The first contactless cards in the UK were issued in 2008 but it is only in the past year that contactless payment has really taken off. According to the UK Cards Association, the trade body for the cards payment industry, £2.5bn was spent on contactless cards and devices in the first half of this year, compared with £2.32bn for the whole of 2014. With the spending limit on transactions recently increasing from £20 to £30, and smartphone applications now enabling users to pay with their phones, more and more people will expect retailers to accept contactless payment.

Mike Garner of the Garner Group, who won the Forecourt Trader of the Year award last year for Jet Portsbridge Service Station, comments: "I strongly believe that contactless is the future for forecourts and want to be an early adopter of the latest technology. It’s important that we meet the demands of our customers and I’m confident that contactless payment will become increasingly important for a large proportion of our customer base. I also want to ensure that we are PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliant and meet the requirements of card companies.

"We’ve been involved in a couple of trials for pay-at-pump mobile phone payments via PayPal and we’re aware of the benefits that the latest contactless technology offers our customers and us as a business. We’ve been planning the move to contactless payment for some time and are now at the stage of introducing it at three of our sites, starting with Jet Portsbridge over the next few weeks. We will be working with leading industry experts for the installation Oracle will carry out the physical changes and update the software in our pos to enable the switch over, while Aspen Promotions, the UK agents for Sage Pay, will supply the pin pads.

"From a business perspective, contactless payment offers a sophisticated and integrated payment solution, which is very easy to use.

"We plan to temporarily shut the sites during the installation to ensure a smooth transition to the new system although we don’t envisage any complications."

Garner’s relationship with Oracle stems from his previous work with Micros. Micros was a big international player in the epos field, but last year it was snapped up by the even bigger business solutions provider, Oracle, in a deal worth $5.3bn (£3.5bn).

Nearly a year on from the deal Theo Hendriksen, regional director convenience and fuel services EMEA at Oracle, says: "Micros had a good product portfolio which is going forward into the UK and the good thing is Oracle adds a lot of other products to that, especially in mobile, social, cloud and big data, because they have a lot of experience in that area. This will serve the customers even better and add efficiency over the whole estate."

Adrian Felton, solutions director looking after fuel, convenience and grocery, says there is now a convergence programme, which means different products will communicate smoothly with each other. In addition, Oracle has long experience of cloud-based systems and will be migrating Micros solutions to the cloud.

Felton says this will make solutions more cost-effective and available quicker, explaining: "Before it was an on-premise solution which meant a lot of time in start-up, getting the system loaded and configured, and it’s expensive because you are buying servers and expertise in order to do that. With the cloud it is available out of the box. You are just another user being added to that."

Clear understanding

Oracle also has a clear understanding that dealers want local freedom to run their businesses within a group structure, according to Felton. He says the Prism 2 back-office system works with group systems, but can also allow independent retailers freedom over areas such as stock control, margin management and running their own local promotions alongside oil company offers.

One project that has evolved over the past two years is MifFuel. Micros developed MiFuel to enable customers to pay at the pump using their smartphone. In 2013 it went live as a demonstration project on a single forecourt, and then Micros worked with Shell on 20 sites. But Felton says it became clear that Shell and the other oil companies want their own apps, and Oracle’s role has evolved to providing a framework that allow apps to interface with the payment system.

CBE, another name familiar on UK forecourts, is working with a global giant. Marketing manager Seamus McHugh explains that NCR had previously only worked with the big supermarkets and approached CBE to form an alliance because of its experience in the forecourt and c-store sector. The two companies have developed a convertible self-checkout unit, which McHugh says is a first for the forecourt sector.

It can be used to provide self scanning for customers but if the retailer wants to turn it into a regular epos system they can turn the screen around, the cashier logs in using a secure code and the screen will change from self-service to the regular epos screen.

McHugh says this can result in savings on staff costs while the unit is used for self checkout, but also provides the flexibility so that at busy times trained cashiers can scan the products.

He adds: "All the development work has been done and we are in talks with a number of groups about pilot sites."

Another way CBE is offering flexibility to forecourts is with mobile pos, which award-winning forecourt and convenience retailer David Charman of Parkfoot Garage in Kent has been using for nearly a year. McHugh explains: "David uses it at some point every day, positioning it at a point of high consumer traffic.

