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On the road with mobile payments tech

The past decade has seen a proliferation of pop-up shops, farmers’ markets, food trucks and temporary collective sale spaces. Rachel Helyer Donaldson explores how rising retail rents and the smaller start-up costs associated with running a mobile shop or market stall have inspired a new wave of independent and nomadic businesses.

By Rachel Helyer Donaldson | December 14, 2017 | News

Besides market conditions, consumers and new technology are helping to drive retailers towards footloose and fancy-free business models. Recent Mastercard research found that only six percent of New Zealanders use cash as their preferred way to pay, while two-thirds do not usually carry cash with them.

Meanwhile contactless transactions are growing exponentially: 72 percent of Kiwis use contactless payments, up from just 28 percent two years ago.

Thanks to a thriving digital economy, rapidly advancing technology and strong smartphone penetration, “consumers are increasingly demanding better experiences from the technology they engage with every day,” says Eftpos New Zealand senior manager of strategic partners Luke Easton.

But often, he says, “retailers view their payment solution as an overhead instead of a business tool”.

With the right payment solution in place a retailer can boost customer satisfaction, create opportunities for more revenue and make it easier to manage their payments, he says.

Markets and small indie sellers are getting more popular as consumers search for new products and experiences, and artisan goods, says Vend founder and chief product officer Vaughan Rowsell.

“Shoppers want items and experiences that delight them and that they can cherish. And it’s independent retailers who are able to provide that for them.”

More affordable, easy to use, mobile technology is also allowing this change, he adds. “Being able to set up a store on a POS system in a matter of minutes, or add another register with just a small cost, and being able to sell from any location, means that new retailers can literally pop-up anywhere.

“Craftspeople can sell anywhere; in the corner of another store or a market. It’s such an exciting time for our independent retailers.”

From fashion trucks to cookie buses, New Zealand retailers who are using mobile technology are a varied bunch.

The food truck: Beat Kitchen

Beat Kitchen is a Wellington food truck owned and operated by two professional chefs. Craig Sefton and Kei Akiyama serve global street food from a permanent spot in the CBD as well as catering for weddings, functions and festivals.

Tucked in behind the Recycle Boutique on Vivian St on weekdays, the red and white truck is a former mobile library bus from Japan, which now boasts a full commercial kitchen.

Sefton wanted his own restaurant but didn’t want the debt, or any investors to answer to. “There’s more freedom in this… we still spent an absolute fortune, but not as much as a 100-seat restaurant.”

Almost two years later, things “have taken off”, says Sefton. Beat Kitchen has hired two more chefs and is booked up for weddings every weekend until mid-April. They even run an online brioche donuts delivery service. “It’s been crazy, far above our expectations for sure”.

They do all the cooking from the bus, including most of the food prep for new sci-fi movie bar PhotonFlux. Beat Kitchen leases the kitchen.

“The food truck supplies the restaurant instead of the restaurant supplying the food truck. It’s totally backwards but there it is.”

Sefton credits the mobile payments technology he uses with helping him run the business.

Beat Kitchen uses Square’s free point of sale app, specifically designed for food trucks and which runs off a tablet. The bus has its own Wifi.

Square is simple to use, he says. He can change the menu with the swipe of a button and the app stores everything, including prices. “It gives you all the reports that a big full-on front-of-house restaurant system would give you, but it doesn’t cost two hundred bucks a month!”

This saving allowed Sefton to afford the “ballsiest” Eftpos system he could get. He uses Smartpay Eftpos through ASB. It accepts Apple Pay, Paywave “and pretty much everything you can throw at it”.

The two systems are integrated, and the point of sale app syncs with his accounting software. “The tablet runs the stereo and just about everything in here except the kitchen!”.

This leaves he and Akiyama to get on with the business of cooking and catering. “It’s way easier than what I thought it would be. When it all talks to Xero, I don’t have to do anything. It means I can catch up on everything else, and worry about weddings!”

The sustainable fashion truck: Sew Love and Cecil the Campervan

Sarah Lancaster set up Sew Love in 2013, with her main focus to promote and teach sustainability through sewing, up-cycling and up-skilling. For just over a year she was based in St Kevin’s Arcade on Karangahape Rd.

Then, inspired by America’s vintage clothes stores selling out of ice-cream trucks, Lancaster went on the road. She took the Sew Love message around Aotearoa by travelling in a solar-powered, mint and cream-coloured campervan called Cecil.

Lancaster has spent the past two summers running sustainable sewing workshops and popping up at markets and festivals from Kaitaia to Invercargill.

She sells her handmade bumbags, reusable totes, surf ponchos and scrunchies, all sewn on recycled fabrics purchased locally, using Cecil’s solar power.

