What the Ancient Romans Can Teach Us About Point-of-Sale Lending in 2018

What the Ancient Romans Can Teach Us About Point-of-Sale Lending in 2018

What the Ancient Romans Can Teach Us About Point-of-Sale Lending in 2018

John Goodale

John Goodale

John Goodale is a senior vice president within TSYS International. Specializing in emerging technologies, his 30-year career has brought solutions to financial services and retail organizations across the globe.

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There's no question the Romans certainly left their mark on our world – from roads to aqueducts to medicine and education. But more importantly (well, at least to us in the payment industry) they gave us point-of-sale lending.

In the heyday of the Roman Empire, the Mediterranean world's most fashionable consumers flocked to Rome to take advantage of the exciting array of products. Commerce was everywhere, with retailers jostling for the best locations to meet every shopper's need. However, the real retail innovation wasn't in the street markets, it was in the Marcella – the places where auctioneers would sell the best luxury foods to the social elite looking to impress their friends at dinner parties.

Imagine the scene. You've got your eye on the most sought-after red mullet (a prized Roman delicacy) in the auction and the last bid just exceeded the amount of money you brought with you. Calamitas! You'll have to take home a sardine instead! But no — here comes a money lender, who reads the disappointment all over your face and offers to provide the finance at the precise moment it's needed, enabling you to clinch the winning bid. The money lender influenced the sale by timing the credit offer at exactly the right moment.

That 'red mullet' moment

What if the situational awareness and body language skills of that savvy Roman credit lender could be leveraged in 2018? Could these capabilities be used to provide credit for the modern-day equivalent of the red mullet? 

Good salespeople have always been able to read the body language of their customer, and the best ones can even pick up the micro-expressions that could be the key to winning or losing a sale. With the recent advancements being made, new biometric technologies are emerging to provide this capability. In fact, we're starting to see this already in its nascent form, as Walmart now has the capability to identify unhappy customers at the checkout by utilizing facial recognition technology and responding accordingly.

Such new technologies provide the store of the future with the ability to recognize customers who linger over an item and spot the customer's micro-expression that shows that they'd like the product, but just need a little help affording it. With the use of facial recognition technology, a store can identify customers from the moment they walk in and be ready with a real-time credit offer at just the right moment, thus delivering an opportunity to both close the sale and offer a compelling payment option that suits their lifestyle.

Good salespeople have always been able to read the body language  of their customer, and the best ones can even pick up the micro-expressions that could be the key to winning or losing a sale.

Taking this further, traditional retailers can apply new technologies in a myriad of situations, from recognizing customers who 'showroom' in-store items with the intent of finding a better price online and making an offer to price match. They can also identify those who agonize over which product is best by providing side-by-side reviews. Integration of payments, shopping, personalization, loyalty and service is already established in the online world. It's now entering the bricks-and-mortar realm – and the opportunities are both fascinating and endless.

Romanizing retail

The Romans used technology to innovate and solve the challenges of their day. Today the next wave of technologies, driven by artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, augmented reality and behavioral biometrics, promises to revolutionize the traditional way of doing things with new ideas and innovations that will impact the global economy.

As illustrated in the example above, the retail industry has great potential to utilize these advancements. Any visitor to The Innovation Lab at this year's National Retail Federation show in New York couldn't avoid seeing the green shoots of an in-store revolution starting to emerge. Technology was showcased that automates and streamlines the shopping experience with personalized interactions from the moment the customer walks in. 

While not losing focus on the careful safeguarding of privacy and being ever-cognizant to the risk of the invasive use of data, leading retailers are already leveraging the technology that has repeatedly proven itself. Who the customers are, what their mood is, where they are going and what they are looking at are all sources of hundreds of data points that could be filtered through AI to make compelling propositions that drive sales. Store movement sensing, facial recognition, product positioning, customer identification and augmented reality technologies are being combined to make some amazing possibilities that turn your average bricks-and-mortar store into the most personalized shopping experience.

When coupled with the use of automation technology to reduce store operating costs, the physical store format can now be more fully leveraged to create major advantages against online-only providers. A key part in bringing this all together and realizing the potential of these advancements is a fully integrated payment play featuring a just-in-time credit offer at the most influential moment of the sales process.

Although we've gained a lot from the Romans, I'm not convinced we'll see any significant uplift in red mullet sales any time soon. However, the traditional retail model has a real opportunity to utilize emerging technologies that can transform both retail and payments.

The statements and opinions of the writer do not necessarily reflect those of TSYS.

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John Goodale

John Goodale is a senior vice president within TSYS International. Specializing in emerging technologies, his 30-year career has brought solutions to financial services and retail organizations across the globe. John has played a lead role in the growth of TSYS International over the past 15 years through developing TSYS' proposition to banks and retailers, and has worked across all of the company's major markets, including U.S., Canada, Europe, China, Brazil and Russia. Prior to joining TSYS in 2002, John's career was in management consulting, most recently with KPMG.

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