So that customers would no longer have to queue in a physical store to return a piece of clothing that they purchased online or provide payment details multiple times with the same retailer. It would be even nicer if merchants can easily store and retrieve payment details to provide their customers with a more personalized buying experience.
When we think about the volume of data that is shared between customers and retailers with every transaction made with mobile and contactless cards or digital wallets, it seems reasonable that merchants seize the opportunity and get to know their customers better. In reality, today we are living in a world of “always-on” shopping and as consumers, we are beginning to blur the lines between online and offline buying. With almost 90% of customers using digital channels at some point of their journey and almost half crossing back and forth between digital and physical interactions with businesses, maybe it’s a good time for retailers to consider leveraging the trends by also blurring the silos when it comes to customer interactions.
However, offering a truly integrated shopping experience comes with additional complexity for the merchants since they have to unify multiple touchpoints across the buyer journey. Still, one thing is for sure – consumers love browsing and buying both in-store and online, which means that merchants have to ensure their clients can order, return, and pay for items no matter what channels they prefer. At the same time, such complex customer journeys require comprehensive solutions, solutions that can be used across multiple shopping channels, a.k.a omnichannel solutions.
And integrated payments are one of the most important elements in the omnichannel shopping experience and can make the difference between an abandoned cart and a purchase, a loyal customer, and a one-time shopper.
Omnichannel payment platforms enable merchants to meet all customer expectations by providing them with a connected experience across multiple shopping channels. Such platforms integrate all of the payment processes of merchants and retailers to provide them with a detailed overview of their customers’ interactions and allow them to collect payments with no friction no matter the shopping channel. In simple words, such payment solutions allow the customers of a particular business to enter their card data once and then use it across all the shopping channels offered by that merchant.
First, it is key to distinguish what makes omnichannel shopping actually omnichannel and how it is different from single-channel and multi-channel.
Single-channel selling means that businesses engage with customers through only one channel, be it web-only or store-only. On the other hand, multichannel commerce works on multiple channels, both offline and online. Omnichannel makes a connection between all of the dots across channels so that customers can have an integrated experience.
But what does it actually mean to offer an omnichannel shopping experience? It means researching for, choosing, and buying products on multiple channels – from physical store to online store, social media, and even voice commerce with your Alexa devices. Omnichannel really means being seamlessly connected. Just imagine if as a consumer, you go into a store, try on a pair of shoes you really like but choose not to buy them because of your limited monthly budget. You go home and receive an email with a special offer that prompts you to purchase the pair with a buy-now-pay-later option. The benefits are not one-sided, of course. By going omnichannel, merchants can capture data from every channel that their buyers use. With this in mind, omnichannel shopping seems to offer significant convenience to buyers and business value to merchants, a win-win situation.
Moreover, in the post-pandemic environment, as shoppers are constantly switching between online and offline purchasing, the need for integrated POS experiences is greater than ever. Since consumer expectations are changing and the digital transformation trend will stay for the foreseeable future, merchants should be prepared to provide clients with shopping experiences across multiple channels.
Just think about the following: around 15 years ago the average customer used only two touchpoints when buying an item, and only 7% regularly used more than four channels. Whereas today some shoppers use around six touch-points and 50% regularly use more than four.
A case in point about that has to do with the changing shopping preferences. Nowadays, customers take a multi-device path to purchase. According to data from the European E-commerce 2021 report, around 65% of shoppers in SEE begin their shopping journey on their smartphones, then they switch to a PC or laptop, and after that, some even continue their buying experience on a tablet.
Additionally, the lines between online and offline shopping are steadily blurring and this highlights the importance of being present across many channels. This is a trend that started a long time ago, as reports show that back in 2015, 51% of European customers researched new products online and then visited a physical store to make the actual purchase. Another 32% did the following: researched products online, then visited a store to view the product, after which switched back to online shopping to finalize the purchase. Less than half of the surveyed reported that they use only digital channels to both research and buy products. Today, this trend has become even more tangible as reports predict that by 2022, 37% of the total offline sales in the European Union will be driven by digital and mobile touchpoints.
However, simply being present across channels brings significant value added to businesses as it boosts their marketing and sales efforts. This value multiplies when businesses enable interactions with their customers across the channels that they are present on.
According to research from the international market intelligence company for buyer behavior Aberdeen Group, in the very near future businesses that have developed omnichannel customer engagement strategies would be able to retain around 90% of their customers. On the other side, companies with non-existing or weak omnichannel strategies would only keep around a third of their current clients. This is toppled by the fact that companies with strong omnichannel customer engagement observe a 9.5% YoY increase in annual revenue.