Touring around New Zealand has been “an ever-so wonderful experience”. She’s enjoyed meeting like-minded businesses such as sustainably focussed op shops, recycle centres and farmers’ markets. She may have been travelling solo in Cecil, but says it’s been a community-building experience: “I was rarely alone, and have enjoyed being embraced by customers and fellow small enterprises”.

On K Rd, Lancaster used an Eftpos machine, costing more than $100 a month. Going mobile meant she needed to find a solution for point of sale via her cellphone. Her first summer she used BNZ Payclip “which was great, provided I kept it charged, and had enough data on my phone. This was affordable at $35 per month, even though most of my sales were taken in cash.”

But the next year, a couple of customers suggested doing a bank transfer from their smartphone. “If people are purchasing higher-priced items and don't have the cash, they're more than happy to do their transfer then and there, show me on their phone and then take away their goodies.”

Most Sew Love customers “have stayed a while, had a conversation… a swift Eftpos exchange isn't always essential.”

She concedes, though, that portable payments technology is probably advisable for most mobile retailers selling high-priced items.

Lancaster opened an Etsy store in February, selling her popular bumbags online to festival-goers, both local and overseas. Most Etsy buyers come through Sew Love’s Instagram page.

Markets and independent sellers are well supported throughout New Zealand, she says. “There is a heightened curiosity to where our food and things come from and an increase in supporting handmade, indie, bespoke businesses.”

Now based in Raglan, Lancaster has a short North Island tour of markets and festivals planned for this summer.

She is comfortable travelling on her own “but at the start it took a lot of courage.”

She quickly learned what would attract people. Good signage, and familiar things like a clothing rack helped, as did “dancing about, being super-friendly and spending time investing in local and online connections… people know you're coming and are ready for a hug or a lunge.”

The temporary collective space: Pop-Up Design Shop

Wellington’s annual Pop-Up Design Shop arrived in the CBD in September to coincide with the World of Wearable Art (WOW) awards. It will be open until January.

The trio behind it, Kate Harrison, Lyndal Linton and Cathy Baddeley, set up the venture eight years ago. This is their 11th pop-up shop.

The latest store is just off Wellington’s so-called ‘Golden Mile’ Lambton Quay, on Featherston St. Designed around a huge feature wall of blush pink roses, left by previous tenant Crabtree & Evelyn, the shop looks glamorous and permanent, not temporary.

“A lot of people think of pop-up shops as a sale shop, which we’re not,” says Harrison. “We are a temporary shop highlighting clever Wellington and New Zealand designers.”

The 35 designers include clothing labels Aida Maeby, Robyn Mathieson and quirky ‘jocks and socks’ producer Munro Clothing. There are handmade superhero capes from Minka and beautiful felt products by Alex O & Co.

The store uses a mobile Eftpos terminal and is taking credit cards for the first time. “The customers seemed quite happy to pay the five percent surcharge and it keeps it more simple when we are selling on people’s behalf”.

Why does Harris think pop-up stores are getting more popular? “There’s so many chain stores which fill a niche in the market but we’re just different – bright and cheery, and we have a range of things you don’t normally see in the CBD.”

Local designers and New Zealand-made products are other drawcards, she says. “People quite like supporting that as well.”

The travelling biscuit bar: Moustache Milk & Cookie Bus

Deanna Yang ran her much-loved Moustache Milk & Cookie Bar for three years in Auckland’s Wellesley St before taking it on the road in 2016.

When rent hikes forced Moustache out of its inner-city premises, a crowd-funding campaign raised $91,000 in four weeks.

Not only was this a testament to the brand’s popularity, it gave Yang the funds for an alternative way to bake and sell her gourmet cookies, via a 1978 Bedford school bus.

Yang took Moustache on a two-month tour of the North Island, before heading back to Auckland to open two new stores, on K Rd and at Auckland University.

The bus is now based at the Orakei Bay Village marketplace in Remuera, but will go on tour for three months from January.

Moustache uses Smartpay on the bus, via wireless Eftpos that also has Paywave and is Apple Pay enabled.

Moustache’s main demographic are aged between 18-35, tech-savvy and don't carry cash. “If we didn't offer mobile payment solutions I predict we would probably lose at least 60 percent of our sales.”

The bus gives Moustache the chance to reach new fans, and do market research. “There's definitely a lot more work involved when it comes to going mobile, but the rewards are high in the sense that every day is different.”

Going on the road is “by far the most enjoyable and fulfilling” part of her business, says Yang. “There's something very special about the bus; whether it's the quirkiness of selling milk and cookies from an old school bus or the magical glint in people's eyes as they watch the bus driving by... there's no feeling that can replace it!”

The market: Wellington Underground Market

A decade ago, Wellington’s only weekly markets sold fruit and vegetables. Then Wellington Underground Market opened in 2009 with the aim of giving local small businesses and artists the chance to grow their business.

