Guest Column | May 2, 2014

5 Features Of A Best-Of-Breed Solution For Your Customers

By Russ Harty, SVP Key Account and Partner Channels, Cayan

Top Federal IT Initiatives Include Security, Disaster Recovery, Digitizing Records

When searching for the best payment solutions for your customers, it can be difficult to know what exactly your criteria should be. With 190 mobile payment apps on the market and hundreds of business-oriented solutions available, it’s important to develop a clear set of guidelines to help you pick the right ones. In general, a payment tool should provide a better experience for the business and its customers, but what makes for a truly “best-of-breed” solution? Here are five qualities to look for in a great solution for your customers:

1.  Mobile Capabilities: Mobile payments solutions are on the rise when it comes to merchant and consumer adoption. With a plethora of options on the market, from the Android-enabled NFC (near field communication) and Apple’s BLE (Bluetooth low energy) to QR (quick response) codes and smartphones now in the hands of more than two-thirds of Americans, mobile payments are a crucial part of any modern payment solution. Starbucks, for example, earned an estimated $1 billion in 2013 from transactions via their smartphone app alone. Resellers should ensure that that the solutions they offer their customers embrace the reality of our mobile future by offering mobile payment and loyalty options that appeal to consumers. Moreover, mobile means a whole new stream of data for businesses, which can use it to improve their offerings, find new customers, and better market to their existing base.

2. Security: Of course, it doesn’t matter how exciting a payment solution is if it isn’t secure. Recent breaches at major retail chains including Target and Michaels directly impacted sales and customer trust, and VARs should view this as a lesson. It’s vital to select solutions for your customers that will protect their reputations by guaranteeing security. EMV is one example of a secure card-based payment technology that VARs should recommend their customers support, especially since U.S. adoption is predicted to grow significantly in the coming years. Moreover, in the fall of 2015, all businesses that don’t accept EMV will be liable for any fraudulent purchases, making EMV not only an appealing option but a necessary one for many small businesses to protect themselves. Mobile payments also offer new levels of security, because transactions conducted via mobile device have many more authentication options than traditional credit or debit transactions. Resellers must help their customers balance innovation at the POS with security that will keep their businesses safe.

3. A Seamless Customer Experience: Businesses today need to interact with their customers not only in-store but online as well, and it’s up to resellers and their partners to provide a seamless, omni-channel experience. There are several interesting ways businesses today are going about providing this experience. The Apple Store, for example, has decreased checkout lines by equipping sales representatives with smartphones and tablets that can process payments. Beyond reducing friction at the POS, Macy’s adoption of Apple’s iBeacon technology allows customers to not only pay using their devices, but also receive deals and reminders based on their online browsing activity. Toys “R” Us, too, embraces an omni-channel strategy, intertwining the in-store and online experiences with convenient shipping options (such as online shipping to a specific store so customers can pick items up) and reaching customers on the go with mobile-optimized e-commerce apps. It’s important for VARs to partner with companies that can provide businesses with these types of smooth, omni-channel experiences for their customers.

4. Loyalty Programs: When done well, loyalty programs are well integrated into the shopping experience and provide personalized rewards that keep customers coming back again and again. Mobile technology in particular can help make the loyalty experience a positive one. While punch cards are still a popular option for many small businesses, apps can offer far more robust loyalty options by personalizing deals and discounts to each individual’s preferences. Starbucks is a great example of a large company using mobile payments to drive loyalty. Not only does the app allow users to pay using their devices, but it also offers opportunities for direct marketing with coupons and deals, and “gamifies” the loyalty experience by giving users stars for their purchases and rewards for those stars. Mobile payment startup LevelUp makes this possible for small business owners, too, by offering loyalty programs (including white label apps) that offer discounts that increase in value over time, giving customers an incentive to return to the same store again and again. Resellers should seek out solutions that combine payments with loyalty, as this streamlines the process and also allows businesses to take advantage of the data gathered before, during and after the transaction and use it to improve their marketing techniques over time.

5. Flexibility: As you can see, payment and loyalty technologies are evolving rapidly today, significantly altering the way we exchange money for goods. Today’s payment solutions range from tablet POS systems to mobile wallet apps powered by NFC to card innovations like EMV. To stay competitive in this dynamic landscape, today’s businesses require a flexible solution that allows them to keep up without spending a fortune on hardware and software upgrades every few months. When you choose solutions for your customers, you should be sure to look for ones that will allow them to easily accept new types of payment and loyalty programs as they are developed. Selecting a solutions partner that is tuned into the fluctuating nature of today’s payments technology market is vital for resellers today. Make your decisions with an eye on flexibility and the goal of helping your customers future-proof their businesses as much as possible.

Choosing a solution can be easy, but choosing the right solution takes a great deal of time and thought. The most important piece of advice to keep in mind when going through this decision process is whether or not a partner offer all the tools and opportunities your customers will need to be successful both today and in the future. The solutions you offer your customers should be able to provide the businesses you serve with all five of the qualities described above integrated into a best-of-breed experience, enabling them to connect with their customers in meaningful and value-driven ways.