Consumers increasingly demand seamless ways to purchase wherever they go, and they want their transactions to be quick, safe and, importantly, secure. The fact is, merchants must embrace new methods quickly or risk being left behind.
Over the last decade, payment options have evolved in response to developments in technology and changing customer purchasing habits, including the growing popularity of hybrid online and in-store retail experiences like buy online and pick up in store. This leaves no room for misunderstanding: The methods merchants provide matter.
However, how merchants can adopt innovative technologies isn’t always clear, as the process can be intricate, with many factors to consider. The range of available payment methods is expanding more rapidly now than ever before, and to a non-specialist, these sophisticated technologies can be overwhelming.
Implementing a new payments system can be complex and time-consuming, and it involves numerous stakeholders. It requires fine-tuned planning to ensure a smooth transition, which means no disruption to customers at the checkout, and minimal lost sales for merchants.
Following are some tips for merchants considering adoption of a new payment method:
Analyze Your Current System
There’s an almost endless range of payment options out there, and it can be tricky to navigate if you’re not sure where to begin. It can be tempting to research the very latest innovations in payment systems and opt for the flashiest POS device or back-end programming, but the key here is to not be drawn in unless the solution actually fits your business model and your customers’ needs.
There’s simply no point in going through the process of integrating it, only for it to be a turnoff for your customers because it’s too complicated or doesn’t reflect your brand — the wrong system could lead to abandoned baskets.
The first step merchants should take is to fully understand the capabilities you already have before you start to move forward. Analyze the positives and what really works well for your company, and make note of any drawbacks you find.
By mapping your current payment ecosystem in this way, you’ll clearly see what works well and what holds you back. You then can apply this knowledge as you start to plan improvements.
Each and every merchant is unique, comprising a unique customer base, size and configuration of estate, and intended retail experience for customers.
Once you’ve taken a closer look at your operations you’ll be able to work out what would function most effectively and efficiently for you going forward. This means identifying key technical dependencies and risks, and making sure that all facets of the new payments system are fully tested and piloted before it goes live.
Let Key Stakeholders Weigh In
Involving all stakeholders up front is crucial to successful integration. It not only will give you a clear picture of your existing payments ecosystem and what it will require to meet the company’s current and future needs, but also will keep those important stakeholders in the loop.
Payments are central to every business area, so any change will need the input from experts across the whole organization — from marketing and finance personnel to store managers.
Many mature payment systems have evolved organically and grown over many years, so any change to the system can have widespread effects across all areas of the business. In days gone by, integrating a payments system would simply require liaising with the IT team, but as technology has become much more important to businesses operations, it requires a lot more input now.
The first step is to understand the needs of all internal parties involved in the transition, so you will need the input of experts across your organization — from marketing and finance personnel to store managers — to anticipate the needs of your customers.
Additionally, those experts will have the opportunity to voice their thoughts and viewpoints from different areas of the business, which could provide valuable insights that may not have been considered previously.
It’s important to get your stakeholders’ valuable perspective on how a new payments system could make a difference to them as early in the process as possible to ensure the new system will meet their individual requirements. This will help with adoption and success once the project has been finalized, while also minimizing disruption during execution.
Select a Partner That Suits You
Embarking on a payments project is technical and can be complicated, so any supplier must be confident and experienced in managing this complexity. A partner should be able to support you appropriately, and there are a few key things to look for as you make this decision:
- Consultation — A payment consultant should be able to offer specific industry expertise. Any such firm worth its salt will give you confidence that simple solutions are implemented with a low level of risk, while more complex solutions are backed up by creativity and deep technical expertise.
As there are many solutions available on the market today, it’s important to work with your supplier to choose one that not only will offer important upgrades, but also will future-proof your business as customer behavior and expectations change. This shouldn’t be a blanket approach — a good partner will assess your business individually and suggest a bespoke plan.
- A tailored approach — Alarm bells should start to ring if a potential partner agrees to deliver exactly everything that you ask for. Payments are complicated, and it’s unlikely a company could supply the exact specs you require down to the exact solutions, activation date and cost.
That’s not to say your request isn’t achievable, of course, but look for partners that add value through expertise and a consultative approach tailored to your needs.
- Transparency — Communication is key for any business relationship, as your trust and ultimately your business’ success are in someone else’s hands. This shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Providers should ensure that they can commit to all quality, time or cost targets, and provide regular updates along the way. They should be sure to communicate clearly how they will organize, track and govern the delivery of your payment solution.
Furthermore, they should facilitate joint meetings between parties, giving all stakeholders visibility into the project and status updates throughout. These steps are essential for both parties — your partner should instill trust in you through professional conduct and organization, as well as project delivery.
- Planning — Pre-project planning is a must. Any proposed system must be scoped properly, with all dependencies and risks captured and accounted for.
A credible payment partner will be transparent regarding responsibilities, plans and expectations, and will let you know the role you need to take to ensure a successful delivery.
It’s a good idea to discuss how your provider plans to engage stakeholders at the outset to ensure a full understanding of the business requirements and desired outcomes.
- Stability — A robust platform with enterprise-grade SLAs (service level agreements) is essential. A provider should include a robust testing and pilot phase to fully assess the inner workings of a solution and ensure it’s functional, operational, and ready for a smooth rollout.
It also should be flexible in case any urgent amends to the plans need to be made, and be on call for post-implementation follow ups.
Commit to Making Changes
Implementing a new system may sound overwhelming with many tough decisions to be made along the way, but remember that this process is quite literally your payment partner’s mission. Your partner will take on much of the heavy lifting, as projects like yours are its bread and butter.
So don’t panic, and don’t take too much on your shoulders. Just make sure you find a provider that can offer solutions, accurate delivery, and an approach that suits your company’s particular needs. Combine this with key stakeholder involvement to get a complete understanding of your business needs, and you can make the transition to a new payments system seamlessly.
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