By Dale S. Laszig
DSL Direct LLC
Nothing ever really goes away in payments, not even the Zon Jr XL. Old ways fade from view with each passing trend but never completely disappear. Merchants hold on to outdated systems; merchant level salespeople (MLSs) tell the same stories. New technologies coexist with incumbent solutions. And yet, somehow, innovations shine through, making electronic transactions richer, stronger and more complex.
Today's transactions look nothing like yesterday's auth-and-settlement clicks. Unattended, multicultural and deeply embedded in the customer experience, transactions no longer depend on single-use platforms or merchant operators. With rich capabilities such as these, is it any wonder that transactions are helping everyone in the commerce value chain do more with less?
Transactional selling, which tends to focus on short-term gains, was effective in moving merchants from paper to electronic commerce and mag-stripe cards to EMV. Today we need a more consultative approach. Our COVID-fueled analog-to-digital movement presents multiple options for expanding customer reach and is more complex than earlier merchant migrations.
In this complex landscape, without a straightforward path from Point A to Point B, consultative selling can help MLSs and merchants assess needs and create the right mix of virtual, digital and in-app commerce. With a bit of ingenuity, you can align your selling style and value proposition with our industry's expanding menu of services. In short, we can be less transactional but more like today's transactions. Following are some examples.
Embedded payment credentials create a frictionless customer experience through single-click and mobile checkout, ride hailing, ordering ahead, curbside pickup and other digital commerce trends. Embedding yourself in a community or industry builds relationships and fosters trust. VizyPay explained its Look Local First movement in a Sept. 14, 2021, blog post titled, "Supporting Local; What's the Big Deal?" VizyPay representatives wrote, "Did you know that for every $100 you spend at a local business, approximately $68 of that will stay in your community? Although building the local economy is a vital aspect, it is just one of the reasons supporting small businesses is essential for your community!"
Automating repetitive tasks frees merchants, such as those offering accounts payable, accounts receivable and advanced fraud prevention solutions, enables merchants to focus on high-value activities. Automation is a useful tool that can keep merchants and service providers profitable and worry-free. In a Dec. 6, 2021, Forbes article, "The Autonomy of Automation," Thomas Aronica, founder and CEO at Biller Genie, noted that software never sleeps, gets sick or forgets. Automated solutions enable you to "remind your customers when invoices are due, gently nudge them when they're overdue and even close the loop once they've been taken care of — consistently," he wrote.
The Payment Card Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is designed to protect payment card data, and it constantly evolves in response to existing and emerging threats. Christopher Bulin, founder and chief visionary officer at Proven PCI Inc., is committed to advancing PCI compliance education and transparency. Bulin noted that effective service providers guide merchants through the Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ) and are transparent about their PCI Attestation of Compliance (AoC). "Service providers that tell merchants to just check yes or no on the SAQ are coercing them into falsifying documents, which is a breach of their merchant services agreement," he said.
Artificial intelligence can authenticate customers and unlock transactions to reveal customer insights. These capabilities are shaping security, risk management and customer relationships, according to Will LaSala, director of security solutions and security evangelist at OneSpan. "There's too much data for financial institutions to deal with and much of that data is siloed," LaSala said. "For example, if you go to an ATM versus doing online banking versus visiting a bank branch, those three distinct applications using data and rules only work when the same data is being analyzed at once, but an AI can look at everything you're doing in real time."
Immediacy is a hallmark of digital commerce, where instant approvals and customer onboarding can create safe, fast, frictionless transactions. Deep integrations create agile payments, eliminating friction points between technology platforms and service providers. Advanced technologies enable service providers to respond to challenges and opportunities. Adrian Talapan, co-founder and CEO at Fee Navigator, noted that instant proposals, delivered during sales calls, can highlight responsiveness and capabilities. "Instant, AI-driven statement analysis is an essential tool for understanding margins and profit potential," he said. "It can be used to target different industries and use cases while accelerating sales and reducing time to market."
AI and real-time data analysis can drive personalized offers to consumers who opt in to receive special discounts via email, SMS and mobile apps. Dinesh Saparamadu, founder and CEO at Applova, has found app-based loyalty programs an effective way to entice customers with freebies and member-only deals. "When merchants own their customer data, they can create segmented, targeted promotions while fully controlling the customer experience," he said. Are you leveraging merchant data to personalize and tailor product and service offerings? Advanced technologies make it easier to customize proposals and bundle ancillary services such as loyalty, gift and rewards programs to a prospect's unique requirements.
Merchants also want to personalize the checkout experience according to individual customer needs by offering attractive, extended terms at the point of interaction. James Bradley, business development director at DivideBuy, attributes the global popularity of buy now, pay later solutions to consumer demand for convenience.
"Consumers are increasingly making the most of online shopping, one-click checkouts, next day delivery, and any other service or function which gets them the products they want faster and with the least amount of effort," Bradley said, adding that POS finance evenly spreads a purchase into manageable installments, making big-ticket purchases more affordable.
Recent challenges have brought out the best in us and set the stage for a new year filled with progress, economic recovery and innovative payment solutions. As microcosms of our solutions, electronic transactions reflect how far we've progressed in the payments industry and model meaningful new ways of transacting with merchants and partners. Here's to your continued success in 2022.
Dale S. Laszig, senior staff writer at The Green Sheet and managing director at DSL Direct LLC, is a payments industry journalist and content strategist. Connect via email firstname.lastname@example.org, LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/in/dalelaszig/ and Twitter @DSLdirect.
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