The way people pay for goods and services has been evolving rapidly, with friction-free, efficient, cashless and contactless methods becoming part of everyday life. We can use Uber or Lyft to summon and pay for a ride, book a place to stay and settle the reservation fees using Airbnb, and buy most of life’s necessities via Amazon — all without opening our wallet or writing a check.
These are invisible payments in a well-designed user interface that are removing purchasing barriers and driving efficiencies behind the scenes. The pandemic supercharged adoption of digital commerce enablement as it drove more users to new channels to buy and sell goods and services. But the evolution of payments hasn’t stopped there. Now more than ever, fintech leaders will need to help the business community they serve understand how payments are evolving so the businesses can provide the convenience, options and overall experience customers demand.
Greg Cohen is a recognised financial technology industry leader who has built national and global organisations with high-level exits. Cohen is the CEO of Fortis, a leading integrated commerce platform. He has a passion for the evolution of commerce and was an early pioneer in the integrated payments and software platform arena. As such, he is an advisor to some of the fastest-growing technology companies and investment firms.
Winning the Digitisation Race
The payments sector is at an inflection point, and 2022 is shaping up to be the year leaders emerge in the digitisation race. In February, Apple rolled out a new digital payment option that allows U.S. merchants to accept contactless payments via an iOS app. This would in theory eliminate the need for small merchants to buy additional hardware to accept payments in person. Others, no doubt, will follow shortly.
We’ll see new payment tender options gain traction and transpire in the months ahead. Digital wallets from Block, PayPal or even traditional banks will push new boundaries. Crypto, which is gaining business acceptance as a payment tender, will attract certain buyers and segments. Blockchain as a technology will continue to drive inroads into the ecosystem, improving back-office efficiency. Legacy networks and centralised systems may see more effective ways to route and may power the rise of a BillPay 2.0, linking networks of buyers and sellers. In addition, regulators will continue looking at ways to speed up legacy systems with Real-Time Payment (RTP) rails to improve experiences.
We will no doubt see the continued adoption of “buy now pay later” (BNPL) financing options at the point of sale. BNPL may face some regulatory and cost challenges, but there is no arguing the solutions are here to stay. BNPL will help merchants get more people in the door and drive higher sales by providing consumers and businesses simple purchase options. This will also reduce shopping cart abandonment due to sticker shock by transforming a $1,000 price tag into a more palatable schedule of five $200 payments.
In the year ahead, watch for innovation in other areas, as well as how financial technology companies position themselves as they offer a myriad of financial services to channel partners and the businesses they serve.
Overcoming Obstacles to Invisible Payments
We don’t know exactly how the payments sector will evolve, but we do know the march toward invisibility will continue. It’s good for merchants because it drives sales and preferred by consumers because it’s convenient. Invisible payments are gaining ground in the B2B world as every buyer is also a consumer with a new expectation level for every transaction. The rising popularity is warranted, though, as invisible commerce accelerates cash flow and eliminates invoicing processes, benefitting businesses, consumers and the economy.
That said, there are still barriers to accepting invisible payments that businesses encounter today. One example is a fragmented ecosystem involving multiple stakeholders at the point of sale. Many businesses still leverage non-cloud solutions and have a divided experience based on what channel a buyer or consumer engages, pointing to multiple, disconnected hardware and software vendors. Embedded payment solutions have the ability to tie everything together with multiple vendors through one experience. Upgrading to new systems can also be challenging given many businesses may have already invested in training employees on their current systems.
Organisations will overcome these barriers and more challenges at their own pace, but the pandemic triggered a significant refresh cycle when businesses put embedded and often invisible payment systems in place to accommodate customers during lockdowns. Many companies that couldn’t adapt closed their doors and were replaced by new businesses that opened without legacy systems and processes. The new world is being built – albeit at different speeds and in different packages.
Fintech Leading the Way
What fintech leaders need to know is, since modern payment solutions are integral to the customer experience, the best payment options will vary across verticals. It’s also important to keep in mind that almost every business now operates in an omnichannel environment, with online, physical and mobile channels. To get payments right, all methods have to work together and deliver a single view of the customer.
An embedded payment solution offering invisible and seamless payment methods isn’t just about transferring funds; it’s about engaging consumers on their unique customer journey. As an example, think about the process of a travel platform booking hotel accommodations for a customer who’s going on vacation vs. a doctor’s office scheduling a patient for a post-surgical hospital stay. Both processes involve putting a customer in a room. But the customer journey is very different, and customer engagement through the payment solution must be flexible enough to vary accordingly.
The fintech sector can lead the way by helping business leaders understand the way payments are changing and helping them find solutions that improve the customer experience through better engagement. By helping businesses successfully transition to invisible, embedded payment solutions, fintech leaders can fulfill their role as trusted financial advisors to their business clients.
Avoiding Mistakes and Providing Choice
So, as a fintech leader, how can you help businesses make the right decision about payment solutions? While every vertical operates in multiple channels, customers follow different paths, so it’s important to understand all of the available options. Gravitating toward a specific payment provider because they are generating buzz is almost always a mistake.
Instead, guide software enablers and business clients toward payment solutions that drive embedded commerce through consumer adoption in all mediums, rather than just facilitating transactions. It’s also a good idea to steer businesses toward payment solutions that offer multiple options to buyers and consumers instead of limiting payment methods to a single ecosystem. As payments evolve, businesses will need a future-proof solution instead of one tied too closely to a single operating model or payment method so they can avoid costly “rip and replace” interruptions.
PwC research suggests that cashless transaction volumes will grow to nearly $2trillion by 2025. The demand for simple digital shopping experiences, easy onboarding and choice at checkout is growing. As a fintech leader, you have an excellent opportunity to help the businesses you work with transition to new approaches as the industry changes. By helping businesses keep up as payments evolve, you can help ensure their success and strengthen relationships at the same time.