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Do your customers appreciate all that development effort?

 

cup_of_coffee.JPGI consider myself to be a tech-savvy consumer. When I want to grab a coffee from my favorite chain on the way to work, I pull up the merchant provided app as I start the car. I see my recent orders, and in most cases just re-submit my last purchase. I can get up-to-the-minute information about the stores around me, in case my normal stop is running low on my favorite brand. I place the order, and authenticate payment with a thumbprint as I shift into reverse gear, and set out on the short drive to the coffee shop. When I get there, I check my phone to verify that the order is ready, walk in to the store, greet the clerk, and leave with my cup of brew in a few seconds. The process I just described takes a small army of systems marching in lockstep to pull off. It no doubt took an enormous amount of design, development work, QA & testing. Consider some of the issues that developers had to grapple with:

 

The mobile application needed to communicate with the store’s inventory management system, with a CRM system (to access my profile, preferences and buying history), with Apple Pay or Android Pay to access my payment credentials, and with a payment processor to authorize & process payment. The point-of-sale (POS) system in the coffee shop needed to be able to accept my on-line/eCommerce order and pass it to the barista's queue as it would a regular in-store purchase. The POS needed access to my stored (tokenized) payment credentials, in case I wanted to add some banana bread at the last minute while picking up the coffee.

 

As if this all wasn’t enough, the systems behind the transaction needed my customer details to print out a personalized label that could be used to identify me when I came in to claim my coffee. Trials are already underway with smarter payment systems that pull up a customer’s photo as they walk into the store so that a savvy barista can greet their customer by name and perhaps even wish them a Happy Birthday.

 

Whether too much personalization starts to feel creepy is up for debate, but months of development work and cross-functional teaming no doubt went into this delicate ballet.  Do I appreciate the effort? I haven’t really thought much about it to be honest. I just want my coffee to be ready when I walk in the door. If this shop can't do that, odds are I’ll just find a competitor who can.

 

The lessons for developers & merchants:

Customers may not be familiar with (or care) about things like Tokenization, BLE or Beacons, but they certainly care about convenience, security and good service. Consumers want the buying experience to be simple and seamless. Providing this type of consistent, convenient buying experience requires a high degree of integration between traditionally discrete, channel-specific technologies that merchants have been using for years. The omnicommerce “first movers”, backed by talented IT shops and developers, have set the bar high indeed. Customers might not care about omnichannel, but they certainly know convenience when they see it and are voting with their (increasingly digital) wallets.

 

Developers have a crucial role to play in engineering customer experiences that are as satisfying as the coffee itself!

 

Liked this post? Click "like" at the top to tell us you'd like to see more posts like this.

 

 

To learn more about integrating In-App and web-based buying experiences with your POS, check out our Mobile & Digital Wallet Developer Resources on Vantiv O.N.E.

A Fascinating undercurrent of business funding is currently shifting to a new model. This model is sometimes called a token sale or as some call a pun on the IPO process, the ICO or Initial Coin Offering. This term ICO has become a bad word in some circles, with others preferring ITO or token sale to remove the term from the possible correlation with the regulators. Don't worry if you haven't heard of this, but you probably will in the coming years, and hopefully below will shed a bit of light.

 

How and Why

This finance process is accomplished by raising money by issuing a cryptocurrency token via an initial cryptocurrency offering crowd sale. Generally, the guidelines of the sale are put in place by the capital raising group, although there have been a recent flurry of suggestions and new off-shoots to help guide both the token creator and the purchaser.

 

These companies and their tokens are blazing ahead with incredible traction leaving regulators wondering what to do. There are already hundreds if not thousands of tokens issued and while there are some big hits, there are also many failures. Fred Ehrsam of Coinbase wrote "Some token models don't make sense. For every 1 huge hit there will be 3 minor success and 100 failures, so we shouldn't be surprised when some fail. However, the fundamentals of the token model are valuable and powerful. They allow communities to govern themselves, their economics, and rally a community in powerful ways that will allow open systems to flourish in a way that was previously impossible." A common correlative example is that this now allows the ability to fund a large distributed project, something like Linux, which before there was no direct mechanism to do such a thing.

 

Another good point to keep in mind if you are skeptical about this is that the history of venture capital faced very similar issues. At one time, stocks were considered a new asset class just as cryptocurrencies are today and the very idea of venture capital required re-engineering of the financial regulatory infrastructure.

 

The tokens are coming (what to do about it)

On the Distributed panel, a lot of focus was placed on what to do if you were interested in offering, funding or purchasing token offering. The first thing is to make sure you understand the risks, this is high-risk, bleeding edge technology. Now that we have that out of the way, read about the different types of tokens that are being offered (realize this is a fast moving space, and even that article is a bit dated).

 

Once there is a basic understanding the things to look for include:

  • Team Quality, this is the most important piece, they should have a business team
  • A distinguished product
  • A legible and clear whitepaper that directly calls out the case for the token
  • Should take an international perspective
  • Should have a good advisory board with leading experts in the space

 

Things that to watch out for:

  • If this is a new network token, why?
  • Does it seem speculative and only for profit?
  • Does it have a ceiling in place for the raise
  • If it is complex, it is a red flag

 

If you are looking to create an offering there were some good points brought up as well:

  • Ensure that you have a good product that fits the model
  • Enable information access about the offering
  • Build a large community for the product and the offering

 

Clearly, there are many taking a deep hard look at what is going on here, venture capitalists among those. The blockchain space is clearly bleeding-edge. It seems as if the technology is something similar to the early days of the internet and it is difficult to develop a filter for what is fiction at this point. The use cases are numerous and at times obvious, yet it is unclear how and when we will see adoption. That said, it is exciting that we can fund blockchain projects in a way we never could before and hopefully open up new possibilities that we have never seen before.

 

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Read Part 1 Here: Blockchain Part 1: Cross-Border Payments and Remittances

Read Part 2 Here: Blockchain Explained: Debt Markets and P2P Lending (Part 2)

In February I got to attend the distributed markets hackathon and after spending 24 hours hacking our way through The Coffee Chain we won some bitcoin and got third place! If you want to learn more about our experience read Tony's post here. Due to our efforts, we continued on to the conference and were graced to learn about blockchain use cases from many panelists across different tracks. I want to discuss three of the tracks I attended and I'm going to break this up into three parts. The first being Cross-Border Payments and Remittances, the second, Debt Markets and P2P Lending and the third Token Sales and ICO Funding models. If you need a primer in blockchains, see this article from Brian Forde.

