Of all the initials small to mid-sized merchants hear during the digital payments migration—"EMV," NFC," "mPOS"—an older abbreviation may finally pry open the door to widespread payments automation: CRM.

CRM, or customer relationship management, refers to accumulating information about customers over time, generally with the customer's permission. This information is used to produce marketing designed to retain consumers, or to nudge consumers to use a new service with a data-driven targeted offer.

"CRM is big as we move into a new age of payment acceptance, with EMV devices that also accept NFC," said Chris Poelma, president and general manager of NCR Small Business.

Merchants are in the midst of a migration to both EMV, which is designed to prevent plastic card fraud, and NFC, which is used to accept mobile payments. But those moves are going slowly, particularly for small to medium sized businesses.

Small business EMV and NFC adoption is growing, but Poelma said 70% of the market is still "unadopted," leaving room to lure merchants with added features such as loyalty our couponing in addition to the security protection EMV provides, he said.

NCR has added CRM tools to its NCR Silver payment tablet, enabling small businesses access to data such as customer preferences, birthdays and addresses from the customer during a transaction. There's also extra security available through NCR Silver Register that allows stores to assign a separate cash drawer to each employee as a way to track the source of shortages. NCR Silver Register is an Android-based version of NCR Silver that's operates via a cloud server and excludes third party applications. Register can also sync with Apple tablets to accept mobile payments.

"If we enable the merchant to capture CRM data, it goes right into the database and the back end if the customer ops in," said Poelma said, adding that can inform immediate marketing decisions such as offering a tailored coupon or reward during the purchase.

NCR has also fixed what Poelma called "bugs," such as adding Bluetooth technology that allows larger items at checkout, which he said would attract grocery stores. "You can use Bluetooth to scan frozen products, for example, anything from an ounce to 15 pounds."

The CRM addition follows other upgrades to Silver, including support for QuickBooks accounting software, LevelUp's mobile wallet and virtual currency.

The broader trend for mobile and tablet point of sale systems is to add merchant services, placing payments further in the background as a way to encourage consumer and retail adoption of digital commerce.

Other tablet-based point of sale companies have also added CRM capabilities.  Merchants Choice Payment Solutions and Powa Technologies, for example, recently collaborated on a cloud-based application designed that provides merchant access to the Merchant Foundry CRM system. First Data's Clover also includes CRM capabilities.

Adding CRM to a payments tablet can be a useful way to increase "stickiness" among consumers, said Maria Arminio, president and CEO of Avenue B Consulting.

"And it lowers the sticker cost for the point of sale for a merchant," Arminio said.

But there are security challenges, she said. "The security measures are not up to speed with tablets. It's hard to monitor malware. As we transact more with tablets that will be problematic and we'll have to play catch up."

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