But a problem that remains for many of these retailers is how to simplify this process, reduce operational cost, improve performance, increase loyalty and track customer shopping patterns – with the ultimate objective of increasing customer spend and profitability. This is mostly a technology challenge and retailers’ strategy for payments is at the heart of it. Today many omni-channel retailers have separate payment platforms and services to process their store payments, their call center payments, their desktop online payments and their mobile payments. In fact, some have more than one solution for each of those channels, particularly where they may have mobile POS for assisted sales in-store, or where their chain has grown through mergers and acquisition. On top of this, separate bank relationships may sit behind each of these systems – increasing inefficiency and driving up costs.
I’d argue that this creates multi-channel retailers rather than omni-channel retailers. Silos in shopping channels often exist as a consequence of service evolution – stores came first, call centers were added later, online retailing became big business and then mobile has rapidly evolved – with each channel implemented in isolation at different times, by different teams, and with different vendors. Some retailers even choose to do it rather than it being a result of natural growth and evolution, because they perceive benefits in having competition between their suppliers.
But the payments process can genuinely connect the channels together – omni-payment creates true omni-channel. The payment card or a loyalty card (which is still usually a part of the payment process) allows customers to be identified irrespective of the channel through which they choose to shop. These cards identify the shopper uniquely but cards can’t easily be shared between the retailers’ systems because of PCI DSS concerns. Tokenization usually becomes the solution and the token becomes that customer’s unique identifier. Tokens can be shared across the different channels – or the systems across each of those channels – ideally via access to one single shared token vault. The omni-token.
Consequently, omni-channel retailers can see and engage with their customers in an individualized way, governed by their CRM systems. Spending patterns can be identified by customer, targeted offers can be made at the checkout and service improved. When customers return online goods to the store, refunds can be made to the card used for the purchase without the customer needing to present their card. But perhaps most importantly to those omni-channel retailers, the breaking down of these silos reduces inefficiencies, streamlines processes, increases automation and ultimately drives down costs.
Customers don’t care about what goes on inside the retailer’s technology stacks and silos. They just want great service and the right products at affordable prices. Omni-channel, done right, can deliver this and payments can be at the heart of enabling it.