The payments industry is rapidly changing, and consumer payments preferences are at the forefront of that transformation. Consumers are eager to try payments innovations if it means they can make faster, more convenient purchases. Businesses that fail to meet these expectations risk losing their competitive advantage.

At this year’s ETA TRANSACT conference, our CEO, Vijay Sondhi, gave a presentation on payments innovations and evolving consumer trends. In the session, he explored what ISOs and ISVs can do to stay relevant and enable convenient, fast payment experiences for merchants.

For those who couldn’t attend, we’ve highlighted a portion of his presentation below:

Consumer Payment Trends

The most important thing that many of us in the payments industry forget is that we are all consumers at the end of the day. Consumers prefer choice, convenience and security - that’s what they care about.

With NMI being a software company that delivers payment gateway services, onboarding and CRM (customer relationship management) technology, we are always talking about our databases, processes, connections, features and functions. Sometimes, though, we lose sight that there’s something beyond authorizing, clearing and settling transactions. There’s something before that, which is the customer experience.

We polled over a thousand consumers in the United States last year, and not surprisingly, speed and convenience were the two things that mattered most to respondents. In the U.S., 84% of consumers cited convenience as the number one reason they used a preferred payment method, with 49% citing speed.

Consumers want the payment experience to be easy. For instance, think about the last time you took an Uber. Did you touch your card? Did you authenticate the payment with a biometric face scan or PIN? No - there was no payment experience; it was automatic. The ultimate payment experience is the one that never happened.

In our survey, we also found that 69% of respondents have made a contactless payment, up from 54% six months prior. In 2020, only 22% had used contactless payments. In two years, adoption rose from 22% to 69% and keeps climbing.

Another thing that has gained dominance is BNPL - Buy Now, Pay Later. Many people still use the original BNPL, which was (and is) the credit card. In our poll, 54% of respondents said they had used BNPL and only 36% used biometrics. BNPL is now more prevalent than biometrics.

Specialization in Verticals

One of the things we’re seeing in our industry is a divide between ISOs (independent sales organizations) and ISVs (independent software vendors). It’s trendy to be an ISV but not as trendy to be an ISO.

But the reality is, it’s an irrelevant distinction because what we’re all doing is giving merchants the ability to accept payments.

To do that, we need a MID (merchant identification number), to connect to a bank and a sponsor bank. Then, we need to connect to a processor and have authorization come back to process the transaction. So, it doesn’t matter whether you’re an ISO or an ISV; what matters is specialization, specialization within verticals.

At NMI, we see several verticals emerging, such as field service, medical and dental. One such vertical is veterinarians. During the pandemic, pet payments went through the roof. People went out and got pets, and then prices went up. We had a lot of clients who serviced the pet vet market ask us for new solutions. They needed to take curbside payments because they couldn’t let people into the vet office.

At first, we asked if their payment device’s USB cable would reach from the desk to the curbside. It would not. Then, we considered Bluetooth payments. But what if the Bluetooth didn’t work or the person taking payments didn’t know what Bluetooth pairing was? That wouldn’t work, either.

Pets were getting sick, offices didn’t have enough staff and vets couldn’t take payments. So, over the weekend, we developed a QR code solution. Nearly everybody uses QR codes; it’s a nice way to pull payment credentials in and then push payments out. So we rolled out a QR code solution for our customers servicing the vet industry.

Those kinds of technologies moved quickly in the pandemic, and now they’re here to stay.

Our message to those servicing merchants is to focus on a niche and then dive deep. Get to know how pet vets work. Or, consider targeting medical and dental professionals. Beyond basic payments, there are countless use cases in terms of HIPAA compliance, firewalls and tokenization of data that are all incredibly important.

The key takeaway from this is to focus on the customer, then focus on the niche. Horizontal payment services are hard to sell because they’re too generic and don’t meet the consumer where they are. Instead, look for ways to grow into new verticals and target unique niches.

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