"For instance, if the forecourt is really busy he positions the mobile pos just inside the door so if you only want to pay for your fuel you don’t have to go through the shop and queue to pay at the normal checkout. Some retailers might prefer for customers to have to come into the shop for impulse purchases, but David has found he prefers the customers to be happy rather than to be frustrated at having to queue. He’s also found that it speeds up use of pumps and increases the number of cars that can be filled during the day."

McHugh says mobile pos can work in tandem with self-checkout or instead of, and is useful in a store with limited space because it can be wheeled out when needed and then put away.

At Tokheim, a number of enhancements have been made to its FuelPOS epos system and Konnect back office solution. Sales director Adrian Beeby claims that its systems differ from others because they are "designed by petrol retailers for petrol retailers". He explains: "We are continuously developing the system around the needs of our customers. Rather than a software engineer saying ’this is what you need’, we ask our customers what they need and come up with a solution."

This year Tokheim has added new interfaces so FuelPOS can work with back office systems other than Konnect, and introduced Envoy, which is a full back office and head office solution for multiple site owners.

Envoy provides all of Konnect’s functions as well as additions such as a full promotions suite and provides flexibility for either head office control or partial local control.

Beeby says there are increasing numbers of sites using FuelPOS where pricing for dry goods and fuel are managed remotely, so online reporting has been introduced to alert owners to any drops in product sales and the system will suggest new prices and margins to get sales back up.

Prices can be changed remotely, and can link with electronic shelf-edge price labels and the pole sign.

A new wet-stock management feature on FuelPOS is the option to embed Fairbank’s IBank application, meaning purchasers can save on the cost of iBank hardware.

Significant investment

Chris Lord of Mill Hill Garage in March, Cambridgeshire, recently invested in the latest Tokheim epos system. The combined cost of the pos and back office was around £10,000, a significant investment for the Pace-branded forecourt, yet within the first two months it is already proving its worth.

Chris says: "The new system has vastly improved our management of the business and at any moment in time we can make qualified decisions on almost every aspect of the business including sales, stock control and patterns of buyer behaviour.

"At Mill Hill we have a large number of account customers and previously two members of staff would spend the best part of a week to manage the month end. This has now been reduced to one day, while the introduction of swipe cards for account customers has increased the professionalism of the service and also taken pressure off our staff. Each transaction is a much smoother process and the potential for human error is reduced.

"The system also allows us to handle contactless payments which previously had to go through our GemPAY system. It means one interface, better connectivity and a system that every member of staff is familiar with.

"We look forward to its integration with Palmer and Harvey, which we understand is imminent. This will mean live product updates and a further reduction in time-consuming manual processes."

When it comes to card handling, HTEC claims a new advance significantly enhances card payment security for shoppers and reduces compliance complexity for retailers.

The new encryption solution Perseus adds an additional level of security at the till for customers, offering point-to-point encryption. The system guarantees that the data cannot be read from the moment the transaction is taken at the till until it reaches the secure decryption point, making it more secure and trusted by shoppers.

Contactless pioneers

BP has been at the forefront of forecourts offering contactless payment and was on board for the launch of Apple Pay in the middle of July. Yves Bortolini, cards and payment product manager, comments: "We installed contactless-capable payment terminals across the whole BP network about two years ago.
"Use of contactless payment has been steadily growing at BP stations, and we believe that the use of contactless payment will grow further with the rise of the transaction limit from £20 to £30 and the introduction of new forms such as mobile phones. It is so easy and convenient to just hold your card to the reader for a second rather than entering it in the payment terminal and waiting to be prompted to enter your PIN.
"Being one of the first retailers to accept Apple Pay in the UK right from the date of launch means we can offer a new, fast and easy way of paying to our customers. There is no doubt that the adoption rate of Apple Pay by iPhone 6 and Apple watch owners is going to reach very high levels as banks continuously roll the service out to their cardholders, many of whom are BP customers."
Bortolini says that no additional equipment or modifications were required to handle Apple Pay. "The fantastic thing about contactless payment terminals is that they are set for contactless payment whatever the device is: payment card, key fob, wrist band, watch and obviously mobile device. As long as it’s contactless-capable equipped with an NFC chip it will be able to communicate with the contactless reader of the payment terminals. No modification to the terminal estate was required before the Apple Pay service became available, although of course we did a lot of testing to ensure that everything worked in advance of the launch."
He adds: "BP customers started using Apple Pay across the BP network from day one and we expect usage to grow steadily week by week as the number of Apple Pay users grows across the country."