The world is seeing a transformational change in customer spending trends and purchasing behaviour both in-store and online. The pandemic has had a large influence on this, with retailers and restaurants accustomed to serving customers physically being forced to quickly adapt digital payment methods online and mobile, driving a significant uptick in digital commerce.
Even in stores, with social distancing, customers now want new ways to transact. The line between physical and digital channels has blurred, with customers seeking an omnichannel experience connecting different payment methods, channels, and devices. Customers want the shopping experience to be seamless, they want to be able to buy anytime, no matter where they are and how they pay.
The move towards digital commerce is opening ever-expanding possibilities for deepening customer engagement and enriching their transaction experience. Mobile, IoT, and several other digital payment options play a key role in the evolution from physical to online to omnichannel, driving the need for simplified customer journeys. A few features that customers expect are self-service checkout, contactless payments through QR codes, voice recognition through Alexa or other devices, scan and go, order ahead, curbside pickup, and loyalty and rewards programs, to name a few.
The digital experience can also complement physical interactions with customers initiating a transaction online but wanting the ability to pick up their purchase at a merchant store and vice versa. Or a customer researching a product on their smartphone, seeing it in a physical store and ordering it online. In addition, with alternative payment methods becoming mainstream, it is imperative for merchants to accept different forms of payment, besides the traditional forms of cash and cards. All of this has made it complicated for merchants, as they now must delight their customers across the full digital landscape, besides worrying about connecting their technology systems to a plethora of processors, platforms, and marketplaces.
It is time for retailers and merchants to build integrated shopping or buying experiences for their customers by unifying touchpoints across the buyer journey. What merchants require is a connected omnichannel ecosystem that includes product offerings delivered through a technology platform and simplified integration through a set of APIs. This will allow them to tap into all the available functions and services in the payments value chain, thus eliminating the need for a disparate tech stack, additional cost overhead and cumbersome deployment of application enhancements and upgrades. As new features come to market, these can be built into the ecosystem and made available quickly for merchants to integrate. Omnichannel solutions must also provide intelligent routing and a workflow engine that choreographs transaction flows through existing and new services.
An integrated commerce solution that allows for customers to transact – select, buy, pay, return, track – across any channel, is the most fundamental element of an omnichannel ecosystem. This requires a portfolio of integrated and digitally enabled solutions seamlessly working together allowing different payment methods at the point-of-sale, and online such as dynamic currency conversions, buy now pay later (BNPL), and more. For merchants, this shift can speed up customer on-boarding, and drive conversion, engagement, and loyalty. Additionally, an omni commerce ecosystem can empower merchants to store and retrieve payment details, and customer history and design targeted offers. It can also eliminate payment frictions, ease payment for a customer and ease collections for a merchant, no matter what the channel is.
Payment processing involves moving money and a small network outage could mean significant monetary losses for merchants along with negative impacts on brand reputation, especially in online shopping, where customers have multiple options to choose from. Omnichannel technology platforms need to be designed for redundancy, scalability and security using mechanisms such as encryption and tokenization, network tokens and fraud monitoring at every step of the payment transaction flow.
Technology developments will continue to touch and change every aspect of a customer’s buying behaviour and decision making through advanced personalization. In the connected world, we are in today, omnichannel platforms can create customer experiences and journeys personal through the use of AI (artificial intelligence) and analytics. Omnichannel retailing checks all the boxes for a merchant – helping to drive sales, grow revenue, be efficient and deliver excellent and unique customer experiences.
Rams Parameswaran, Vice President – IT, Global Services, Fiserv