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The Merchant Balancing Act: Operational Costs vs Customer Experience

customer experience versus operational costs balancing act

There is no excuse any more for a poor payments experience, but retailers are tasked with a delicate balancing act – not only balancing payments fraud and friction, as we explored in a recent blog post – but also cost and customer experience. With many areas of the business competing for resources, should retailers be cutting costs when it comes to payment acceptance, or focusing on delighting the customer through innovative payment experiences?

 

Cost of customer experience can’t cripple the business

While customer experience is critical to retention and revenue growth, it needs to be delivered at a cost that doesn’t cripple the business. From a payments perspective, the key to this challenge is flexibility. Merchants need to use payments tools and technology which are based on open architecture, with the ability to easily adapt and grow with business and customer needs. This helps retailers to continue enhancing the customer experience without the continual drain on costs and resources that comes with large-scale technical redevelopment.

This allows retailers the ability to better fine-tune the experience for their customers. Payment platform consolidation plays an important role here, since it can help to ensure consistency of experience for customers across sales channels, provide a single view of the customer across business siloes and reduce the costs both to innovate and operate.

According to recent research by ACI Worldwide and Ovum, more than half (53%) of retailers believe that SaaS or cloud-based solutions can increase their ability to launch new products and services – this is an option retailers should investigate. These solutions can also, in turn, help to reduce operational overheads by minimizing payment infrastructure costs.

Leading retailers are increasingly moving to cloud-based payments solutions that are built upon agile, open architecture, which supports omnichannel services and fast time-to-market for new innovations. The retailers that have moved in this direction are attuned to customer preferences, and are integrating the payment and fulfilment options that customers want to ensure they can deliver an experience that brings them back again and again.

Cloud-based payment solutions that are vendor independent and acquirer agonistic can also help retailers to manage costs, since they provide the flexibility to negotiate fees, and also ensure that they don’t get locked in to technology that is quickly obsolete.

 

What are the priorities for retailers?

In a recent survey conducted with Internet Retailing, it was evident that customer experience is the priority, but with an eye still on cost. More than half (55%) of those surveyed said that customer experience was a priority, but with an eye on cost, whilst a third (33%) said it was a compromise or equal balance between the two. Only 8% of respondents said that cost to serve was their main priority.

With the opportunities that currently exist around payments – some brought by new regulations such as PSD2 – retailers should be embracing rather than resisting change. It is this change that creates new opportunities to improve the customer experience, and retailers will only be able to do so if they have allocated their resources wisely.

 

I will be at Money20/20 Europe in Amsterdam with my team, June 4-6. Reach out to me if you want to book a meeting and discuss your own payments strategy.