 

Cross-Border Payments and Remittances

 

One of these tracks was cross-border payments and remittances. One of the first things we realize in this space and existing systems is that costs are high. See this guardian article that describes the huge profits extracted on oversea money transfers. At times that can rise into the double digits. When a worker in one country wants to send money to his family in the Bahamas, a double-digit fee can take a significant bite out his pay. The other issue is that the transfer can be inefficient. It can take days or weeks to settle and requires the use of many intermediaries to arrive at settlement.

 

This brings us to bitcoin and the blockchain and it can potentially offer nearly a trillion dollars in savings on these types of transactions. It allows, for a much smaller set of fees and near instant settlement. The issue arises really on the edges of this system where the end users have to convert and deal with their individual fiat currencies. In some realms, it is relatively easy to convert and transfer bitcoin to a fiat currency, in others it is prohibited by central banks. This is where one of the company and individuals directly focused, Gabriel Abed of bitt.com. They took the Barbados dollar and made it digital, the Barbados Digital Dollar. They are doing a lot of the hard legwork with central banks, foreign banks and trying to build true trust amongst the public. There are a lot of questions that remain, but many positives that can be achieved.

 

So, what are the barriers to adoption at present to moving cross-border and remittance transactions into this new digital blockchain realm? As mentioned building trust is probably the first component. There is a cultural stigma to the digitization of cash that is real and present and this must be addressed to gain end-user mass adoption. For now, depending on the friction involved in the transaction, many users will opt for the digitized version if it is easy to use.

 

This brings us to another high priority issue which is ease of use, dealing with private keys, PHPthe highest priority is ease of use.  Crypto-Markets can be complex and understanding cryptographic keys, PGP and more, can all be a bit much for an end user to handle. This is something many gladly pay to have abstracted away in the existing system and don't even know it. This is where something like netki can aid with the abstraction,  working to break down the ease of use case.

 

Another barrier is the lack of standards in the blockchain space. This is where enterprises like ul.com can play a role. Having been involved in payments for many years, recently doing functional testing of EMV cards, standards increase trust, especially amongst B2B intermediaries. UL actively sees a role for standards and will aid in pushing this forward.

 

Traditionally counterparty and systemic risk have been a large issue in this marketplace. When viewed from a crypto-market lens, the glasses can get quite rosy. That is not to say that counterparty and systemic risk do not exist, they do, perhaps, in this case, it could be the underlying trust in the network itself, as opposed to a counterparty risk.

 

In the future, remittance and global money transfer may become as cheap and fast as sending an SMS message to your friend in another part of the world. There may come a point where there is a proliferation of cross-border payments as they become near-free and the ease of use cases are adopted.

 

Next - Blockchain Part 2: Debt Markets and P2P Lending

 

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P2P Lending in the technological sense is a relatively new phenomenon. In the early part of the millennium, a few P2P marketplaces began to spring up in the U.S. offering (at times) high-risk, high-reward loans. One example of this started around 2005, prosper.com. They had to overcome a number of hurdles and even faced a class action lawsuit in 2008. There were others like TrustBuddy that went out of business completely due to misconduct. As of June 2012, Lending Club is the world's largest P2P lending marketplace.

 

These P2P marketplaces have some interesting characteristics, these include:

  • Sometimes for profit
  • No necessary prior relationship between marketplace lenders and borrowers
  • Transactions take place online
  • Loans can be unsecured or secured and are not normally protected by government insurance
  • Potential for faster finance times
  • Ability to circumnavigate some regulations like CRA
  • Loans are securities that can be transferred to others for debt collection or profit

 

P2P Lending is more active abroad.

In non-U.S. based circles the activity in P2P lending has been considerably more active. China is estimated to have the largest and most active market with more than 4,000 providers. This has led some of the largest in the space to take a harder look at blockchain technologies.

 

Large P2P Marketplaces are evaluating BlockChain

During the discussion at Distributed, the panelists were asked if blockchain would even be a good fit in this space. It was generally accepted that from a contractual perspective it was. It appears some large P2P marketplaces are taking notice. China-based Dianrong has begun to integrate an application they are calling D-Chain for greater transparency and security on both the borrowing and lending side. We can see from their D-Chain image below how P2P based activities integrate to the blockchain.

 

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P2P Lending is a new market and is high-risk. Working with bleeding edge technology in a high-risk space may not make sense.  Speed to finance appears to be a great issue to tackle in blockchain P2P finance at first glance, but this really may be a better issue for blockchain to solve on a more traditional instrument, like residential loans that generally take 3-9 months to complete the transaction.

 

The convergence of P2P and blockchain at first glance seem like a natural fit, under the covers, there may still remain a number of challenges that will need to be addressed.

 

Next - Blockchain Part 3: Token Sales and ICO Funding Models

Get Part 1 Here: Blockchain Part 1: Cross-Border Payments and Remittances

jmather

Vantiv Visits Voatz and Toast

Posted by jmather May 11, 2017

At the beginning of April, our team took to the road to visit our colleagues and partners in Massachusetts. We flew into Boston and high-tailed to Lowell office.

 

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Here we got to learn the many intricacies of card not present, and how a well-oiled machine works under the covers.

Developer Integrations on the left, E-commerce on the right, notice our toes dip into the blue on Vantiv blue on both sides:

 

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We also got to spend some time in Boston down on Milk Street. Here we got to visit with Nimit Sawhney, the Co-Founder of Voatz (of Techstars Boston fame, and previous multi-time hackathon winner) and Bjorn Ahbel one of our amazing Vantiv partners from Toast. The Voatz platform is pretty amazing, built on a distributed ledger, it is steadily changing the way the world votes, from political elections to shareholder voting and more. Below you can see Nimit demonstrating the Voatz platform to us.

 

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Bjron and Toast are doing some amazing work, building a true restaurant ecosystem that is unique to the space, leveraging our Payment Facilitator line of business.