When it comes to the payment preferences of consumers, according to the latest data from Statista, one out of five Europeans likes to use fintech payment applications for making online purchases. The second most popular method for online shopping is through debit cards, and payments via Apple Pay, Google Pay, and e-wallets are also on the rise. And as payment options for consumers increase, merchants need to look for ways to accept all of these purchase financing options.
And what is the role of omnichannel payment processing providers? In a nutshell, such payment solutions help merchants create a cohesive payment experience across all customer touchpoints so that they can have a unified view of all of their payments regardless of the channel.
As technology develops there are more and more channels that are available for buying and selling. Smartphones are one of the most used sales and payment channels. However, if merchants want to take advantage of that sales channel, they need to have payment integrations for mobile payments, social media shopping, and online shopping. On the other hand, in order to catch all in-person touch points, they need to have POS terminals, kiosks, salespeople, and contactless payment processing integrations. For desktop shopping, retailers can take advantage of having a customer payment portal or option for email pay, while for B2B selling, they should consider additional software integrations for recurring payments and subscriptions.
The complexities of providing customers with integrated purchases on multiple channels do not end with the multiple buying touchpoints. When it comes to payments, security is of key importance, and as omnichannel strategies cover a spectrum of payment methods, it requires data to be constantly moved from one place to another. To help merchants with that, omnichannel payment providers use tokenization and encryption to store and transit customer payment data. In addition, some omnichannel solutions offer integrations of a full suite of payment tools including email pay and customer payment portal.
So, how can merchants integrate their payments? First, it is worth noting that integrating payments is not just about consolidating every payment stream with one provider. Instead, it is more about ensuring that businesses provide customers with an omnichannel portfolio of integrated and digitally-enabled products which allow POS payments, online payments, dynamic currency conversions, and various networks to work seamlessly together. This can be achieved in three ways: merchants can either choose to create a custom integration, use plugins, or use native API integrations.
Before mentioning the benefits, let’s first see what are the main problems with single-channel selling and payment processing. Usually, when customers have separate journeys in every channel they shop, their data gets siloes, and their payments and orders have to move through their own unique set of checkpoints. What this means is that merchants need to deal with complex workflows and payment verifications. Moreover, this siloing makes it difficult for them to personalize the customer experience and connect payments with order processing, sales, and marketing.
Therefore, as noted above, one of the most prominent benefits for businesses that comes from integrating multiple shopping touchpoints is that they are better able to recognize customer behavior across multiple channels. As buyers switch between online and offline interactions, in order to create a superior and more consistent shopping experience, retailers need to combine the insights they have about the offline and online shopping habits of their clients. By enabling connected experiences and omnichannel payments, merchants are able to get the whole picture and gain an actionable understanding of their shoppers’ profiles and shopping preferences.
With the collected insights, retailers can then provide customers with relevant and personalized communication across multiple channels. Whether it is a social ad, a mobile push notification, a newsletter, a conversation with a chatbot, or a human, customers wish to be able to interact with businesses via channels that they feel most comfortable with. This means that customers are more likely to become loyal shoppers. Data from HBR study of customer behavior shows that six months after customers have an omnichannel shopping experience with a given brand, they make 23% more trips to the retailer’s store.
Another major omnichannel commerce benefit comes from the fact that integrated experiences are proven to increase sales and traffic. A 2017 Harvard Business Review study of 46K shoppers found that omnichannel customers spend around 4% more money in-store and 10% more online. What is more, the percentage appeared to increase as the number of touch-points and channels increased – customers who interacted with brands on more than 4 channels, spent around 10% more money in-store.
By adopting an omnichannel approach, merchants, especially those working in the clothing vertical, also ensure that they do not lose sales when a customer comes into their store but can’t complete the purchase because they are out of stock. This gives businesses an endless aisle capability meaning that customers can take advantage of the full catalog of products at any time, regardless of what is in stock in the given physical store.
From customers’ perspective, shopping from an omnichannel business means that they are able to pay online, collect in store – an option for online purchases also known as “click and collect”. Buyers are also enabled to save and re-use their payment credentials so that they can buy anything from a given merchant in just one click. Merchants either allow clients to save their card details during a traditional online purchase, so that they can later use it to buy via an app, or allow them to save credit details during a face-to-face purchase, and later use it for online and mobile commerce.
In order to find out what it is like to develop an omnichannel payment service in the CEE region, The Recursive team reached out to Valeria Vahorovska, co-founder and CEO of Fondy, a payment platform that allows businesses to accept money and make payouts to partners in the currencies of their choice by using their IBAN accounts.
The platform is designed to help companies of all sizes access fuss-free ways of selling online worldwide using local payment methods. The startup is part of the third season of the Visa Innovation Program for SEE fintech innovators that is managed by one of the leading early-stage venture capital funds in the SEE, Eleven Ventures.
