales; and fans are getting back to the game much more quickly, because they don’t have to stand in a lengthy queue” – RFU

Queueing for drinks at Twickenham
Queueing for drinks at Twickenham

The architecture of Total has also allowed WorldPay to be first in the UK with integrated enterprise m-POS devices too. RFU introduced them in its hospitality boxes to take payments on orders created on tablets and iPhones.

“The RFU saw a 44 per cent increase in the value of payments using its eight Worldpay Total Mobile devices in the corporate boxes” – RFU

Twickenham hospitality box
Twickenham hospitality box

Running all payments through a common reporting infrastructure is another strong customer benefit.

“Now we have all the latest payment statistics for each of our corporate boxes at our fingertips, so we can better target these customers with other loyalty schemes and offers” – RFU

This is one deal in one relatively small account but has important implication of the future direction of European acquirers. Here’s why.

The European card payments industry is in a state of agitation and foreboding in anticipation of the new EU interchange regulations. Card issuers will be under severe pressure; inevitably acquirers will be too. If acquirers (the ying to the issuers’ yang) want to grow, they have two options. Either to get bigger to drive up margins through economies of scale or to widen their product offering.

I covered the consolidation option in my report from MPE. But acquirers are generally paying less attention to the possibilities for diversification and this is why the WorldPay Total example is so interesting. Many acquirers are endowed with the brands, customers and distribution necessary to sell more than simply card processing services.

For the monolines, like WorldPay of course, diversification is an imperative not an option. In a head to head with a full service bank for an customers’ payment business, the pure acquirer will normally lose the deal. The bank can offer processing at cost as a sweetener to retain or win the wider banking relationship. The monoline acquirer can’t match that offer so needs to move the goalposts.

One good tactic for monolines is to reposition themselves as technology suppliers, not financial services businesses. This will help them lever acquiring contracts away from the business bankers. To do this, their key relationship focus needs to move from their clients’ finance team to their CIO with propositions like Total available to substantiate this shift in emphasis.

The banks will fight back, of course. Barclaycard, the UK’s remaining bank-owned acquirer responded to WorldPay Total by purchasing The Logic Group. This gives it a very broad capability but it may struggle to maintain high quality relationship management across such a wide range of both financial services and technology products.


Review: Mastercard launches mobile payment app at Wagamama.

For an app that has been three years in the development with Mastercard’s money behind it, Qkr! is rather underwhelming:

  • It hasn’t been customised for the UK market
  • The user experience is not intuitive
  • The payment mechanism (generating a code that the retailer punches manually into the till system) seems unnecessarily clumsy
  • I’m not enthusiastic about its security being a password, rather than a passcode or fingerprint
  • The brand name is a random selection of consonants which people will find rather hard to remember
  • There’s confusion between Masterpass and Qkr! branding throughout

See what you think.

I love Wagamama. Its blend of ramen style asian fusion, quick service and friendly staff makes it a great place for a fast, healthy meal. So when I read that Wagamama was now accepting a new mobile payment app from Mastercard called Qkr! I knew what I was having for lunch.

Casual dining chains typically report an average checkout time of nine minutes or more. Mobile payments apps should be able to speed this up significantly, resulting in happier customers and faster turning tables. Finish your food. Tap your phone. Leave. What could be better? Here’s how Qkr! works at Wagamama.

First, visit the app store. No problems there. Its easily found provided you can remember its Qkr! rather than kQr!, Qrk! or some other random selection of consonants. The branding, complete with mini supermarket trolley, is more grocery than restaurant though. And prices are displayed in Euros which would make people think question whether they’d arrived at the correct app for the UK.

Qkr! in the Apple Appstore

The app asks whether it can send notifications and access your location even when it’s not open. Fair enough.

Qkr! permission screen

Qkr! then disappears. and MasterPass pops up to ask the next set of questions, including which country you live in. The app, which has just gained access to my location, should know this already.

Qkr! location prompt

Then there’s a fairly conventional sign up screen, asking for name, email and a password. The password is six characters with no restrictions. I would prefer a passcode as a set of numbers is much easier to input when the time comes to pay.

Qkr! log in details

Then some security questions. This is another example of non-customisation to local market requirements. We don’t have “third grade” in the UK.


Then a photo. Smile! The Qkr! brand reappears at the bottom of the screen but misspelled as QkR. It also loses the !  but gains a TM instead.


Next, add a payment card. Respect to Mastercard for letting me use my American Express card and I liked the cheeky touch of splashing some Mastercard colours on the top right hand corner.

Qkr! add card screen

Then an email arrives notifying me that the card has been added. That’s a good touch which reinforces the app’s security credentials but doesn’t mention Qkr! at all. Again, there’s the potential for customer confusion.

Qkr! confirmation email

So far, so good. I sped into town and ordered a Chicken Ramen at Wagamama on Wigmore Street, just behind Selfridges.

chicken ramen

When it came to pay, I wasn’t quite sure what to do. I’d assumed there would be a QR code on the bill. No, there  wasn’t. I went back into the app, rooted around and found a button that allowed me to “check in” to the restaurant. This really wasn’t a very obvious step but worked smoothly once I understood what was needed. The app then returned me a very large four digit number. The instructions were to give this code to the server. Note that there’s now no branding at all, neither MasterPass or Qkr!

Qkr! check-in screen

She wrote the number on her hand and strode across the restaurant to the till. The servers are equiped with mobile devices but evidently they’ve not been integrated with Qkr! yet.

