By Dale S. Laszig
Acronyms remind me of small Halloween candies: bitesize confections that are prone to overuse. Have you ever noticed how many fun-size words are in the payments industry's lexicon? There's probably a payments acronym for every letter of the alphabet: ATM, BNPL, CNP, etc. The best part of savoring these treats, aside from consuming them, is the excitement of unwrapping, and anticipating, the experience inside. Can you seriously just have one?
Like parents who counsel children not to use outside voices inside the home, sales managers caution merchant level salespeople (MLSs) against using insider jargon in sales presentations. We may be comfortable with these abbreviations and shortcuts, they explain, but prospects may hear them differently, almost as if they are hearing a foreign language. I covered this topic in "POS as a second language," published June 23, 2008, in issue 08:06:02 of The Green Sheet.
"Our industry's acronym-rich lingo of interchange and compliance can sometimes make new merchants feel like tourists in a foreign country," I wrote. "While we take considerable pride in the innovations that have made credit card processing simple, fast and affordable, it's helpful to remember not everyone in our community speaks fluent POS."
At the time, the big push was getting merchants to try electronic processing technology. In the fifteen years that followed, payments professionals and merchants alike became more focused on the customer experience, which in many cases, is driven by apps and advanced technologies that run quietly in the background.
It has taken years to get to this point, beginning with merchants putting POS devices beneath counters and behind curtains, to today's invisible technology that drives ride-hailing apps, hotel check-ins and other modern commerce methods. MLSs have come a long way since 2008, when they were migrating merchants from daily trips to the bank to magically transmitted electronic deposits. Through it all, words have played a critical role in bridging gaps, changing minds, closing sales and helping MLSs and merchants find common ground.
As I noted in my article, selling can sometimes feel like trying to communicate with someone who doesn't speak your language, but those who are up to the challenge may find it very rewarding indeed.
"Merchants new to bankcard processing represent your best opportunity to really sell something and make a meaningful contribution to their businesses," I wrote. "When your credit card decals are proudly displayed in their windows, it will be their way of saying, 'We speak POS here.'"
Word usage can be challenging for MLSs and journalists because our industry moves fast, and words stand still. Naming conventions have remained relatively constant over the past few decades. We like to lump things together, such as merging financial technology into fintech, and we love our acronyms. Some worn-out adjectives have even turned into drinking games, in which players have to knock one back each time someone says, "ubiquitous" or "seamless."
Behind emerging trends and acronyms, such as banking-as-a-service (BaaS) and buy now, pay later (BNPL), shifting paradigms disrupt traditional models and continue to evolve. Just when I think I understand these trends and their basic premises and functionalities, they morph again, expanding into new use cases.
I was surprised, for example, to find retailers implementing BaaS and to learn that BNPL is not just for large purchases; it is also an integral part of food delivery subscription services.
Embedded commerce and finance, by nature, are subsets of larger ecosystems that consume and influence them. As supporting capabilities that adapt to businesses they serve, real-time embedded payment capabilities get better all the time at protecting data, driving efficiencies, expanding access to capital and deepening customer relationships.
Throughout the evolutionary payments journey, payment professionals must continually adapt and pivot to help colleagues, partners and customers leverage megatrends and microtrends. As we forge ahead to new adventures in the 21st century, let's strive to keep our language as fresh and compelling as our technology.
Dale S. Laszig, senior staff writer at The Green Sheet and founder and CEO at DSL Direct LLC, is a payments industry journalist and content strategist. Connect via email email@example.com, LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/in/dalelaszig/ and Twitter https://twitter.com/DSLdirec
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