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Omnichannel payments and customer experience go hand in hand. If developing great customer experiences is the goal, omnichannel payments are the solution. Customers want to transact with whatever method they choose, and with the help of companies like NCR, merchants can deliver top-notch service through flexible payment options.
To learn more about omnichannel payments and how to implement an effective payments strategy, PaymentsJournal sat down with Chris Petersen, Corporate Vice President of Payment Solution Sales and Relationship Manager at NCR, and Don Apgar, Director of Merchant Services Advisory Practice at Mercator Advisory Group.
Omnichannel payments 101
“When we talk about omnichannel payments,” said Petersen, “what that means is a merchant has the opportunity to have every payment channel available for their clients’ use.” Omnichannel payments also means that every payment method is usable with a merchant.
Payment channels include physical points of sale, e-commerce gateways, payment kiosks, and payment methods include cash, digital wallets such as Apple Pay and Google Pay, cryptocurrencies, and many others. If merchants offer customers the option to use any iteration of payment method and channel, it eases the payment process and improves customer experience.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a particular shift from brick-and-mortar merchants towards e-commerce capabilities such as Buy Online, Pick-up In-Store (BOPIS). “It’s not just how consumers want to pay,” noted Apgar. “But where and when they want to pay also.”
More complex than it seems
Integrating omnichannel payment solutions is not as simple as putting up a sign that reads: “NOW ACCEPTING CRYPTO.” On the front end, the customer might just provide their card information and have a smooth experience, but there are several moving parts behind the scenes. Fraud verification, as-need-be address verification, shipping address verification, loyalty rewards, and managing tokenized payments that are nontransferable between processors, are all complexities merchants must face.
“Adding new payments types can be a challenge,” admitted Petersen, “but when you look at omnichannel in its entirety, it actually brings primary benefits to the merchant.” The math is fairly simple: if customers have an easier time making their purchase, they will come back to buy more. Offering a convenient, smooth, seamless customer experience adds a direct increase in sales.
Still, updating legacy payment systems can seem quite daunting. “But to have an omnichannel experience,” Petersen explained, “you really have to have a true payments strategy.” When businesses are aligned top-to-bottom with payment action items, everything will run more effectively.
No idea? No time? No problem
It can definitely be challenging for companies to stay ahead of the curve and offer all of the payment options that customers want. Some merchants might hear the phrase payments strategy and not have the first clue, and others may be aware of the concept but not feel there are sufficient resources to devote to such an undertaking.
“The benefit of working with a company like NCR is that we have a complete hardware/software solution and processing,” said Petersen. “And we can help manage all of that for the business.” Also critical is managing data wherever it is available; NCR can help put customer data to good use and in a secure way.
“It’s that age-old thing,” mentioned Apgar. “I don’t have time to do it now – when am I going to have time to do it later?” If merchants earnestly feel they lack the time and resources to tackle the problem, bringing in a strategic partner like NCR makes all the sense in the world. “Without making a decision to move forward in a strategic manner, you’re continually in a whack-a-mole loop trying to fix yesterday’s problem today,” said Apgar.
Payment strategy as a fluid data process
Any large undertaking, such as an overhaul of a business’ payment strategy, can lead to a “set it and forget it” mentality, whereby after doing all the work up front, you want to believe the issue is permanently solved. But a good payments strategy is guided by customer data, and data continues to flow in all the time.
“You can gather data from the point of sale, the payment transaction, the source of the payment coming from online, or the mobile device, or in-app, or standing in the store,” clarified Petersen. “It gives you a lot of opportunity to take a look at what’s happening with that customer.”
If merchants can see where/when/how customers are doing their shopping, they can create a customized offer. Data can even help identify non-customers of certain products that still meet the criteria for determining if a customer might enjoy a product, so you can then market that product to them. This work on the merchant side helps the customer journey.
“The challenge for businesses is not capturing the data,” mentioned Apgar. “It’s figuring out what data to use and how to use it.” The process of applying data to actionable steps may seem logical but still be difficult to implement, leading to a large data lake that provides no benefit. “The help of a good payments partner really helps dissect and understand not only what data is available, but how to use it,” Apgar continued.
Where to start, and where to go next
At NCR, engaging with businesses on payments strategy is a step-by-step process:
- Due diligence – Interview the merchant and take a deep dive into their goals.
- Resource inventory – Look at available resources, see what you have and what they need.
- Technology – Provide strategic updates, not necessarily with a wholesale rip-and-replace, but by phasing in new technology where it is most needed.
- Documenting and Executing the plan – Once all the elements are in place, lay out a full-fledged plan on which merchants can capitalize to increase sales and improve customer experience.
“It’s difficult to make the investment in a payment strategy,” Apgar concluded. “But it’s definitely necessary.” Attacking the problem head on with an adaptive mindset towards fixing problems as they arise may seem like a Sisyphean struggle that is always just out of reach, but at the end of the day, merchants can either deal with the problem now, or deal with it later. Better to take the first step today.