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FINANCIAL SERVICES | Contributed Content, Singapore
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Alex Teoh

Why omni-channel payments need to be the new norm in retail

BY ALEX TEOH

Electronic payments account for 69%1 of consumer transactions in Singapore – just slightly higher than the global average of 65%. The country’s e-commerce market, valued at US$1.39b in 2015, is predicted to exceed S$7b in 2025 with 60% of consumers saying they bought products online at least once a month2 – some even showing a growing preference to shop online and pick up their purchases in-store.

Consumer buying habits aren’t rooted solely at retail locations or online. They shift between retail stores at malls, smartphones, laptops, and transient, yet trendy, pop-ups. In other words, consumers are omni-channel shoppers. So why haven’t payment systems followed in the same direction?

In Singapore, it’s a common sight to see retail counters with multiple terminals serving different modes of payment: one for credit cards, another for debit cards, yet another for contactless payments. On the back-end, business owners spend hours liaising with various vendors, different banks, grappling with multiple platforms and numerous devices.

Businesses could instead integrate payments across multiple platforms – increasing efficiency and profits by adopting a seamless, omni-channel payments system. In doing so, they would be able to process payments with greater speed and efficiency saving time and resources in their back-offices, leverage integrated data for actionable insights, and offer customers a seamless, integrated experience.

1. Greater efficiency
70% of businesses surveyed in a KPMG report agreed that there are simply too many payment methods to deal with. Many retailers have multiple banking contracts and relationships across Singapore to manage, each of which provides part of the company’s in-store payment solution. This represents an enormous investment in managing reports and financial flows.

By adopting omni-channel payments, businesses will be able to work across a single centralised platform that enables businesses to accept and process payments across multiple markets. In doing so, retailers can drastically simplify these processes, cut down on the human resource and financial investments needed to manage their payment acceptance.

2. Leverage data for actionable insights
The use of technology and data allows local retailers to gain business intelligence and insights into areas such as purchasing habits. Integrating payments from the point-of-sale (POS) system with accounting software or customer relationship management (CRM) systems to capture disparate pieces of information enables retailers to better serve their customers. Leveraging insights gleaned from payment information, retailers can decide when and who to offer discounts and deals to drive sales.

Having access to cross-channel shopper data gives merchants a treasure trove of information that can be analysed for patterns online and offline. They can then mine this information for customer retention and loyalty marketing. Many merchants are already beginning to offer their customers an omni-channel shopping experience and in doing so significantly improve the shopper experience.

An example: a shopper makes a number of purchases from an e-commerce site. Several months later, she goes shopping whilst on vacation. At the checkout, the terminal recognises the shopper’s card, and the staff member adds a discount and a personal thank you thus delighting the customer with an even more seamless, personalised experience.

3. Seamless customer experience
Businesses need to recognise that the customer journey today is fluid, accessible, and continuous. Shoppers can, and want, to purchase whatever they want, without restrictions on time, location, and across social, online, and mobile channels.

Businesses too need to provide a seamless experience and allow customers to start a purchase in the channel of their choice and complete it in a potentially different channel of their choice.

Here’s what a customer journey might look like: a shopper goes into a store and wants a shirt in a different colour than what’s currently available in-store. If a store has adopted an omni-channel approach, the shopper can go to the in-store tablet-assisted sales terminal that carries the entire web-based inventory, choose the colour they want, make the payment on the spot, and have it delivered to the address of their choice.

Omni-channel payments enable retailers to service customers across multiple channels (in-store, online, or mobile); retail sectors, payment types (NETS or debit and credit cards), and payment methods (contactless, chip and PIN, magnetic and online) through mobile point-of-sales devices, payment gateway, or virtual terminal. In doing so, the store has gained a purchase rather than losing an opportunity.

With discerning consumers becoming increasingly accustomed to omni-channel payment capabilities, it will transform "the next big trend" into "the new norm" for consumers in Singapore.

1.http://newsroom.mastercard.com/asia-pacific/press-releases/singapore-among-top-markets-in-asiapacific-advancing-towards-a-cashless-society-new-mastercard-report/
2.https://www.pwc.com/sg/en/publications/assets/total-retail-sea-2016.pdf

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Alex Teoh

Alex Teoh

Alex Teoh is co-founder and chief executive officer at Mint Payments Limited. He has over 15 years' experience in the IT, Telecommunications, and Financial Services sector and previously consulted for PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Capgemini Consulting.

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