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By Gary Bowers, Product Manager and Shaun Shehab, Senior Sales Engineer at Ecentric


Retailers need to keep costs under control and reduce complexity in economic conditions that can best be described as uncertain and challenging. Yet, despite this, they need to give customers (and their employees) the kind of payment experience they demand. Beyond this, defining and implementing a seamless customer experience, while managing payments efficiently, becomes a differentiator – meaning customers want to return.


In the multichannel world we have all become accustomed to over the years, customers have various means of paying for goods. They can pay online, instore, on different devices and through different platforms. While being able to offer this convenience to the customer, retailers are increasingly finding the management of this is becoming cumbersome and expensive. Because of this, more and more retailers are seeking one vendor for everything payment related, leading to more synergy across in-person retail and ecommerce platforms.


It’s obvious why: Different vendors mean different SLAs and technology stacks, yet somehow all these things need to talk to each other in a way that not only enhances customer and employee experience, but that supports the business’s objective of driving growth and profitability. Retailers want simplicity.


How do we know this? With the experience of managing 20% of all South Africa’s card transactions and being the payment provider to 65% of the country’s JSE-listed retailers, we have come to understand that despite each context being unique, there most definitely are shared pain points, with multiple vendors adding complexity to the multichannel often being front and centre.


How can retailers change this?


The answer lies in appreciating the difference between a multichannel environment and a true omnichannel ecosystem. Picture this scenario: A customer walks into a brick and mortar store and asks for two pens, a blue one and a red one. There is only a blue pen in the store. The customer pays once, at a single POS, and the red pen is automatically scheduled to be delivered to them the next day.


The subtlety in this scenario lies in the fact that the customer wasn’t instructed to go onto another channel, online, nor was the customer expected to make a second purchase. This type of scenario, more often than not, requires a terminal agnostic, interoperable solution architecture, which is why, certainly from our perspective, it is achieved with home-grown, in-house technology that can speak to the array of devices and platforms being used in the country.


Achieving a true omnichannel payments environment requires removing the complexity between point of sale (POS) and payments – not only from a technical perspective but also from a compliance point of view. Every retailer in this country will understand the regulatory obstacles, which is one of the major contributors to them seeking a single point of contact that removes complexity.


Retailers would do well to seek out, and test, the integration capabilities of their preferred vendor. An entire article, possibly a series of articles, could be dedicated to the sheer volume of solutions and products in the market. Interoperability is crucial. When integrating, each cog needs to shake hands – or, be friendly – with the next or the machine won’t turn efficiently.


Finally, retailers should seek out partners that can enable the experience they are after. Setting up a flagship store is very different from doing pop-up stores, yet the experience and efficacy of payments should be consistent in order to maintain the same customer experience and brand promise.


Simplifying the customer and employee experience, and reducing retailer headaches by prioritising the removal of complexity in the payments landscape, should be a priority – and if it isn’t yet, it will be soon. The technology and expertise to achieve this state effectively already exists. It is entirely possible to run online payment accepting and processing, in-store accepting and processing, the software and recon for both, and backend switching with a single vendor. Battling in the old complex paradigm is well and truly a thing of the past for retailers of the future.