The future of payments is set to be led by data – not just in the way that merchants and customers use it to the best effect, but also to create the types of benefits that are central to both parties achieving the best outcome.
FreedomPay president and CTO Christopher Kronenthal writes:
The difficulty for most traditional retailers is that data collection and analysis has rarely been a part of their intention when choosing a payment services provider.
For many years, there was no ability to access or collate this data, as the technology simply did not exist. But as these services advance and customer requirements continue to change, ignoring the data aspect of payment services does not make sense for retailers who want to remain competitive.
Legacy systems – which may have come from a large number of different providers – can make it harder to address the latest trends in payment services. Without approaching the needs of both the retailer and the customer in tandem, it is impossible to create a payment ecosystem that provides for the needs of both.
The key is to deal with these issues from the right direction. Patching various systems together with a focus on making them work, rather than how they work or the benefits they offer, is not a sensible approach. Instead, retailers need to consider what they want to use the data for and how they will offer loyalty benefits to their customers. Only then will they be able to create a payments ecosystem that is able to give them everything the need and what their customers demand.
Focus on the Outcome, not the Process
To ensure your payment system is meeting the latest demands from customers, you cannot focus on the process as much as the required outcome. The way you use the data and the way your customers need and want to interact with you will all dictate the type and amount of technology you use in your payment environment. Outcomes are what dictate success, and that is what everyone, from the chief executive all the way to the most junior staff in the IT department, needs to focus on.
For many companies, this will require a change in focus and approach, as there is too often a demarcation between departments that prevents a fully holistic approach to customer service.
There is no question that all departments will pay lip service to customer service and will, in their own way, work toward ensuring it is dealt with from their own perspective. However, without an overarching, company-wide approach to what customer service and the way data is used mean, getting the right services and competing with the top technology users becomes almost impossible.
Providing the Best Customer Experience
Retailers looking to provide the best services and the widest range of payment options have a number of measures they need to work through:
- Find out what services are available.
Just because you have a variety of legacy systems, it does not mean you cannot integrate them with a sophisticated payment services provider to create the payment environment you are looking for. Technology continues to advance to such an extent that what may not have been possible when you were looking to update your systems a few years ago may be relatively simple today.
- Understand what your customers want and how your competitors are attracting them – the customer is always right.
When it comes to payment systems, there is no arguing with this, so offering every method of payment from Apple Pay all the way through contactless payments, mobile wallets and even wearable tech becomes essential. If your competitors are doing this, already, and you do not, you will lose out.
- Work with a provider that keeps all security requirements up to date.
This should be a basic requirement when it comes to payment services providers, but some retailers could find themselves at risk of paying out for fraudulent transactions if they are not working with the right partner that provides the very latest in security protocols. So, check before you sign up.
- Make sure your provider is future-proof.
Payment methods in existence now would not have even been considered possible a short time ago, so as developments happen, you want to be sure you can offer customers the latest, fastest and most secure services. It makes your business look good and improves interaction with your customer base, as they see your services as more efficient and professional.
- Choose a service that provides excellent data analysis and capture.
Data is already key in payment services but will be even more powerful in the next five to 10 years, so capturing and analysing the best data is essential. Providing discounts, benefits and loyalty offers and helping retailers to improve workflow all rely on the best use of data.
To compete at the highest level in the cutthroat environment that is retail, you need to be providing top services that create the best customer experience. Using the top technology to deliver this means a cultural approach to customer service needs to be adopted across the whole company to achieve best practice. This could create friction that needs to be managed, but not identifying the way customers are looking to interact with you – both now and in the future – will leave technology-phobic retailers cast aside by both their competitors and customers.