The omni-channel payments checklist

By Nicole Olbe | 7 November 2016

Many merchants have been operating a multi-channel strategy for some time. The aim of the game now is to move to an omni-channel strategy – one that ties all those different channels together into one package that delivers a coherent and frictionless customer experience. That consistency has to extend to every aspect of a business: its brand, stock, messaging and payments.

Payment is one aspect that might often be overlooked, perceived as a functional aspect rather than a fundamental one. That thinking is at best naïve and at worst negligent. Payment is often the last step on the customer journey and absolutely crucial to the overall experience. Making sure that payment is equally frictionless and simple across all channels is integral to the provision of an omni-channel strategy.

So what do retailers need in order to achieve this? Here, we’ll provide an omni-channel payments checklist, to make sure their payment IT is up to omni-channel standards.

Covering every channel

In many ways, the ball is in the customer’s court. Customers can now shop online, in store and on mobile. Throw tablets and wearables into the mix and you have a lot to consider. A 2015 report from Accenture, entitled Digital Video and the Connected Consumer, found that 87% of consumers are also using their smartphone, tablet, games console, ebook or laptop whilst watching TV. Retailers must understand this when planning their omni-channel strategies, as the same can be applied to online shopping. Brands must make themselves present, visible and engageable across the myriad channels available, and offer the customer the ability to pay across all these channels in a consistent manner.

Many shopping experiences begin on one device and end on another. If the user begins the journey on their desktop, they may choose to add more items to their shopping basket on a tablet, and finish the journey on the mobile app while they are out and about. When they come to pay, if they find the shopping basket is difficult to navigate, even though the app features cool UI design, it may lead to the user cancelling the transaction.

Consistency is the name of the game and users have to feel comfortable. If you cannot deliver the same user experience across all channels, customers will simply move to another retailer who can. For retailers, it is about enabling goods to be bought anywhere, at any time, across all touch points, in a frictionless manner.

Securing transactions

This is a vital step for retailers if they are to implement an omni-channel service. Delivering consistent user experiences across a variety of channels requires lots of customer data. As the number of channels and data sources grows, this valuable payment data is being held in different places, and is a target for fraudsters. Customers know this, and therefore ensuring their confidence in securing payment data is key. The KPMG Consumer Loss Barometer found that 20% of retail customers would cancel their accounts at retail stores if they were the victims of a cyber security hack, even if the retailer took steps to ensure information security as a result. The reputational risk of a data breach can undo years of goodwill towards a brand, therefore trust is fundamental.

The need to ensure security of consumer data and payment infrastructure as new innovations are introduced has become an increasingly complex challenge. Meeting the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards, the rules around customer payment data, can make it very difficult for brands to get a full and multi-channel view of customer spending. Luckily, technology exists that can help overcome these obstacles.

Tokenisation encrypts customer data at the point of sale while still helping to track customer payments, by assigning an alphanumeric code or ‘token’ in place of payment data when a transaction is processed. Customer payment information is reduced to a string of numbers and letters indecipherable to fraudsters. While retailers cannot identify an individual token, if the token is the same across all payment channels, then they can at least see consumer behaviour and spending patterns, gaining a view of how a customer is using each different channel for shopping, while keeping transactions safe.

Tokenisation goes some way to solve the dilemma of both safeguarding valuable customer data to reassure the customer, whilst simultaneously providing a snapshot of customer behaviour. This provides the data insight necessary for brands to engage proactively, which is becoming increasingly important in today’s competitive omni-channel environment.

Integrating payment data

To deliver an omni-channel strategy, there needs to be greater communication across departments. The customer will not see any distinction between these, and so businesses must ensure that the head of operations, head of sales and customer service are all engaging in increased dialogue to create a seamless customer experience. It’s one thing to have all your systems across mobile, online, and in-store, but ensuring that a business has the support of all the required stakeholders to deliver that omni-channel experience adds a whole extra layer of complexity. In order to develop an omni-channel strategy that delivers, retailers must work closely with stakeholders across the company to ensure everyone understands the goals and objectives of that strategy.

Future proofing for innovation

Technology drives change and the speed with which new technologies are coming to market is accelerating, offering customers new ways to pay. Shoppers want choice, and this extends to the ways in which they choose to pay. Using an omni-channel managed payment solution, it is possible to offer the latest solutions for customers without having to update any existing systems and equipment. Many retailers who use managed payments services are able to offer such new payment facilities as Android Pay on the day it is released. Providing support for innovative technologies means retailers can offer their customers the best payment experiences as these evolve.

So: that is the omni-channel checklist

If retailers are to provide a true omni-experience, they must not overlook the last step in the customer journey. It is pointless striving for an omni-channel solution if the payment IT is not up to omni-channel standards. It is about delivering a consistent user experience across all channels, offering the customer the ability to pay at any time, in any place, while supporting the latest payment methods. In the last, critical step of the journey, the retailer has to ensure customer confidence – ensuring their data is safe. If the retailer is able to offer this, then they are on their way to offering a true omni-channel experience.

By Nicole Olbe, Director, Gateway Sales, Barclaycard (parent company of The Logic Group)

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