Perspective: NRF's "BIG Show" — Merchants Face the Future of Payments
This IDC Financial Insights Perspective discusses the recent 2015 National Retail Federation (NRF) "BIG Show" held in New York, New York. The event, held annually in the second week of January, is an opportunity for retail technology vendors to offer their wares to merchants fresh from the holiday season. It also represents an important measure of how merchants are assessing and adopting emerging retail technology.
In recent years, payments have been a very strong focus of the NRF conference. Point-of-sale (POS) vendors, card brands, merchant acquirers, and software vendors, recognizing the importance of payments to the "omnichannel" experience, have pitched various solutions aimed at helping retailers and restaurants move beyond simple transactions to leveraged payments as a part of an overall relationship with consumers. Those solutions have been particularly focused on the mobile channel, especially mobile payments and digital wallets.
Unlike past NRF conferences, however, this year's event was less focused on the future of payments and more on the here and now. If there was an overriding payment topic, it was security — protecting data, especially payment data, from theft. The fact that security was a hot topic at the BIG Show isn't surprising, given the attention being paid to consumer privacy and security recently.
Prior to last year's conference, Target announced it had suffered a massive data breach, one that has already cost the company many hundreds of millions of dollars. Since then, data breaches at Michael's, Home Depot, and other retailers have been uncovered, exposing those merchants to real expenses as well as brand damage. Retailers are now very aware of the dangers of data breaches.
A spate of breaches is reason enough for merchants to be concerned about protecting their data, but these incidents have come as retailers in the United States are facing the challenge of migrating their point-of-sale devices to EMV chip cards. In October of this year, merchants that do not accept chip-enabled cards will be liable for fraudulent transactions made with a magnetic stripe. Thus payment vendors — processors, acquirers, and POS makers — took the opportunity that the NRF conference provided to offer merchants not only solutions for meeting the October deadline but also solutions to protect potentially vulnerable data.
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