Fulham FC’s frictionless payments system scores for charity

Optomany are behind Fulham FC’s new frictionless, omnichannel payments system. Not only does will it provide a faster, more secure service for the club, and improved customer experience for the fans, but it’s also bringing in major donations for charity, via Pennies. I spoke to Ian Rutland, Chief Operations Officer of Optomany, about how Fulham’s new payments system is benefiting club, fans and community alike.

What is omnichannel retail?

Traditionally, retail would have been bricks and mortar, operating in-store and maybe through some mail order. When we had the birth of the internet and online retail, most businesses tended to set these up as separate divisions because they weren’t sure at the time about how big it was going to be. As it rapidly progressed, they realised that it was going to be a major growth area that would both compliment and degrade their sales in traditional channels. They started to think about how they could put those two things together, which firstly produced multi-channel retailing. Omnichannel retailing means that all the back-end systems of those organisations are linked up, so that, as a consumer, you get a seamless experience, whether you shop online or offline.

We now expect that, if we order something online, we can go and pick it up instore or return it to a store, and so on. That’s not just about how they manage their stock, logistics and CRM systems, but also how they manage their payment systems. So, if you’re a consumer and you first shop with a retailer online, they can recognise you when you present your card in one of their stores. For us, because we’re a relatively new payment services provider, we provide retailers with a seamless payments experience regardless of channel. But you still find that many large retailers still have separate systems, which makes it much harder to understand customer behaviour.

How have you applied this to Fulham FC?

Retail is now a big part of what football clubs do. If you look at Fulham, or West Ham, another one of our clients, they have both an online and offline presence for retail. We enable them to take payments across both of those channels. In their back-end CRM systems, they’re able to link up their customers across channels and better understand customer behaviour – whether they buy online or instore on match day. It’s all about simplicity. I’ve always had a view that payments should be frictionless. The aim is to make payments easy for consumers, because ultimately you don’t want them to step out of a sale.

How does this improve the customer experience of the Fulham FC fan?

Let’s look at the in-store experience. The challenge for a football club is that, with contactless, the speed of transaction is so quick and you have a massive spike in customer attendance and purchases on match days, that if you haven’t got a state-of-the-art payments system, your customers are going to get fed up with queuing. For us, from the moment a card hits a terminal, the transaction takes about 600 milliseconds. For the customer, it isn’t noticeable. It’s really about that speed of transaction. Also, if a Fulham or a West Ham fan is shopping online, their card details, if they so wish, can be stored securely, so the next time they shop they can click and most of their details will be pre-filled.

Ian Rutland, COO, Optomany

What about the charity side of this payments system?

We partner with The Pennies Foundation. They’re the only organisation in the UK that has identified that the traditional idea of the collection tin at the checkout is outdated, now that people are shopping more with cards and other contactless options. They developed a technology platform to enable donations to be made as part of an electronic payment. It’s called ‘Pennies’ because they never ask for more than 99p per donation. It’s up to the retailer how this works – do they want the customer to round up to the nearest pound, or donate a fixed amount of 25p or 50p? The stats are quite remarkable in terms of the percentage of people who do take that up. Even in the first couple of weeks of this going live with Fulham, we’ve seen around 25% of all purchases attracting a donation.

How does the donation system work?

If you want to donate to a specific charity with Pennies, you need to guarantee that you’ll be able to raise a minimum of about £10,000 per-year for that charity, which isn’t a huge amount. Most, if not all football clubs, have charitable trusts or foundations attached to them, which often help them to do work in the local community. Most organisations work on a 9:10 split, whereas 100% of the money that is donated through Pennies goes to charity.

Where do you see omnichannel payments like this going in the future?

There are very few retailers, software providers to retail, and payments companies that are truly omnichannel. Many of them are still multichannel, so they have all these different platforms trying to talk to each other. I think what you will continue to see is this direction of travel, of retailers moving more towards omnichannel, and away from single or multichannel. A truly omnichannel system allows for much more efficiency, higher customer satisfaction and quality of service. It’s all about giving the customer as many options as possible in the way that they pay, and the best possible experience – which, for most consumers, is getting away from the checkout as quickly as possible.


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