 

We, of course, got out to see Boston a little bit as well, unfortunately, the weather wasn't all the cooperative, we made a jaunt to Faneuil Hall but we were nearly stopped by the wind and rain:

 

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We also spent the evening in Boston's north end where we go to visit the cash-only establishment of Mike's Pastry (come on Mike, you know you could make more money by letting Vantiv serve you!). Below you can see me looking very sad that I don't have a pastry of my own:

 

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It is truly special to get to spend time with such innovative and thought provoking team members and individuals. At Vantiv we love to help drive and support innovation both in business and the world of payments. If you ever want to help us innovate with your business, please get in touch.

 

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I’m moderating a Communication Workshop for a Vantiv ISV partner next month, so I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the most effective place to start a discussion on communication best practices. I mean, if the workshop leader communicates poorly, that’s not exactly confidence-inspiring for everyone else the room.

 

I’ve learned that the foundation for effective communication – with co-workers, customers, and even family – begins with the Communication Rule: If you have an issue with someone or someone’s behavior and you seek change or resolution, talk directly to that person.

 

Following the Communication Rule provides an opportunity to demonstrate the Golden Rule – treat others the way you want to be treated. If someone has a problem with you, would you want them to talk with you directly about it? Or would you want them to talk with others, or say nothing at all?

 

The adage “Bad News Never Ages Well” is accurate. The longer you let a bad situation go, the worse it gets. Following the Communication Rule enables problems and misunderstandings to be resolved quickly, which in turn creates a more positive and more productive work environment.

 

In many cases, the person with the undesirable behavior will not know their behavior caused you grief. As a result, the individual will sincerely want to fix the issue. In addition, speaking directly to the person builds respect between the two parties.

 

The following four scenarios related to the Communication Rule show a clear difference in outcomes. Will is a field technician and Sarah is an account executive for Underwood POS. When Sarah calls one of her customers, Taki’s Restaurant, the owner says that he was dissatisfied with Will’s performance yesterday afternoon. The owner said Will was less friendly than normal and rushed through the job of servicing one of their POS systems. He didn’t refill and reattach the receipt printer before he left, and a new staff member had to figure out how to make it work on her own. Sarah apologizes to the owner and thanks him for letting her know about his dissatisfaction. Right after she hangs up the phone, Will enters the office and sits down at his desk across the room from Sarah.

 

  • Scenario #1: Sarah doesn’t say anything to Will because she is afraid of potential confrontations. She crosses her fingers and hopes this won’t be a recurring behavior. When Will leaves the office 45 minutes later for a maintenance call with Serafini’s Restaurant, Sarah’s biggest customer, she gets a pit in her stomach.

 

  • Scenario #2: Sarah doesn’t say anything to Will because she is angry at him. Instead, she walks to the break room where Kristin, a fellow account executive, is pouring herself a cup of coffee. Sarah tells Kristin about the conversation she just had with Taki’s and how angry she is at Will. Kristin only adds to Sarah’s anger when she says, “Yeah, we’re at the mercy of the techs. Nothing we can do but watch the customers that we bring in leave. I wish those guys cared as much as we do.”

 

  • Scenario #3: Sarah doesn’t say anything to Will and instead walks over to the desk of Stu, a field technician who joined the company a few months ago. Sarah vents to Stu about the conversation she just had with Taki’s and how frustrated she is with Will. Stu is uncomfortable hearing negative feedback about his mentor, and he isn’t sure how to respond. After Sarah finishes venting and leaves the room, Will stops by Stu’s desk to ask how he’s doing. Stu relays to Will a version of Sarah’s story about Taki’s. Will replies, “Really? She didn’t say anything to me.” Walking back to his desk, Will wonders to himself what else Sarah and the other sales reps are saying behind his back.

 

  • Scenario #4: Sarah walks over to Will’s desk and asks him if he has a minute. He says yes, so they walk to a conference room where Sarah closes the door. She tells Will about the conversation she just had with Taki’s. Will apologizes profusely. “I’m sorry – I rushed in-and-out of there because right when I pulled into their parking lot I got a call from the Assistant Principal that my son got into more trouble at school and they wanted to meet with me right away. I knew Taki’s wanted their POS system serviced before their dinner rush yesterday, so I told the Assistant Principal I would be there within a half hour. I should have just asked Taki’s if I could come back later to do the job the right way. Would you be OK if I went to Taki’s now before my 10 o’clock service call at Serafini’s? I want to apologize to them directly and then run through my servicing checklist like I should have yesterday to make sure everything is running correctly.” Sarah agrees to that action plan. Will finishes the conversation by saying, “Thank you for letting me know I screwed up. I hope I didn’t harm your relationship with them. I know how hard you worked to bring them in. I promise you I’m going to do better going forward – this won’t happen again.”

 

As those scenarios illustrate, the Communication Rule is fair treatment of your co-workers. They could be doing something wrong inadvertently or doing something below standard that affects their career, your customers, and your company. So direct communication is the best option, but why don’t we follow it every time? Common reasons include:

 

  • These types of conversations make you uncomfortable.
  • The person is your friend, and you don’t want to harm the relationship.
  • You feel you shouldn’t judge others. “Who am I to correct them? I make mistakes, too.”
  • You worry if you criticize them they will quit.
  • You feel you don’t have time to get into a conversation.
  • You assume they already know they need to perform better.
  • You rationalize that what they did isn’t a real problem. “Am I too sensitive? Was this really below standard?”
  • Resignation. “Even if I say something, nothing will change.”

 

Whatever your excuse for breaking the Communication Rule, you have to overcome that mental obstacle. Not addressing below-standard behavior directly and immediately with the person leads to co-workers talking behind each other’s backs, which in turn creates a toxic work environment. If below-standard performance is not addressed, you are essentially condoning the bad performance and allowing it to continue. This bad behavior/performance could spread to others, effectively lowering the standard for everyone.

 

Take a small step right now with the Communication Rule. I’m sure you have a positive opinion about one of your co-workers, so share that with them today. Deliver them a specific compliment about an action they took recently. Develop a habit of talking directly with others about their performance, and you’ll establish the foundation for an effective organization.

 

 

For more On the Edge content, please visit the Vantiv Partner Advantage website.

 

Jim Roddy is a Reseller & ISV Business Advisor for Vantiv’s PaymentsEdge Advisory Services. He has been active in the POS channel since 1998, including 11 years as the President of Business Solutions Magazine, six years as a Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA) board member, and one term as RSPA Chairman of the Board. Jim is regularly requested to speak at industry conferences and he is author of the book Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer.