The low-tech bit

The server went across the restaurant to punch the four digit number into the till. I noticed a button marked “leave” displayed in the top right. It wasn’t clear whether that meant leave the app or leave the restaurant but I hit it anyway. “Check out” or “Pay Bill” would be better terms to use. Or use the trolley icon throughout to signpost users to the checkout.

The server came back and together we waited about 30 seconds for the transaction to close and the bottom bar on the app to turn green. This indicates that you are ready to pay. You then press “Your Bill is Ready,” to generate the bill.

Qkr! ready to pay

To pay the bill you press the picture of a supermarket trolley on the next screen; not really the most appropriate icon picture for a restaurant.

Qkr! view bill

The app next prompts for a tip.

Qkr! gratuity prompt

Next comes the prompt for a Qkr! password.  Confusingly, the sign-on screen in which you initially create the password is branded MasterPass. Did I create a Qkr! password or a MasterPass one? It may not matter. In fact, the password is optional and you can disable the prompt from the setting menu.

Qkr! password prompt

Finally Qkr! generates a confirmation screen and emails you a copy of the receipt.

Qkr! thank you

Qkr! receipt

My server was well trained, helpful, interested and a credit to Wagamama. She was delighted when I explained that tips were generally higher when people paid with apps. It’s certainly in the staff’s interest to promote this new way of paying.

I was impressed that the Qkr! app worked first time. That‘s a non-trivial achievement for Mastercard and Wagamama and I wouldn’t want to minimise the effort that’s gone in to this implementation.

But better solutions are available. For example, Flypay is a mobile payment app designed for the restaurant trade which has a signficantly better user experience. Your checkout by simply scanning a QR code stuck to the table top. You can try using it at Wahaca. And Apple Pay’s in-app payment option (when it becomes available in Europe) will be streets ahead of where Qkr! is today. Zapp too, I would expect.

Wagamama is misssing an opportunity as well. Qkr! is a generic payment app that Mastercard would like many merchants to accept and I can see its relevance for shoppers who visit a particular brand only rarely. But Wagamama is a popular chain with a loyal and regular clientele which would be better served building its own user experience that offered multiple payment options such as Flypay, Apple Pay, Qkr! or even PayPay.

This is just what brands as diverse as Greggs and Starbucks are doing. With its own app, Wagamama would begin to build a database of its customers, when they come in and what they eat when they do. This is a potential marketing goldmine and it would be a shame to miss the opportunity.

People in Faraday Cages shouldn’t throw stones

Shoppers tend to ignore the technology provided by retailers. Instead, customers prefer to use their own devices in stores and savvy brands will do all they can to help. So concluded Chrid Johnston, customer insights manager at Schuh (a mid-market, full price, footwear retailer) in a presentation to last week’s Purple Wifi event.

This insight is based on experience. Schuh had installed a network of iPad screens which could be used to check stock and to make online orders for home delivery. Staff found them useful but customers walked right past. Schuh made them bigger (see below) but customers still wouldn’t touch them.

Giant screen at Schuh

The strategy is now to encourage customers to use their own mobile devices through provision of free Wi-fi. Shops, particularly those localed in malls, are frequently built with steel frames. These form Faraday Cages. Mobile signals, particularly the 4G networks that carry most data, struggle to penetrate very far from the front door.

Schuh customers love mobile. Mobile sales are growing strongly and accounts for 46% of visits to the Schuh website, up 10% points in just the last twelve months. Schuh has upgraded its instore Wifi with Purple Wifi, this allows it to access a greater range of analytics and offer customers and easier login process via social sign-on. The social sign-on part is interesting as it can provide a wealth of demographic data as you can see from this (remarkably balanced) Channel 4 News clip.

Paradoxically, Chrid did mention that social login was much less popular at Schuh than she’d been expecting.  Why is Schuh keen to provide free Wifi?

Showrooming. 85% of Schuh merchandise is branded and its customers often use their phones to showroom competitors’ pricing. It’s better they do this while remaining in the Schuh store than stepping outside to get a better cellular signal.

Self-service: Schuh is a service brand but there are some customers who prefer to self serve to check product or stock information.

Multi-channel: cross-channel orders are becoming very significant. Schuh took 100K “check and reserve” orders last year with 48% conversion. Wifi can help to increase this rate. “Buyer collect” is also important, accounting for 11% of all onine purchases.

Discounts: knowledgeable shoppers are checking social and affiliate networks for deals. Having them online when they are in the store ensures everyone gets what they are entitled to.

Social: Wifi encourages shoppers to share photos and ideas about shoes with friends and family, primarily via ShapChat and Whatsapp.

Reluctant co-shopper: Wifi can keep bored husbands and kids entertained. After login, shoppers are directed to, a Schuh site that offers quick stock checking. This has been well received as it offers an instant and useful service.

Post authentication URL redirect at Schuh.
Post authentication URL redirect at Schuh.

I like this implementation. It’s been kept simple and Schuh has resisted the temptation to over-market. Too many advocates of in-store Wifi and associated technologies such as iBeacons are encouraging site owners to use these platforms to proactively push messages to customers. Yet few, if any, retailers have enough customer insight to be able to send shoppers a time-sensitive, location-aware, contextualised and relevant communication. Spam would be inevitable and lazy marketers could kill the whole category; just as they have done for email. Chrid recognised this. So did Lee Smith from Harvey Nichols who spoke afterwards.

Shrewd retailers will put the client in control and use the technology reactively to give quicker and more accurate information when they signal that they want it.