The Green Sheet Online Edition
October 25, 2010 • Issue 10:10:02
Automated, but not ignored, billing
Using a vast bed of data culled from the transaction information of the millions of merchants it serves, First Data Corp. has developed a three-pronged reporting suite called Information & Analytics Services.
According to First Data, the suite contains tools that allow merchants to view different data pertaining to their vertical market, to receive reports counseling them on prudent decision-making based on such data, and to splice and analyze data from their own businesses in any number of ways.
"First Data is one of the largest payment processors, which gives us really unique insights into how consumers are behaving at the point of sale, and that data-driven insight is the real goal," said Silvio Tavares, Senior Vice President and Head of Investor and Analyst Relations for First Data.
The three offerings
Information & Analytics Services comprises three different offerings, and merchants can subscribe to any combination of the three. The first is First Data SpendTrend, which provides aggregated data of consumer spending trends within a given vertical; for example, sales trends for the restaurant industry in a given month compared with the previous month (or some other time period). That information goes out every month except for the hectic final two months of the year, when it comes out biweekly, Tavares said.
"We also provide more granular and detailed data ... like statistics on average tickets," Tavares said. "So, what was the average purchase size? If I'm a retailer and my average ticket is going down and the rest of the industry is going up, that's an important indicator that I need to be doing something differently."
Tavares said the company's SpendTrend reports tend to correlate closely with the U.S. government's monthly Advanced Retail Sales Report. The difference, he said, is that SpendTrend comes out right at the end of each month, while the government's report is issued up to two weeks later.
"The ability to have that data early on allows a merchant to adjust how they promote or price their services at the inventory levels and ultimately to sell more goods and services," he said. "The timeliness of the data is a critical component."
The second offering is First Data Advisors, which provides consultative advice to merchants. Some of that advice is provided within generic reports issued by the company each month; other feedback is customized based on a specific request by a particular merchant.
For instance, a merchant experiencing high levels of fraud may solicit feedback about how to bring those levels down. First Data may notice a particular trend - a correlation between a certain kind of card and high fraud levels, for example - that helps the merchant root out fraud by zeroing in on a specific target.
Giving merchants extra control
The third offering within Information & Analytics Services is First Data Reporting, which provides merchants tools that allow them to make their own intelligent queries within an online portal.
"A merchant, especially a large merchant, might want to hone in on Florida and see how stores are doing there, what percentage of payments at the point of sale are credit card versus debit card," Tavares said. "We're focusing on creating tools to let merchants do more of that sophisticated analysis of their own transaction information."
Tavares added that First Data is developing programs that give merchants real-time updates about transaction data, fraud activity and other business-related developments through short message service (SMS) messaging. For example, merchants would get SMS-based information about the size of their daily deposits and the time deposits were made, or an alert that possible fraudulent activity has been detected at a given merchant location.
First Data Corp.
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