By Mia Huntington

We have witnessed a rapidly accelerating pace of change in the payments ecosystem in recent years, and 2019 promises more changes—and challenges—ahead. Consumers want to be able to pay for things when, where and how they want. They are increasingly shunning cash and are opting for card, digital and app-based payments.

Continuing a decade-long trend, Canada is now the second-largest user of credit cards per capita in the world, with 90 per cent of adults owning a credit card, behind only Hong Kong, according to the World Payments Report 2018, published by Capgemini and BNP Paribas. Also, non-cash transactions globally are expected to post a compound annual growth rate of 12.7 per cent through 2021, the report said, so there’s no slowdown in sight.

That means it’s more important than ever for payment processing companies like Elavon Canada to help businesses keep up with ever-changing consumer demands. Elavon’s business customers range from multi-national airlines to local small businesses, and our clients expect the same seamless payments experience regardless of their size or reach.

In simplest terms the four major areas the payments industry should be focused on in 2019 are:

  1. Staying a step ahead of where digital commerce is going. This means anticipating what customers want before they even know they want it. Allowing your customers to split dinner bills and Uber rides or order ahead? No problem. Five years ago, did you know you wanted to pay for your Starbucks Grande Latte before you got to the store?
  2. Further exploring open payments and application programming interfaces (APIs). Large financial institutions and FinTechs both bring value when creating innovative solutions. Open APIs are critical for financial institutions to attract the right FinTech partners. They are the linchpins of the work to create a seamless payments experience for customers.
  3. Using advanced analytics and machine learning to help businesses learn more about their customers. Customer data layers on top of everything else in the payments evolution, from increasing security against fraud to deepening customer relationships and improving customer service. Payments processors are now embedding artificial intelligence (AI) into the merchant experience in ways that not only help sales but increase customer loyalty.
  4. Offering smarter, more flexible point of sale (POS) solutions that go beyond payments. Merchants are focused on running their businesses, and payments are just one of many touchpoints they have with their customers. Whether it be surveying their customers right at the counter, managing their employee schedules or even anticipating inventory needs, POS devices are rapidly becoming integral parts of business owners’ days, both in-store and from the convenience of their mobile devices.

The common thread running through the payments evolution is the focus on customers, both from the merchants’ and the acquirers’ perspectives. We need to look at customers as our guiding North Star. I think about it this way: we not only need to know who our customers are, but we need to know what our customers are doing and why they’re doing it.

Customer expectations and buying habits are evolving. There is an expectation that businesses will anticipate their needs and at Elavon we are focused on helping the businesses we serve to curate not just solutions, but experiences that meet consumers’ expectations. While today’s evolving customers are more likely to try new things, they are also quick to abandon and not repurchase. The priority for us is to create meaningful interactions—as opposed to just transactions—to meet those customers where they are and keep them engaged over time.

Mia Huntington is senior vice president and general manager for Elavon Canada (www.elavon.ca). In her 13 years with Elavon, Huntington has held leadership roles in business development and product management, primarily focused on e-commerce and omnichannel business growth in North America.

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