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'Don't think too much about technology': EAT's IT chief on how to serve up successful projects

Interview: Sandwich chain tech chief on NFC, tablets and getting creative with tech...

...use contactless for other functions including loyalty and incentives, building such functionality into a mobile app it is developing with a view to launching next Easter.

The app will incorporate services including coupons, all delivered contactlessly, according to Batsford. "[Customers] can gain loyalty points and incentives and all those sorts of things and pay at the same time - it's one tap and it's done," he says.

The app, which will also enable users to check in to EAT stores via the Foursquare location service, will initially be available for Android, BlackBerry and iOS users but Batsford is keeping an eye on Microsoft's Windows Phone platform too, with a view to supporting it in future.

To pave the way for this expansion of its contactless offerings, EAT will be upgrading its payment terminals to a converged contactless and chip-and-PIN system.

Contactless payments

EAT was one of the first UK retailers to accept contactless paymentsPhoto: Barclaycard

When it comes to selling contactless to the rest of the business, in Batsford's view retail IT chiefs should make an ROI case based around reducing cash handling and increasing transaction speed: contactless transactions take less than a second compared to somewhere between five and 30 seconds for a traditional card.

Adopting contactless also gives retailers the opportunity to renegotiate transaction rates with their banks, Batsford added. "Whether it's a flat fee or whether it's a percentage, it's down to you as a retailer to negotiate that," he notes. "If you're an early adopter [of contactless] then banks are quite keen to give [help to] the ones that participate in contactless."

The role of the IT chief in the retail industry has become extremely important, according to Batsford, because consumer expectations of what technology can deliver have increased dramatically as smartphones and other technologies have proliferated. Customers therefore expect retailers to keep up with the tools they are using.

To this end, Batsford says EAT will be relaunching its website around Christmas time or just after - introducing an online delivery service and adding social media tie-ins to services including Facebook and Twitter. The IT chief is also keen to add in more customer-focused mechanisms, such as recommendations, customer advocacy and ratings, akin to those found on ecommerce giant Amazon's website.

"If you're trying to do something online you expect it to work and if it doesn't, you just move on to the next retailer... Increasingly, consumers' expectations are higher because the experiences they get through these different technology channels, devices, whatever, are getting more and more responsive, more and more reliable so therefore, as a retailer, you have to...

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