Every month, Vantiv and PYMNTS.com team up to deliver the latest news in developer spaces. Here’s the overview of the Developer Tracker published in April 2017.

 

Tech-driven commerce might conjure up images of eCommerce giants and large national retailers that offer advanced capabilities like curbside pickup, real-time inventory and mobile point of sale (POS) systems. But what about grocery stores? Considering that consumers visit grocery stores an average of 1.6 times per week, they are a prime place to enhance shopping experiences and leverage some of the benefits that advanced commerce technology can provide.

Amazon and Kroger are making headlines with advancements aimed at speeding up the grocery purchase process. But for smaller grocery stores and specialty food and beverage chains, keeping pace with the resources and technology offered by large chains can be difficult.

 

There are solutions that can help these smaller businesses stay on the cutting edge and compete with the big players in the grocery game. April’s Developer TrackerTM features an interview with Burt Aycock, director of design for ECR Software, a company that develops solutions for smaller grocery and specialty food and beverage merchants. In the interview, Aycock explains how these smaller businesses can use technology to give consumers a taste of the convenience offered by larger chains.

 

According to a recent report, nearly 50 percent of grocery store shoppers both in the U.S. and around the world make decisions about where to shop based on convenience. And some of the biggest players are using self-service technology to make trips to the store faster, more convenient and safer than ever. Aycock says that smaller chains and stores can invest in technology like self-checkout terminals to satisfy consumers looking for more convenience. He goes on to say that online sales systems can give smaller chains a big boost when it comes to competing with larger national names.

 

Aycock’s team at ECR recently released an online shopping module, designed to allow smaller stores the ability to accept online orders that can be picked up in-store by consumers, similar to services being offered by large national chains. “That’s really just another POS lane when it comes down to it,” Aycock says of online sales capabilities, noting that much of the same software and code that powers in-store sales can be used for online channels. “It’s really just about bringing that same sales technology from in-store to the cloud and putting a user-friendly interface on it so that consumers can make their purchases online in a simple fashion.”

 

While consumers may want more convenience and control over their visits to grocery and specialty food stores, they don’t want speed to come at the price of security. “People have a lot of fear and uncertainty about security, so we always look to develop solutions that are obviously stringent and tough but also easy for retailers and consumers to understand and follow through on,” he explains.

 

But that doesn’t mean security should remove simplicity from transactions, either. It’s a hard balance to strike, Aycock says, but consumers expect digital convenience and safety to go hand in hand.

 

In order to offer safe transactions without wasting customers’ time, Aycock says that merchants should look for solutions that combine speed with security. That includes biometric and tokenization features that can be embedded directly into a store’s payments system, such as the OneTouch solution, a biometric fingerprint scanner that tokenizes data while cashiers ring up items.

 

Read the full interview in April’s edition of PYMNTS.com’s Developer Tracker, powered by Vantiv. It also covers other developer-focused news and updates including:

 

  • A cashless Coachella, with help from Square

Organizers of this year’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival announced that all vendors will accept Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay via Square. Coachella also has a digital partnership with American Express this year where the festival’s app will allow Amex members to link their cards for a chance to win rewards during the festival. Other music festivals have used RFID (radio frequency identification) for payments, where users link their payment cards to wristbands. Lollapalooza, for example, has been using RFID technology since 2014.

 

  • TransferWise turns to chatbots

TransferWise customers will now be able to perform banking and financial transactions via their Facebook accounts. The London-based company announced that it developed a chatbot to help users communicate and complete transactions with businesses. The chatbot is designed to send money to and from the U.S., Britain, Canada, Australia and Europe from Facebook Messenger. It can also be used to set up exchange rate alerts. Domestic money transfers are already possible on Facebook Messenger, but TransferWise claims that its service will be the first to enable money transfers globally.

 

  • Deutsche Bank offers HCE payments to German customers

Customers of Deutsche Bank in Germany can now make host card emulation–based mobile payments, according to NFC World. Bank executives said in a statement that customers can download the Deutsche Bank mobile app onto their Android smartphones and then use their Mastercard credit or debit cards to make cashless payments worldwide at Mastercard acceptance points. Deutsche Bank has approximately 300,000 customers who have both a Mastercard product and an Android smartphone.

 

Download the report.

I remember years back in economic class, learning the concept of the "Invisible Hand" influencing markets to find natural equilibrium. Around this same time I read a book called "Kiss, Bow, Or Shake Hands"* that emphasized the importance of customs and protocol's for doing business in other countries. For some reason the two seem very intertwined in my mind as critical to doing business right. On one hand there are forces impacting a business that we are not always aware of. While the other hand we may be doing business without knowing how we're blundering through and insulting those we hope to do business with. Two months back, I was assigned to work with our data science and product team to help bring to market Vantiv BizShield and Insights powered by Womply.

 

As many are aware, what we don't know or see can and usually does impact our business. For a merchant, this typically takes the form of our social media presence (or lack of presence). Most merchants don't have the time to keep up with social media sites. Vantiv BizShield is the first defense for merchants. BizShield alerts merchants when they get a review so that they can take action. So as the invisible hand of the social media world is constantly shifting, the merchant is kept aware of what's going on. The next level of defense is Insights. Insights allows the merchant to take action and improve their social marketing position. In some cases the merchant may not know their business name is unclaimed (and possibly getting negative reviews). Or in other cases the merchant is receiving positive and negative reviews that they need to act on to keep their name as positive as possible. As part of this engagement they are learning how to engage their customers. So as the invisible hand of social marketing is impacting a company, insights is helping to properly engage and resolve customer concerns as they happen.

 

Here are high level features of both solutions

 

Future Webinars

 

Past Webinars

(4/20/2017)- Coming soon

 

(3/14/2017)

Q&A: Questions

 

BizShield

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Insights

 

Statistics

 

Video's

  • BizShield

  • Insights

 

Learn More

 

Recent News

 

References

*Terri Morrison and Wayne A. Conaway

**Winning Them Over is The Key to Growth

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As developers know, APIs come in all shapes and sizes.   In this article, I’ll look at how APIs are commonly used in payments and offer a framework for classifying some of Vantiv’s more popular payment APIs.

 

Webopedia defines an API as follows:

 

“An Application Programming Interface (API) is a set of routines, protocols and tools for building software applications.  An API specifies how software components should interact.” 

