Though consumers continue to make the bulk of their purchases in brick-and-mortar stores, e-commerce is growing rapidly. Even the individuals who ultimately visit a retail location to make their final transaction use online tools to research products, engage with brands and gather feedback from other users.
In some cases, consumers visit brick-and-mortar locations but still end up making their purchase electronically through store-provided kiosks, for example, when an item is out-of-stock. Organizations that offer all of these options understand the importance of extending buying opportunities through multiple channels to keep customers moving through the sales funnel.
The Omnichannel Trend
Traditionally, businesses have organized their sales channels into silos, keeping the management of their brick-and-mortar markets completely separate from e-commerce. However, this method no longer meets consumer expectations, as buyers simply don’t view these channels as distinct entities. Today’s buyers are comfortable with researching and purchasing across multiple channels, and they tend to use these options interchangeably – sometimes in a single transaction. They expect their experience with a single brand to have the same look and feel across channels, and they aren’t satisfied with the traditional siloed approach.
Integrating channels for a consistent consumer experience is referred to as omnichannel marketing – and it is a must-have in the current marketplace. As consumers make connections with their preferred brands on social media, online, and in-store they experience consistent messaging, and they can start a transaction with one channel then finish it with another if they wish. Omnichannel payment processing plays a significant role in the success of this strategy.
The Basics of Omnichannel Payment Processing
Payment processing includes a variety of transaction types:
- Online Bill Payments
- IVR Bill Payments
- API Bill Payments
- Virtual Terminals
- Credit and Debit Card Payment Processing
- ACH Payment Processing
- Mobile Payment Solutions
- Check by Phone Payments
Omnichannel payment processing makes it possible for customers to switch between these payment methods seamlessly – sometimes within the same transaction. For example, in an omnichannel payment processing environment, customers could make a mobile payment at a brick-and-mortar store, and they could return an item using the online customer service platform if necessary.
The primary issue with omnichannel transactions is data integration. Managing channels in a silo means customer information cannot be accessed between platforms. For marketing and operations professionals, lack of integration makes an analysis of consumer behavior quite difficult. However, the data integration challenge is particularly acute when it comes to payment processing. Many businesses rely on separate providers for mobile payments, in-store payments, and online transactions, which prevents them from offering an omnichannel experience.
In order to create a seamless customer experience across channels, payment processing must be integrated. All data must go to the same processors no matter where or how the payment is made. To take that step, businesses must have the appropriate technology – and not every payment processing system can deliver. For example, there are situations in which the most basic components of payment processing systems are incompatible across channels.
Other critical elements of an omnichannel payment processing solution include cross-platform tokens and point-to-point encryption (P2PE), which ensures transaction security. Omnichannel payment processing also requires flexible payment engines that can support all types of transactions, from in-store ordering to processing cross-channel returns.
Full-service payment processing providers like PaymentVision offer this technology and more, ensuring cross-functional solutions that create a smooth omnichannel experience for customers.