What is the biggest problem Fondy is solving for its customers and what is the story behind the startup?
Fondy is a one-stop payment platform designed to simplify cross-border payments and payouts for online businesses of all sizes. Our technology enables merchants to accept money and make payouts to partners and suppliers in the currencies of their choice. The payment gateway is integrated with over 300 payment methods including local cards, internet banking, and eWallets such as Apple and Google Pay, as well as global debit and credit cards. Being a B2B2C company, we aim to solve one big problem for all starting businesses, namely the simplicity of starting to sell online and do that globally.
The Internet provides a great opportunity for businesses to reach new clients, but when they actually have to start accepting money from individuals, they realize that it is not that easy. As a result, we developed a scalable plug and play solution that allows merchants to accept payments without writing a single line of code. Instead, we allow them to create payment links and send them to their clients.
Another problem that we wanted to solve is related to the ease of paying in local currency. Our payment page automatically supports all local payment methods such as card schemes, online banking, and local digital wallets. Therefore, with Fondy businesses can support all payment methods without having to think about any additional integrations.
How do you enable merchants to take advantage of the increasing demand for omnichannel shopping experiences? What are the benefits to businesses and shoppers?
We support businesses that sell both online and offline. As an example with a specific segment of clients, we provide restaurants with the option to receive payments through QR codes. Therefore our solution allows restaurants to accept digital and card payments without the need to purchase POS terminals, and other expensive hardware. Instead, they can use a simple and all-encompassing solution that supports payments from bank accounts and digital wallets.
From a consumer’s point of view, we are focused on improving the user experience. Unfortunately, oftentimes when consumers don’t understand what is happening on the payment page, they are more likely to leave without completing their order. Our solution adapts payment pages to the local language to make them easily understandable by the consumer. Based on the consumer’s location, Fondy also automatically adapts to the local currency and shows the payment options which are most relevant for the specific region. Our team aims to speed up and simplify the process on the payment page.
By using tokenization of the payment, our solutions enable customers to make the payment in just one click. This means that customers who complete payment with us will be recognized the next time they want to purchase something and they wouldn’t have to fill in all of their payment details all over again. Since Fondy is also a regulated financial institution, we provide our users with a high level of security and compliance.
At what stage of development are you in 2021 and what are your short and long-term plans?
As of now, we are enabling payments for more than 15K customers across Europe, the US, and Asia, and we are working with around 1K business clients including big international companies.
Fondy already supports payments in 100 currencies, through simple API integration, and is also compatible with more than 30 content platforms. We are accepting local and international payments through websites, apps, social media platforms, like Instagram and Facebook, and digital wallets.
Can you share some examples of how the Visa Innovation Program helped you develop Fondy?
We are really glad to participate in the program and be able to use the infrastructure of Visa to boost our capabilities and enable more merchants and SMEs to provide their clients with omnichannel payment solutions.
What better proof that the future of shopping is omnichannel, than the fact that web-only international giants such as Amazon have already started to invest in opening brick-and-mortar stores with self-checkout shopping carts. The US retail and wholesale giant Sam’s club allows shoppers to use its Scan & Go feature and pay for their purchases only through their phone. Companies such as the US providers of check-out free technologies Grabango and Standard Cognition use a combination of cameras, IoT shelf sensors, and AI to allow shoppers to walk around the store, pick products, walk out, and be charged automatically.
New point-of-sale technologies, such as mobile point of sale (mPOS) and in-store kiosks are enabling more and more merchants to adopt omnichannel approaches. In-store kiosks most often take the form of a tablet or similar device placed at a dedicated area in the physical store. They allow buyers to access the full online catalog of the business and make an online purchase while in-store. On the other hand, mPOS devices are getting smaller, lighter and more convenient, allowing merchants to be more flexible than ever and even send electronic receipts via email instead of printing them.
Some more experimental POS technologies such as Bluetooth beacons allow merchants to install Bluetooth low-energy radios in-store and detect nearby Bluetooth-enabled devices such as customers’ iPhones. Businesses can then send unique user IDs to the devices which enables real-time communication via push notifications. By using beacon technology, businesses are able to track exactly where customers are in the store and use that information to send contextual and hyper-local messaging and advertisements on their smartphones.
In the future, omnichannel customers may also be able to use online tools for real-time information about the availability of products in-store. By having an online view of physical stock availability, customers would no longer need to make inquiries via phone or messages.
Internet-of-Things technologies and the widespread use of fitness and health wearables such as the Apple Watch are further boosting customer connectivity. They make the lines between online and offline blur faster by allowing the physical environment to seamlessly link to smart devices. The opportunities for marketers and salespeople seem to be endless.