In 2018, consumers enjoy more choice and power over their purchasing decisions than ever before. The retail market has evolved to the point where the strength of a product and its price no longer call all the shots. Below Peter Caparso, President North America at, explains why payments may even be considered a commodity in today’s markets.

To stand out with a clear differentiator, merchants now need to emphasise the customer experience. As an essential business function, payments have long been considered a utility. But perceptions have shifted, and to compete and thrive in a hyper-competitive retail environment, merchants must focus on delivering excellence across the entire customer journey – and that includes the all-important payment experience.

As digital innovation continues to transform how people shop, the quality of the customer’s remittance experience is now just as important as any other commodity or offer. It needs to be easy, intuitive and user-friendly. Ultimately, it must make the buyer’s life easier, not just ensure that the seller gets paid.

Delighting customers

When a customer becomes disillusioned or discontent with their experience with one service provider, they have the power to simply switch to another. In fact, research reveals that some 54% of customers are being driven to the competition because of poor service.

In this regard, payment solutions are no different to any other commodity. Merchants need them, but they aren’t dependent on any particular provider. Instead, they choose the one that provides them with a smooth and frictionless payment service. This is a critical element of the wider customer experience and plays an important part in winning and retaining business.

Providers, therefore, have to supply merchants with relevant technologies such as mobile and desktop functionality, and stay up to date with innovations like voice activated payments. To keep up with innovation and trends, retailers need to work with tech-savvy payment service providers (PSPs) that can provide exceptional customer service and experience to whichever user base they serve.

And as new technologies continue to evolve how payments are processed, a collaborative relationship between merchants and their PSPs will be all the more important. Working in this way will enable merchants to harness new, innovative solutions effectively – and to deliver faster, better services to match market demand. They can continue to attract and delight customers, and make a profit.

Tech driven excellence

The challenge for many merchants, is that not enough PSPs are aware that a payment is in fact, a commodity. What’s more, while many succeed in developing and providing a top-class technology solution, they fail to consider its usability.

The best solutions succeed in merging excellent technology (i.e. automation), with superior customer service. And to achieve the latter, there needs to be room for authentic human engagement. It’s an almost paradoxical combination but finding the right balance is hugely important.

When a merchant signs up to a specific PSP, the PSP has an opportunity to forge a strong relationship. It can collaborate with the merchant to help solve problems, develop improvements and progress business. Of course, the PSP needs to provide a mobile-friendly purchasing and payment service – or risk losing business. However, the ability to delight the merchant goes beyond simply meeting their tech-driven needs.

PSPs that don’t work with merchants in this way have a much harder task ahead of them. They’ll need to make sure that their technology is 100% perfect at all times. Of course, this is always worth aiming for – but, without a more collaborative relationship in place, it only takes one glitch to drive the merchant into the arms of a competitor.

As we head deeper into 2018, merchants need to go above and beyond and pay even more attention to the customer experience they offer – or risk falling behind their competitors.