From the Internet explosion to the emergence of alternative payments and the proliferation of mobile devices, payment acceptance has grown ever more complicated for merchants and shoppers alike. The central aim of CardinalCommerce Corp. is to simplify for merchants the perplexing and sometimes exasperating task of choosing and integrating the most suitable payment acceptance methods, according to CardinalCommerce co-founder and Executive Vice President Francis "Tim" Sherwin.
CardinalCommerce provides merchants a single platform that hosts an array of payment channels, allowing them to integrate a variety of new acceptance programs as seamlessly as they would an update to their existing software, Sherwin noted. "Our overarching purpose is to try to normalize payments," Sherwin said. "You look at all that's going on, and it's becoming quite chaotic and disruptive. ... There's so many different ways and types of payments and so many channels for merchants now.
"What we do is enable everything - from Verified by Visa to international to local payment methods - from a single integration. They just hook into our platform, and we support everything. We use one API, and if you hook into us, you don't worry about all this chaos."
According to Sherwin, CardinalCommerce not only facilitates the integration of new programs but also the decision-making behind it. "You can make the decision if Google Wallet or whatever is right for you based on merits of the products and not the challenge of integration," Sherwin said. "So we take technology out of the process when they make business decisions."
Essentially, CardinalCommerce's technology substitutes the unfamiliar computer logic of alternative payment programs with a language that merchant POS systems can understand in their existing form, according to Sherwin.
For example, PayPal Inc. allows consumers to make payments by entering a name and password that stands in for a payer's credit card data. Under normal circumstances, a merchant's payment capture and settlement system must be reconfigured to understand the unique logic of a PayPal transaction, as most systems are geared to read card data only, not the PayPal-specific information that supplants it, Sherwin said.
With CardinalCommerce, a merchant can employ a program like PayPal without making fundamental changes to the POS because the PayPal transaction information is replaced with a token card number that the merchant system reads like regular card data, Sherwin said.
When a PayPal transaction takes place, CardinalCommerce redirects the PayPal payment information (name and password) to its own settlement system; then it sends the merchant a pseudo card number to initiate the transaction. Because that token number mimics real card data, the merchant system reads it as it normally would and sends it off for authorization.
Next, CardinalCommerce sends back an authorization code based on the consumer's real PayPal data, which is referenced by the token card number, according to Sherwin. "We help them by using the logic they have in their back office," he said. "We use that with Bill Me Later, AliPay, Mazooma, whatever. ... From reporting, reconciliation and maintenance, we've consolidated everything into that one infrastructure. It's really easy for merchants because we're basically leveraging everything they already have in place today."
According to Sherwin, CardinalCommerce works with almost every significant alternative payment acceptance product on the market. Its total of more than 30 partners spans eight countries and includes alternative methods of payment for both Internet and mobile commerce. The options include PayPal, Verified by Visa, MasterCard SecureCode, Google Checkout, Ukash, Secure Vault Payments, Bill Me Later, MyECheck, eLayaway, ClickandBuy, Amazon Payments, RevolutionCard, Ebates, Mazooma, RialtoPay, Credex, NetCash, SafetyPay, NYCE SafeDebit, Skrill, Alipay, ZipZap, PayPal Mobile, eBillme and Bill2Phone.
Sherwin added that CardinalCommerce integration can range from a matter of hours for a small merchant with a simple POS configuration up to several weeks for a larger, more complex retail environment, but he pointed out that even the weeks it sometimes takes is miniscule compared with what merchants using alternative payment channels typically endure. For merchants who offer multiple alternative payments, as many increasingly do, CardinalCommerce saves them the time and hassle of having to adjust their POS setup every time they incorporate new options.
Sherwin said CardinalCommerce has long-time, key partnerships with processors First Data Corp. and CyberSource Corp., among many others, and is beginning to branch out strategically to the broader ISO world as it seeks a foothold in the small to midsize business (SMB) space. "We have a lot of direct sales to very large merchants and some key partnerships in payment processing," he said. "We're working to get more to the ISO level, and a lot of that is going to come through our strategic partnerships with CyberSource and First Data."
Sherwin said ISOs leveraging CardinalCommerce's platform have an advantage with less tech-savvy smaller merchants who might be inclined to avoid payment products that appear too difficult or time-consuming to implement. "We've done a lot to kind of break-down products that make sense for the SMB world - to make those programs a lot smoother for the user experience," he said, adding that this benefits ISOs because it enables them to sell individual products that assist merchants without affecting payment conversion or the payer experience.
Given that mobile payments comprise the newest frontier in payments, mobile technology development has been a focal point at CardinalCommerce. The company's mobile payment platform, Cardinal MAX, can increase customer traffic, drive and streamline mobile payments, bolster gift and loyalty programs, and more, Sherwin said.
Cardinal MAX provides a platform for merchants to expand their commerce and marketing to another consumer payment channel by establishing mobile stores and allowing consumers to pay in multiple ways from mobile devices. It also uses adjunct mobile payment and marketing programs that complement merchants' mobile platforms and help to drive traffic and sales. Cardinal MAX includes a virtual gift and loyalty program through which customers can store gift cards, coupons and loyalty points on their phones, and those benefits are sent and redeemed through short message service (SMS) text messaging.
According to Sherwin, the use of text messaging benefits both consumers and merchants: consumers can store gift cards and coupons in their phones, rather than squeezing them into leather wallets, while merchants can automatically store and view a new layer of purchasing data for marketing purposes. By using SMS messaging, customers can also redeem gift cards remotely and on a whim, rather than having to carry plastic cards into stores.
"When I send a coupon or gift card to your mobile phone, now I'll know that Joe did 'xyz,' because he took his gift card to this store and redeemed this value," he said. "Traditionally, there's been an anonymity to couponing and other things that have been done on paper. Now I say to text in a gift card number or coupon number to get a gift. The number is unique to you, I know it's sent to you and I know where you redeem it."
Furthermore, Cardinal MAX can connect mobile shoppers to their debit and credit card accounts for faster purchases. Sherwin noted that Cardinal MAX is cloud-based and integrates with all mobile wallet solutions - Google Wallet and MasterCard PayPass online, for example - making it unnecessary for merchants to integrate with the various mobile wallets individually or even know which ones consumers are using.
A consumer can simply sign in to his or her credit or debit card wallet account and, with a single click, connect to the account from an online checkout page for instant payment.
"I have the Citibank mobile app on my phone to see when payments are due," Sherwin said. "But then I might go to ticketmaster.com to buy tickets for the Indians game, and I have to enter all the credit card info on a screen. Why should I do that when I already have that Citibank app on my phone? Why can't I just pay with the app? We are basically creating a one-click experience allowing people to do that.
"Retailers are seeing a large increase in traffic on mobile and tablets, yet conversion is horrible. A big reason is that filling this information in on a mobile phone is a huge pain. Allowing them to do this seamlessly with one click on the phone, I think, is very powerful."
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