 

Obviously, this is a broad definition. It covers everything from opening an OS file to accessing hardware features on a graphics card.  In payments, we can frame APIs more narrowly.  Most payment applications are transactional, and involve sending and retrieving messages to and from remote systems across dedicated links or IP networks.  Examples include authorizing a payment, setting up a subscription, or initiating a bank transfer from a mobile app.

 

Because most payment transactions are message-oriented, protocols loom large in payments.  Below is a description of five types of APIs common in payment applications.

 

1. Message formats & protocols

 

The core protocol used in payments is the ISO 8583 standard.  Although it meets the definition of an API, it is better described as a protocol or message format.  ISO 8583 messages may travel from a merchant terminal or ATM, through to a merchant acquirer, through to card networks, and ultimately to card issuing banks.  The standard is quite detailed and coding ISO transactions requires a sophisticated understanding of how payment networks operate.

 

ISO 8583 format message are usually sent over TCP via socket connections, but it can operate over other transports as well including dial-up, direct links or X.25 networks.  Most developers probably won’t code ISO 8583 messages directly unless they are working at a large retailer, bank, payment processor or payment gateway.

 

Vantiv provides Enterprise retailers and high-volume merchants with the ability to code directly to our core payment systems using the ISO 8583 standard.  When ISO messages are sent across the wire they are very dense and look like a stream of characters with many bit-mapped or binary coded fields.  A parsed view of a partial ISO 8583 message is shown below.  These types of message provide developers with complete flexibility and access to all network features, but they are difficult to code to.  To make integrations easier, Vantiv also exposes more consumable APIs, message specs and SDKs to developers (discussed below) where we manage the translation to ISO 8583 behind the scenes.

 

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2. SOAP XML Web Services

 

SOAP refers to the Simple Object Access Protocol.  SOAP is a W3C XML based standard that allows organizations to publish interfaces such that they are discoverable and platform agnostic.  Interfaces are described using WSDL, the web-services description language.  SOAP Web Services are most commonly provided over HTTPS, however SOAP can run over other transports as well.  The protocol provides an envelope, a set of encoding rules for expressing application defined data types, and a convention for representing procedure calls and responses.  SOAP can be a little verbose, because it was designed to have a lot of functionality.  Several Vantiv platforms expose SOAP interfaces including Vantiv’s core platforms, Vantiv’s eCommerce platform, Vantiv’s Express Platform and the MercuryPay platform.

 

A nice property of a SOAP API is that it is self-documenting.  For example, visiting the endpoint of the MercuryPay SOAP API (https://w1.mercurycert.net/ws/ws.asmx) in a browser shows the available SOAP methods and documents how they are called.

 

3. HTTP/S POST APIs

 

While SOAP is widely accepted as an industry standard, for applications that don’t need all the functionality of SOAP, simpler HTTP POST APIs have become popular.  With these types of APIs, developers create their own HTTP requests and send messages directly to a network endpoint.  Although we refer to them as HTTP APIs, it is standard practice to send traffic over an SSL/TLS encrypted HTTPS connection.

 

HTTP POST APIs can take several forms – they can send and receive JSON, XML or simple key-value pairs.  Popular tools for interacting with HTTP endpoints include cURL and Postman.  Authentication can be performed in the HTTP header or credentials can be included in the message payload itself.  While POST APIs can support any type of payload, JSON is often preferred because it is lightweight, flexible, and easily parsed.

 

This is popular style of coding is also supported by multiple Vantiv APIs including Vantiv’s Express API, Vantiv’s eCommerce API, and various management APIs such as the Merchant Management API used by Payment Facilitators.  This style of API is also used by Apple Pay iOS Apps to simplify Apple Pay integrations.

 

A cURL example showing the use of Vantiv’s eProtect HTTPS POST API is shown here.

 

curl -H "Content-Type: application/x-www-form-urlencoded" -d \
"paypageId=a2y4o6m8k0&reportGroup=67890&orderId=cust_order&id=12345&accountNumber=5454545454545454&cvv=111" \
https://request-prelive.np-securepaypage-litle.com/LitlePayPage/paypage

 

The endpoint accepts PCI sensitive data like card credentials or a token and responds with a JSON payload containing a low-value token that can be used in lieu of payment credentials:

 

{
"paypageRegistrationId":"Z01GbG9qcTRKdXA4MXhKbkNoRGZNYkRsK1JKZG5oS3ZPcWJmYkRlbHUxV1VjM1UzdnpLcHY1ZUhDeU1uWm4wZQ\u003d\u003d",
"bin":"545454",
"type":"MC",
"firstSix":"545454",
"lastFour":"5454",
"litleTxnId":"82920346960773572",
"orderId":"cust_order",
"response":"870",
"responseTime":"2017-04-12T12:33:01",
"message":"Success",
"reportGroup":"67890","id":"12345"
}

 

The eProtect service can either be called directly (as above) or for eCommerce applications a JavaScript library loaded into your web-page and optionally served from Vantiv via an iFrame can call the service on your behalf to avoid exposing your application to PCI sensitive data.

 

4. REST APIs

 

REST stands for Representational State Transfer.  It is not an API unto itself, rather it is an architectural style for expressing an HTTP-based API.  APIs that adhere to this coding style are said to be RESTful.  Developers who understand how to code to HTTP POST APIs (above) will automatically understand RESTful APIs because the mechanics of interacting with them are the same.  The main difference is in how the API is organized.  A RESTful API borrows from object-oriented design principles and typically provides multiple URL endpoints that correspond to objects being manipulated.

 

For example, if I have a URL endpoint /Charge representing a charge to a credit or debit card, I might create or update a charge against the endpoint using a POST method or retrieve one or more charges using the GET method.  Manipulating a specific instance of a charge would involve using an end-point like /Charge/<Charge-id> in a well-designed REST API.  I might have other entities such as Customers, Disputes or Tokens that I interact with in the same way using common verbs like create, update, delete and list.

 

Additional JSON or XML can be sent with each HTTP request to provide more instruction to the endpoint at the discretion of the API designer.  There are often “shades of grey” between HTTP POST APIs and REST APIs depending on how fully the API designer has embraced REST design principles.

