Epay, the largest electronic payments processor of prepaid mobile airtime, has urged retailers to embrace innovations in prepaid products and services as an opportunity to reverse the decline in high street sales.
Recent research found one in seven shops is now boarded up as a result of the rise of out-of-town shopping centres and e-commerce.
Epay advises retailers to adapt and embrace new product lines, including some that support shoppers who want to buy online.
Paul Bartholomew-Keen, managing director of epay, said: “The internet is not going to go away. Instead of merely weathering the storm, high street retailers need to sell products that complement the way consumers want to shop in the 21st century.
“There are new payment products coming onto the market every month. These products take up very little space, but are very effective in driving customers to shops. The risks are low and they give smaller independent retailers the chance to sell compelling brands in their shops; that meet the exacting needs of the 21st century consumer.”
Epay said prepaid is not currently always understood as a term but simply means paying for something in advance. Examples include pay as you go mobile phones and Oyster cards.
Earlier this year the Global Prepaid Exchange, a membership body for the industry, predicted 2011 would be the ‘year of prepaid’ as new technology and innovations from the sector would often make prepaid a better payment option than the alternatives (in terms of safety and convenience).
Already this year innovations have been announced that make it possible to pay through watches and smart phones.
The range of products available for high street retailers is expected to explode. Epay’s product range includes:
1. Gift cards – nearly 60% of people in the UK have both given and received a gift card in the last 12 months so they represent a huge market. Epay advises all shops should now have ‘malls’ of different gift cards to save customers having to look further afield. Many cards allow the user to shop online at their favourite online retailer (eg iTunes for the impossible to buy for teenage boys)
2. CB Learning’s Linguaphone training courses – epay offers these courses through a card activation product that allows customers to access the courses online. The cards give retailers access to the self-study market (which in the UK is valued at £40m+) with no outlay and no risk
3. Sony Playstation top ups – consumers can buy Playstation Network vouchers that can be used to download and play games online. This is particularly valuable for parents who don’t want their children to have access to their credit card details. PSN vouchers can be used to buy PlayStation3 and PSP (PlayStationPortable) content from the online PlaystationStore
4. Mobile phone top ups – 60% of mobile phone customers use pay as you go, rather than contract, so any retailer offering top up will increase customer foot fall
5. Transport payment – epay commenced an exclusive five year contract with Transport for London in 2009 to provide retail payment solutions for the Central London Congestion Charge
Bartholomew-Keen said: “Throughout this year, new payment products will come onto the market that will offer high street retailers new opportunities. All retailers should look at how these products can work for them.”