EXCLUSIVE: “One-stop shop” – Andrew Mitchell, JCB in ‘The Paytech Magazine’
In order to thrive, retailers should prioritise providing their customers with instant gratification in every possible avenue, says Andrew Mitchell from JCB
If commerce was under pressure pre-COVID, things are even tougher now as retailers, both off – and increasingly online, strive to win the consumer buck. Many high streets are now devoid of once-mighty department stores whose owners were late in realising the enormity of the e-commerce boom. But it is not only traditional bricks-and-mortar merchants that are struggling. One particular UK fashion brand, only recently a market darling, plunged into administration in late May owing millions of pounds to its clothing suppliers, as a well-known rival turned up the dial by being able to sell cheaper and faster, by manufacturing its own products. So, what’s the answer in an increasingly complex, omnichannel world where innovation and change have been supercharged by the COVID-19 pandemic?
In a new white paper, Unified Commerce – Reaching For A Seamless Customer Experience, global payment network provider and card issuer JCB argues that the guiding principle for all businesses, going forward, should be a constant focus on customer experience, particularly on how to meet and exceed their needs. And to successfully do this, JCB encourages all players in the payment and merchant ecosystem to consider a new concept that it is calling ‘unified commerce’ (UC). It’s, effectively, a one-stop-shop approach to purchasing.The white paper argues that the current omnichannel approach often doesn’t allow the integration of channel sales, transaction data or inventory in one place and, therefore, fails to provide the ‘single source of truth’ that retailers need to connect and analyse processes for operational gaps; to develop frictionless customer experiences that drive conversions and profitability.
UC, it suggests, brings all the retailers’ channels, payment systems and products together into a centralised platform, linking back-end systems with customer-facing elements. The rich data created then allows merchants to build crucial insights into their customers and their behaviours across all touchpoints.
That previously unobtainable information can then be used to help improve both customer and team member experiences, as well as strengthening any operational weaknesses, leading to increased profitability and loyalty.The importance of being able to do so is starkly underscored by three facts cited in JCB’s white paper. Namely, it is estimated that the global e-commerce market will total $6.169trillion by 2023; the average online cart abandonment rate runs at a staggering 70 per cent; and e-commerce is experiencing a steep rise in returns – currently 30 per cent of all purchases and it is still growing.
Andrew Mitchell, VP of development and infrastructure for JCB International (Europe), insists that UC creates a ‘win win’ for retailers and customers.Spelling out the benefits, he says: “Perhaps a customer may buy a product and then have to return it online, or they may buy something in a bricks-and-mortar store and have to return that online, and they will be able to do so in a very smooth and seamless way.“Producing this seamless experience for the consumer means that the retailer is more able to service the customer and assess how the transactional traffic is flowing in a more concrete way. I think everybody is used to the concept of UX or user experience; now we have to look at CX, the consumer experience.”
Mitchell accepts that UC is a ‘paradigm shift’ away from omnichannel which, over time, has left many businesses developing separate structures within their organisations while reacting to new market demands.“When it comes to payment acceptance, a lot of retailers have looked at the bricks-and-mortar establishments, online capabilities and in-app purchases, and have treated those as kind of single silos,” he explains.“They develop a particular channel for face-to-face, they may develop something else for e-commerce. With UC, the key thing is the linkages. So, it’s looking at the back end of what goes on in the retailer’s engine, as it were, and how we, as a payment industry, can service that.
“The acquirers we work with, in particular, are now beginning to provide services for their retail partners that enable them to manage things like their stock supply and observe how that interacts with the payment modalities.
“So, we have these different ends of the chain chronologies. The stock has to be in the shop, the customer has to be able to buy it, using the payment method they prefer. The payment data has to be delivered correctly to the cardmember’s issuing institution, be that a bank or whatever, to ensure that the billing is something that is satisfactory to the customer, that it has the correct data that the customer needs, and perhaps that can then service loyalty and promotion. The retailer has to be able to service that, so I think retailers and acquirers are taking a big leap forward in how they connect all of those different platforms.”
Integrated systems also allow merchants to easily add new payment methods across multiple channels. JCB’s white paper cites the example of Watches of Switzerland, which opened a new acceptance modality channel by enabling Zoom-based customers to make purchases via secure payment links generated by payment provider Adyen.
“We, as a payment method, can’t necessarily affect things like stock, but what we can do is touch every part of that kind of middle layer, the transactional layer,” Mitchell stresses. “We can obviously provide payment acceptance in the way that the JCB cardmembers like to pay, but we can also offer certain frameworks at the back end of that, so that, when we are exchanging transactional data, we make sure that data is rich. “What we, as a payment network, have been looking to do for a number of years, is to improve the level of data enrichment that we can provide to our issuing institutions. We’re working on new methodologies for doing that.”
A crucial part of enhancing customer experience is establishing their trust in both the retailer and the payment provider, adds Mitchell.“I don’t want to get too geeky about it, but we also look at the security layer, because the key, I think, to any transactional relationship between a consumer and a merchant is going to be heavily vested in the consumer being able to trust that their data will be kept securely, and that they will get the output from the transaction that they wish, in terms of loyalty, benefit and seamlessness. What we need to look at now is how retailers in this competitive world, where everything is becoming more digitised, are always able to exceed that customer need and that will produce customer satisfaction.”
But becoming part of this new linked-up ecosystem is not without its challenges for retailers that continue to rely on years-old legacy payments systems. As Mitchell puts it: “Probably, from a retailer-to-acquirer perspective, you’re only as good as your stack.
“One of the big problems we see, particularly when we try to integrate different businesses, is the legacy of legacy; we tend to see a lot of legacy systems and dependencies on third-party providers, which make it very difficult for us to integrate to different stakeholders within the payment chain.
“The flexibility of those system stacks that enable the exchanges of data is key. You have to have an effective production of data and then the ability to take that data and do the meta-analyses of it in a way that will benefit you and your business and enable you to strategise.”
THE FIGHT AGAINST FRAUD
JCB also points out that consolidation of systems and data can help reduce the ever-present risk of fraud through the use of interoperable security like its own J/SecureTM authorisation system.To provide some context, it cites the fact that global losses from payment fraud incurred by payment card issuers, retailers and acquirers, tripled in the decade to 2020, to $32.39billion, and are forecast to total $40.62billion by 2027.“We are always in a pitched battle between fraudsters and security providers,”
Mitchell says. “We’ve been working on a number of things, particularly with EMVCo, the card payment industry body, to develop a new technology, which is known by a couple of names, but let’s call it ‘secure remote commerce’, a form of broad tokenisation. “We also have our own proprietary method, card-on-file tokenisation, and we support m-pay wallets, where card data is kept securely, behind several firewalls, so that at least when someone is transacting at the point of sale they’re not actually using their real card number. There’s a cryptography layer behind a cryptography layer, behind a cryptography layer.
“That’s going to be very important, because fraudsters are getting more sophisticated. Quantum computing is coming, which means they will be able to mine for cryptograms much quicker, so we need to get ahead of the game. But keeping everything behind several layers of firewall is probably a wise thing to do in future and we’re definitely on that.”
With consumer trends moving faster than ever, an inflationary squeeze, and tough competition among retailers, it must be comforting to know that at least your payments provider is on your side.
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