 

Vantiv exposes multiple RESTful APIs as well to various payment platforms.   Examples are the REST API to MercuryPay, and the triPOS cloud API below, both designed around REST principles.

 

tirpos.png

 

5. SDKs

 

Software Development Kits are client-side libraries that abstract and simplify coding to the above interfaces.   SDK’s are usually programming language aligned.  For example a Microsoft developer building a point of sale application will appreciate a C#/.NET SDK easily consumable with Visual Studio.  eCommerce developers might prefer a PHP or Java SDK that makes it easier to formulate payment transactions from within a web application.  The SDKs are responsible for generating and parsing the various messages formats described above.  It’s important to understand that it is ultimately XML or JSON formatted messages (or in some cases ISO messages) that are sent across the wire regardless of whether a developer codes to an SDK or a protocol specification.

 

SDKs are useful, but they present a double-edged sword. They simplify coding, but also introduce a new source of complexity in the form of a client-side software component that their application depends on.  Also, some SDKs may not expose all the advanced capabilities offered by a payment platform, meaning that for some functions developers will need to code to the message specification.

 

Opinions vary, but some developers will prefer to code directly to a protocol specification (like an XML spec or RESTful API) to take unknowns out of the equation and avoid dependencies that could impact their release cycles.

 

Vantiv offers several SDKs including C#, PHP, JAVA, Ruby and Python SDKs for our eCommerce platform. A sample credit card authorization using Vantiv’s eCommerce Java SDK is shown below

 

import com.litle.sdk.*; 
import com.litle.sdk.generate.*; 

//Authorization 
public class AuthExample { 
   public static void main(String[] args) { 
       Authorization auth = new Authorization(); 
       auth.setOrderId("1"); 
       auth.setAmount(10010L); 
       auth.setOrderSource(OrderSourceType.ECOMMERCE); 
       Contact billToAddress = new Contact(); 
       billToAddress.setName("John Smith"); 
       billToAddress.setAddressLine1("1 Main St."); 
       billToAddress.setCity("Burlington"); 
       billToAddress.setState("MA"); 
       billToAddress.setCountry(CountryTypeEnum.US); 
       billToAddress.setZip("01803-3747"); 
       auth.setBillToAddress(billToAddress); 
       CardType card = new CardType(); 
       card.setNumber("3750*******0003"); 
       card.setExpDate("0119"); 
       card.setCardValidationNum("349"); 
       card.setType(MethodOfPaymentTypeEnum.AX); 
       auth.setCard(card); 

       AuthorizationResponse response = new LitleOnline().authorize(auth); 
       //Display Results 
       System.out.println("Response: " + response.getResponse()); 
       System.out.println("Message: " + response.getMessage()); 
       System.out.println("Litle Transaction ID: " + response.getLitleTxnId()); 
   } 
} 

 

 

The Bottom Line

 

When it comes to payments there are a great many APIs, but most fall into one of the categories described above.  Once you master the mechanics of coding to on API in a category, other APIs in the same family become accessible and easy to use.

 

For a summary of the various APIs and resources available to eCommerce developers, sign-up to Vantiv O.N.E. and visit our eCommerce Guides and Resources area.

 

Developers building In-store, Integrated point-of-sale platforms can visit a similar collection of API documentation in our Point-of-Sale documentation area.

In payments, strategies for identifying customers are often built around channel-specific tools, technologies, and terminology.  For instance, the term "card-on-file" refers to an eCommerce business' storage of its customer's payment card information, to avoid requiring customers to re-key their credentials when placing subsequent orders.

 

In the brave new world of OmniCommerce however, customers often interact with merchants through multiple channels.  A retailer might recognize a repeat customer by their payment card, whereas an eCommerce provider may rely on an e-mail address. A laundromat might use a phone number to bring up a customer's prior orders and starch preferences.  An attribute useful for identification in one channel, may be unavailable in another.  It’s time for a “re-think” of card-on-file and multi-channel payments, and developers have an important role to play.

 

How Did We Get Here?

 

At one time "In-store" was the only channel available. Over time, merchants devised other channels like mail-order, telephone order.  With the advent of the web, some merchants opened an on-line channel to interact with their customers.  With the proliferation of mobile devices now bringing the shopping experience to the wireless “great outdoors”, the variety of interactions between customers and merchants is increasing dramatically. In-app payments, tap-to-pay, mobile-wallets and beacon technologies are all indicators of this rapid pace of change.

 

The progression of payment options has led to often disconnected, parallel ecosystems of technology and middleware that interact with customers in separate, inconsistent ways. We’re fast approaching a point where growing expectations of customers require that the walls between payment ecosystems be broken down. While it is great to be a consumer in this brave new world, building for multi-channel commerce is clearly a challenge.

 

From “Card-on-File” to “Customer-on-File”

 

Ideally, mobile systems, eCommerce systems, and point-of-sale systems should share a common view of the customer.  All three should be able to recognize an existing customer, allow for the creation a new customer, and all should be able to read or write interaction events associated with a central customer record.

 

This all sounds logical, but creating a composite customer identity can be hard to do in practice.

 

  • Customers on mobile devices may not have the patience to key-in a lot of data, and merchants may be reluctant to ask lest they inhibit sales
  • In-store customers may not want to volunteer personal information like e-mail addresses and phone numbers
  • Customers often use throw away yahoo or gmail accounts for on-line interactions to avoid receiving nuisance e-mail on their primary e-mail accounts

 

Data veracity is an ongoing challenge. People move, phone numbers change, cards expire, devices get swapped out, and data entry errors are common.

 

Flexible, Extensible Schemas

 

A customer database that can serve multi-channel commerce needs to tolerate some level of “fuziness”.  It may not be possible to populate all customer attributes with just one or a few transactions.  It may take several interactions before identity can be “federated” and transactions previously viewed as discrete can be recognized as belonging to the same customer.

 

The database schema that underlies this type of “customer-on-file” functionality needs to be flexible and easily extensible.  Merchants will almost certainly have a need to capture and store additional attributes in future including new types of tokens, credentials from new authentication services, or digital signatures from devices not invented yet.

In an age where the cost of storage is plummeting, and the cost of data acquisition (for digital transactions at least) is approaching free, a good practice is to store everything you can just in case you need it in future.  This includes contact info, payment credentials (secured, of course), and customer device info; anything related to a customer that identifies them and how they interact with various touchpoints is of value.

