Between artificial intelligence, online shopping and mobile, retailers have a lot to contend with in 2017. And those that want to survive into the next era are going to have to make more room on their plates to prepare for it. Whether you’re a one-store operation or a global enterprise, the same rule applies. You need to cater to changing customer preferences if you’re going to stay in the game.
And one of the major game-changers beyond etailing and online presence is how people pay for your products. From handling cryptocurrency to loyalty and the omnichannel experience, payment processors are increasingly valuable when it comes to marketing. I sat down with Susanne Steidl, Chief Product Officer at payment processor, Wirecard, to find out how retailers can prepare for the future of payments. Here are three things to keep in mind.
Cryptocurrencies And The Global Economy
Unless you’re living under a rock, chances are you’ve heard about cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. You may have noticed companies hanging up a “Bitcoin accepted here” sign, including major retailers like Expedia and Shopify.
But while most of us can’t escape news of the tumultuous investment landscape surrounding Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, the majority of us still don’t know what cryptocurrency actually is, let alone how it’s going to impact our businesses. (If you’re like me, and you’re still trying to conceptualize the blockchain, this TED Talk might help.)
It’s important for retailers to understand the unique benefits of cryptocurrencies over conventional currencies, such as decreased fraud and bank fees. But when it comes to marketing, the potential benefits are even more intriguing.
Payment Processing And The Omnichannel Experience
When marketers think about the omnichannel experience, we often consider communication and engagement, with the payment experience as an afterthought. Still, it comes as no surprise that providing customers with a seamless transaction across channels can increase retention and satisfaction.
Many payment solutions today have built-in loyalty programs, and collect important data. By making payments a central component of the omnichannel strategy, retailers are rewarded with rich customer insights.
“Payment solutions are the next frontier of loyalty programs because they’re so data rich,” says Jon Wolfe, the founder and CEO of House Advantage, which recently launched an omichannel solution that leverages customer data on behaviors and transactions to provide real-time rewards across digital and brick-and-mortar sites.
Incorporating payment solutions into an omnichannel strategy has been particularly difficult for brick-and-mortar retailers, who often don’t know who their customers are in-store.
“If you really look at the situation, most [physical] retailers have separate systems for ecommerce and POS,” says Steidl. “By combining that for the first time, they have a common pool of data to illuminate who customers are, regardless of where a purchase takes place.”
By treating in-store purchases as you would online, customers receive targeted and customized treatment. With the right data from their payments processor, retailers can create relevant offers at the point of sale and beyond and enhance the overall customer experience.
The Future Of Voice And AI In Payments
Just as we’re seeing a rise in importance of voice and AI online and in customer searches, that technology will soon wind up in payments. Why? Because anything that saves consumers time is big business and that’s ultimately what voice and virtual assistants do.
“Whatever adds value to the customer experience is something that will gain traction,” Steidl confirms. “In specific situations I can imagine that voice can play a role because it’s so much more convenient for consumers. The technology will combine everything that’s available – whatever makes it easier for customers – this is where we’ll see developments.”
Essentially, retailers can can get a foothold on changing payment technology now and brace themselves for the future by selecting the right payments processor. They need to offer their customers preferred payment options and ensure that evolving currencies like Bitcoin are in their sights. When they understand the tie between payment processing and loyalty they can extend omnichannel to payments and enhance the customer experience at every point of contact.
This article was originally published on August 8, 2017 in Forbes.