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The Green Sheet Online Edition

March 11, 2019 • Issue 19:03:01

Helping merchants select the right apps

By Nicky Koopman

Technology is available today to transform the traditional point of sale (POS) into a vibrant point of interaction (POI) that fulfills merchant needs for integrated payment, consumer-facing digital activities, and automation of key business functions and processes. But there is far too much technology for most merchants to fully explore or make reasoned decisions on what is best for them.

When it comes to the POI, the number of apps available may not be quite so daunting as the volume of apps created for the smartphone, but the task of investigating numerous POS and other business apps is nevertheless a time-consuming prospect that few merchants have the time or affinity for. Add in the reality that many apps look good at first glance, but fall far short when put into actual use, and you can envision the wide gap separating the potential from the practical.

Surveying the merchant base

The small to midsize merchant market in the United States is remarkably diverse, spanning numerous vertical segments, from the mom-and-pop corner grocery store, to barber shops and salons, health and wellness businesses, fast food and full-service restaurants, and so on. Every day, more and more software developers are offering apps catering to the small merchant segment. Some target specific vertical markets; others target a more horizontal, general merchant profile.

A recent survey conducted by Pymnts in conjunction with AEVI found that about one-third of U.S. merchants have heard of smart POS solutions but aren't yet using them. Another third have not heard of such solutions but are interested in the descriptions provided by the surveyors.

Another 14 percent said they already use this type of solution, while 16 percent indicated they have no interest. The survey data provides a muddled picture of the market, but that's not really surprising given that they're retailers, not technologists, and we're at the front edge of the adoption curve.

Simplifying decision-making

Acquirers, ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLS) need to make the technology decision-making process simple for merchants, while still providing them flexibility and adaptability as consumer and business needs evolve.

Lower-cost Android payment devices make it possible to put sophisticated apps in the hands of more and more merchants. The challenge is to assemble a core suite of must-have apps that will work best for your merchants in their initial stage of digital transformation within their particular vertical segments.

Key requirements you should focus on in building your merchant-facing POI strategy should center on a platform that provides, among other things:

  • A high degree of orchestration among apps to ensure seamless, multifunction processes to both consumer and merchant.
  • Ease of use to ensure managers and sales clerks can get up and running quickly and new personnel can step in without a hitch.
  • Ready to go, out of the box. Minimal intervention should be required for the onboarding process and subsequently reconfiguring app suites.
  • Ability to mix and match hardware from different vendors so that merchants can use the best devices to fit their needs.

Assembling tailored app bundles

With the right platform, you can assemble an easier-to-manage diverse estate of devices to provide greater choice to your merchants. Then it's incumbent on you to assemble a core bundle of apps that are suited to your particular clients, and the vertical segments you are targeting.

As noted, the proliferation of apps even in the merchant space is breathtaking. But we should all be able to agree on the top requirements that most merchants will need. According to the Pymnts survey, these are the leading customer-facing apps merchants are looking for in smart POS solutions:

  1. Payment acceptance: For many merchants, POS and payment are still relatively separate functions. The payment device and application generally communicate to the payment processor and may or may not have some degree of integration with the POS. The payment application traditionally has limited functionality and little opportunity to interoperate with value-added apps. But in the POI solution, payment takes on a far broader role of meeting consumer transaction requirements on their own terms, whether that is via mobile, contactless, or some other form of alternative payment.
  2. Digital receipts: They don't get lost and relieve merchants and consumers of the burden of physically managing paper receipts.
  3. Online booking or order taking: There's a reason the Starbucks app is the most widely used mobile payment app in the United States. It gives consumers what they want, how they want it, when they want it – and with easy built-in payment functionality. Small merchants will need that order-taking capability as they step into the multichannel world of omnicommerce.
  4. Loyalty: Even for small merchants, loyalty is becoming an essential element of the customer relationship management capabilities that seek to promote and reward repeat consumer activity. It should be able to interoperate smoothly with payment, ensuring consumers can redeem rewards seamlessly, as well as work across channels and integrate with marketing apps.

Adding value as consultants

There are many merchant-oriented apps to choose from and many more to come. App developers will gravitate toward particular vertical segments for which they have previous experience or that are most obvious beneficiaries of their skills.

It's going to be up to members of the acquiring community to determine the value of apps based on their own knowledge of vertical market segments. Your role will increasingly be that of a value-add consultant guiding merchants to a new era of payment-focused commerce. end of article

Nicky Koopman is vice president of content and value-added services with AEVI. She is a pioneer in digital innovation with an entrepreneurial mindset who is responsible for bringing together AEVI's digital value-added content. Nicky works with AEVI's app developer community to lay the foundation for the next-generation of value-added content.

The Green Sheet Inc. is now a proud affiliate of Bankcard Life, a premier community that provides industry-leading training and resources for payment professionals. Click here for more information.

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