How Customer-on-File Helps the Business

 

Creating a single, cross-channel customer identity provides value at several stages in the merchant – customer relationship.

 

Acquisition phase

 

The acquisition phase is where you need to build your customer database. All payment channels should access a common database to:

 

  1. Identify if a customer is new or existing
  2. Append to a customer's record with as many attributes as possible.

 

If a customer is in a retail shop, they could be incented to sign up for an email list by providing their email address, or providing their phone number and first/last name.  If a customer phones into a customer service center, they could provide their mailing address or phone number. If a customer browses your website, store as much as you can including browser information, the IP addresses, and any unique device ID.  The more information attached to the customer record, the better.

 

Conversion

 

The conversion phase is where a centralized customer view starts to show value. When a customer is ready to buy, the merchant can demonstrate how attentive they’ve been during the acquisition stage.

Buy-online-pick-up-in-store is a powerful tool for retail and food service merchants, but requires online/offline systems to be able to quickly access customer details for efficient identification and fulfillment. Similar scenarios - buy-online-ship-from-store, buy-in-store-ship-from-warehouse, split shipments - all help to ensure successful conversion, but all depend on quick and easy access to a customer-centric system.

 

Developers should think about how to design systems that are flexible enough to “set the table” for the next interaction, but avoid introducing friction into the conversion process.  On the eCommerce channel a fraud service provider like Threatmetrix can pass your web-application additional “telemetry” and device signature information helping you more easily identify a device if it enters your ecosystem in the future.

 

Retention / Up-sell

 

The retention and upsell phase is where a customer-centric data strategy can really pay off for merchants.  Effective identification of an existing customer will increase loyalty and boost the lifetime value of the customer relationship.  Is the customer returning a website purchase to a retail location?  The store should be able to grab the payment credentials from the eCommerce system, process the refund, and e-mail a confirmation.  Is the customer buying a pair of shorts at an outlet store?  Your system should ideally present the customer’s cross-channel buying history, and identify cross-sell / up-sell opportunities.

 

How Do We Get There?

 

For developers, enabling these smart, customer-centric buying experiences starts with a common customer database.  The key is to build deliberately, and assume that there will always be new channels that your customers will use to reach you.  There will be specific idiosyncrasies to adapt to with each new channel, but a customer-on-file database remains central of them all.

 

Building a solution on a technology platform focused on a single channel runs the risk of creating a patchwork of services that will be difficult and costly to maintain and integrate.

 

To help facilitate this “customer-on-file” design principle, selecting payment providers that are channel agnostic will pay dividends in future.  It will make it easier and more cost effective to support new channels and technologies, and it will increase the value of your solution to the merchants you serve.

 

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There are 105 books listed on my 2017 edition of Roddy’s Recommended Reading, and one of the most highly regarded – by myself and millions of businesspeople – is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. Since it was first published in 1989, over 25 million copies of Covey’s classic have been sold.

 

Maybe you’re thinking right now, “But I don’t have time to read that book and work on myself and my business strategy. Look at the mountain of stuff that’s on my plate – I’m too busy!” If that sounds familiar, I have good news for you. First, one of Covey’s habits is “Put First Things First,” which means you need to prioritize so you are engaged in the most impactful activities, not just the most pressing.

 

Second, I can save you hours of time by sharing my book notes with you. Following are 35 of the most insightful quotes from The 7 Habits that apply to ISV organizations:

 

Habit 1: Be Proactive

  1. Between stimulus and response, man has the freedom to choose.
  2. Reactive people are often affected by their physical environment. If the weather is good, they feel good. If it isn’t, it affects their attitude and their performance. Proactive people can carry their own weather with them.
  3. Reactive people are driven by feelings, by circumstances, by conditions, by their environment. Proactive people are driven by values – carefully thought about, selected and internalize values.
  4. Any time we think the problem is “out there,” that thought is the problem.
  5. Consequences: “When we pick up one end of the stick, we pick up the other.”
  6. Chasing after the poisonous snake that bites us will only drive the poison through our entire system. It is far better to take measures immediately to get the poison out.

 

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

  1. If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.
  2. All things are created twice. There’s a mental or first creation, and a physical or second creation, to all things.
  3. Management is a bottom line focus: How can I best accomplish certain things? Leadership deals with the top line: What are the things I want to accomplish?
  4. There is a real difference, all the difference in the world, in the effectiveness of a mission statement created by everyone involved in the organization and one written by a few top executives behind a mahogany wall.
  5. No involvement, no commitment.

 

Habit 3: Put First Things First

  1. “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” Goethe
  2. “The successful person has the habit of doing the things failures don’t like to do.” – E.M. Gray
  3. The essence of the best thinking in the area of time management can be captured in a single phrase: Organize and execute around priorities.
  4. I’ve tried to give 10 minutes of “quality time” to an employee to solve a problem, only to discover such “efficiency” creates new problems and seldom resolves the deepest concern.
  5. With immature people, you specify fewer desired results and more guidelines, identify more resources, conduct more frequent accountability interviews, and apply more immediate consequences.
  6. You can’t have the fruits without the roots. Self-mastery and self-discipline are the foundation of good relationships with others.

 

Habit 4: Think Win/Win

  1. Win/Win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions. Win/Win means that agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial, mutually satisfying. All parties feel good about the decision and feel committed to the action plan.
  2. Win/Win is a belief in the Third Alternative. It’s not your way or my way; it’s a better way, a higher way.
  3. Partnership agreements shift the paradigm of productive interaction from hovering supervision to self-supervision.
  4. I am always amazed at the results that happen, both to individuals and to organizations, when responsible, proactive, self-directing individuals are turned loose on a task.
  5. Consequences become the natural or logical result of performance rather than a reward or punishment arbitrarily handed out by the person in charge.
  6. If you put good people in bad systems, you get bad results. You have to water the flowers you want to grow.

 

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

  1. We have such a tendency to rush in, to fix things up with good advice. But we often fail to take the time to diagnose, to really, deeply understand the problem first.
  2. Very few of us ever practice empathetic listening: listening with intent to understand. Empathetic listening gets inside another person’s frame of reference.
  3. Next to physical survival, the greatest need of a human being is psychological survival – to be understood, to be affirmed, to be validated, to be appreciated.
  4. The professional has to have the integrity to say, “My product or service will not meet that need” if it will not.
  5. When you can present your own ideas in the context of a deep understanding of other people’s paradigms and concerns, you significantly increase the credibility of your ideas.