These days the capital has a vibrant market community, including a huge range of food trucks (selling everything from churros to manuka-smoked bacon butties) at the Harbourside Market on a Sunday; and the weekend Night Markets on Cuba Street.

Cash is usually available, for a fee, from a dispenser. However many of these retailers allow you to pay by card. Most of the Underground Market stalls use small handheld devices, which generally don’t require a contract.

One stall owner who does use an Eftpos machine is Julie Baker. She sells her own range of handmade merino children’s clothing and baby wear. “You wouldn’t survive without it,” says her husband and business manager Ross Baker, of their portable Smartpay Eftpos device. “Without the machine you’d lose sales while they go and get cash.”

Cards used to make up 30 percent of their sales, says Ross, but now almost all purchases are by card. Contactless Paywave and credit make up about 80 per cent of this, he says.

Near the market’s entrance is Minnie + Ree, a clothing stall filled with flamboyant yet flattering, “flexi-sized” print frocks. Designer Ree Smith started with an old manual “zip zap” card machine, then tried eftpos and now uses a BNZ Payclip which she runs through her phone via an app. “This works well for me. It is significantly cheaper than eftpos and it’s less hassle”.

There’s no big heavy machine, or reams of paper for receipts, she adds. The Payclip generates electronic receipts that are sent via email or text.

With dresses priced at more than $200, most of her sales are on card. She also sells clothes online and via other retailers including the Pop-Up Design Shop. “Once someone has bought one thing off me they often buy from my site, so being here is as much about marketing as it is sales.”

The tech

When it comes to choosing portable payments technology and a lightweight point of sale system, mobile retailers have several options available to them.

There are Eftpos terminals that transact using WiFi or 3G, offered by the likes of Eftpos NZ (using Verifone devices) and Smartpay. Meanwhile mPOS solutions integrate with smart devices. Several of the banks offer their own branded, compact versions of these, such as ASB Accept mPOS Lite and BNZ’s Payclip.

Payclip was launched in 2015 and is now used by more than 230 different types of merchants, says Harry Ferreira, BNZ head of small business. “There are no long-term contracts giving businesses freedom and flexibility.”

ANZ currently offers a mobile payment app, ANZ Fastpay, but is about to launch a new mobile payment solution, with the same name. It will include a card reader that connects via Bluetooth to a smartphone or tablet and also accept contactless payments.

There are a number of independent providers and there have been some well-publicised failures. In 2015 hundreds of Kiwi companies were left out of pocket after paying upfront costs to mobile payments system Swipe HQ, when its owner went into liquidation.

Meanwhile, one overseas offering, Square, offers a full point of sale system that plugs into your smart device – and is also free. Beat Kitchen food truck owner Craig Sefton says he looked at more than a dozen mPOS systems before choosing Square, which he describes as “the best and easiest”.

In New Zealand, Vend was the first to build a retail point of sale specifically for iPad, says Vend’s Rowsell. It is now used in more than 20,000 stores worldwide.

Rowsell says one of main sticking points for mobile retailers can be internet access. Cloud-based solutions allow them to take payments and make sales offline. Sales information is synched back into the system when re-connected to the internet. “This is important as you don’t want to be left not being able to serve customers.”

 Another unique factor is space, he says. There may not be much area to work within a food truck or stall. You don’t want a bulky till system or customers having to squash together to queue. “So opting for a payments and POS system that takes up little room, on an iPad for example, and that can run wirelessly is extremely helpful.”

mPOS in-store

Mobile point of sale is also being embraced by bricks and mortar stores, and not just by hi-tech companies like Apple. “We’re noticing some small businesses, for example those in the hospitality industry, are using both hard, fixed traditional Eftpos machines and also PayClip so their team can take payment at the bar plus walk a queue or take payments at a table,” says Ferreira.

A portable solution aids customer service in a traditional store, says Eftpos’s Easton. It can be be “a great solution for a bricks-and-mortar retailer looking to offer a unique in-store experience for their customers… Think roaming shop assistants equipped with a portable solution or smaller payment stations dispersed through a store.”

Rowsell says mPOS can help with stock-taking and inventory counts. Mobile POS systems also tend to look “far more sleek and sophisticated on the counter-top, or can be easily hidden away”, he says.

Consumers are looking to retailers for convenient payment options that don’t involve waiting in line at the cash register, Vend adds. Custom apps, adoption of mobile wallets, and cloud-based systems can allow customers to bypass checkout lines to complete their purchases.

“Simply having a payments system that lets you take payment from anywhere in your store, or out on location, means you’re able to meet shoppers demands for an easier checkout and service.

“Modern retailers need to be able to get out from behind the counter and provide a one-to-one experience for customers.”

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