 

Habit 6: Synergize

  1. Synergy is almost as if a group collectively agrees to subordinate old scripts and to write a new one.
  2. I felt that experiencing synergy was more powerful than talking about it, that producing something new was more meaningful than simply reading something old.
  3. Valuing the differences is the essence of synergy – the mental, the emotional, the psychological differences between people.
  4. The person who is truly effective has the humility and reverence to recognize his own perceptual limitations and to appreciate the rich resources available through interaction with other human beings.
  5. When we’re left or own experiences, we constantly suffer from a shortage of data.
  6. As a result, new goals, shared goals, are created, and the whole enterprise moves upward, often in ways that no one could have anticipated. The excitement contained within that movement creates a new culture.

 

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw – Principles of Balanced Self-Renewal

  1. Habit 7 is taking time to sharpen the saw. It surrounds the other habits on the Seven Habits paradigm because it is the habit that makes all the others possible. Renew the four dimensions of your nature – physical, spiritual, mental, and social/emotional.

 

 

If you’d like to talk more about The 7 Habits or how to improve your ISV business, please reach out to me. My job as a Reseller & ISV Business Advisor for Vantiv’s PaymentsEdge Advisory Services is to work with Vantiv partners to help them with hiring right, developing staff professional development programs, improving customer service, and more. Just drop me a line at Jim.Roddy@vantiv.com and we can set up a time to talk.

 

 

For more On the Edge content, please visit the Vantiv Partner Advantage website.

 

Jim Roddy is a Reseller & ISV Business Advisor for Vantiv’s PaymentsEdge Advisory Services. He has been active in the POS channel since 1998, including 11 years as the President of Business Solutions Magazine, six years as a Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA) board member, and one term as RSPA Chairman of the Board. Jim is regularly requested to speak at industry conferences and he is author of the book Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer.

Change isn’t always easy, and upgrading or investing in a new point-of-sale (POS) system is a big endeavor for most merchants. But doing so can open up doors to increased business as well as offer critical payment security features.

When a point-of-sale solution is paired with value added services such as integrated pay processing, it enhances a merchant’s ability to streamline daily operations. Payment integrations tend to be the most complex and time consuming piece of the process, but they don’t have to create strain on your business.

 

For any new integrated payments partnership, choosing the right processing company to meet your needs begins with asking potential partners a few simple questions: Can they work with your business model today? Do they support your platform, existing technology, etc.? Can they support the growth of your business?

 

Taking the time to research, compare and evaluate payment processing partners can make all the difference in the long run. Look for an integrated payment processing partner that offers powerful, secure solutions that are simple to integrate and backed by customer service built around integrated payments.

 

What to look for in a payment partner

The right payment partner possesses a balanced mix of passion, talent and technology to help you win. You can’t expect your credit card processor to know the intricacies of running your business, but you can expect them to know what types of payment solutions are best for your business. Some processors are large enough to have expertise in many different areas, from servicing large retail shops to healthcare providers, service industries, eCommerce merchants and more. Look for a partner that pioneered the channel focused approach to integrated payments because your best interests should be top of mind and their solutions should be tailored to your specific business type.

 

Are they a match for your technology?

Merchants increasingly do not see their business as composed of separate online and in-store channels, but rather as a continuous consumer experience bridging the web, mobile devices, and brick-and-mortar location. Many processors offer semi-integrated solutions to simplify one of your payment needs but do not offer in-store, online or offsite payments in a single integrated platform.

 

One of the most important things to keep in mind is that the “easiest” integrated payment processing companies often are “no frills.” This can be good in some instances, but in the world of payments today, it’s safe to say that frills can be very important. For example, if you are seeking an omni-commerce platform, consider whether it includes security solutions such as PCI validated point-to-point encryption.  Find out if the chip-enabled PIN pad options support multiple interfaces such as WiFi, Bluetooth or Ethernet. Does the integrated solution offering support many form factors including distributed code, mobile apps or in the cloud? If you are considering recurring payment services, find out if this is an option.

 

In many instances, these semi-integrated features are not managed by the payment solution but through separate integrations or third party service providers that require individual integration work for each. A robust technology workbench is a major consideration for any integrated payments partnership to work, and you should know if these services are available to you and at what cost.

 

What does the future hold?

Additionally, it’s important to find out if your potential payment partner offers the solutions your business needs today as well as those you will need in the future. There are many integrated payments options available, and different solutions solve for different needs. Look for a credit card processing company in which integrated payments are innate to their business model.

 

Also, the partnership shouldn’t stop at the integration. On-demand resources should be available to you throughout the partnership, such as a dedicated integration consultant with technical payments expertise, a business developer to get you started with a solid business strategy, and a relationship manager for continued market growth.

 

Customer service may be the last thing on your mind when choosing to integrate payments to your business application, but it’s important to find a reputable company with an experienced, knowledgeable and accessible support team for you and your merchants.

 

Vantiv Integrated Payments offers its own processing platform that delivers unmatched, market-ready, semi-integrated solutions in the cloud, on a PC, or via a mobile device with features such as P2P encryption, account updater, tokenization, gift processing, and a true gateway for merchant processor of choice.

Every month, Vantiv and PYMNTS.com team up to deliver the latest news in developer spaces. Here’s the overview of the Developer Tracker published in March 2017.

 

Mobile technology has impacted how people travel in just about every way. From real-time airfare comparisons to mobile boarding passes, and cross-border mobile payments to instant language translation, there’s virtually no part of the travel experience that’s been left untouched. As technological advancements continue making travel more convenient for consumers, software developers are looking for new ways to make traveling as convenient, efficient and secure as possible.

 

March’s Developer Tracker features an interview with Celia Pereiro, the head of payments for travel software solution provider Amadeus. In February 2016, Amadeus launched a B2B wallet that processes digital payments faster between different travel companies, or entities such as an airline and a travel agent or a booking service. The wallet was developed as part of a collaboration between Amadeus, MasterCard, and Ixaris. In addition to the wallet, Amadeus is preparing to debut a new payments service that would make paying for incidental airport services, such as baggage fees and skycap services, easier and more efficient.

 

The growing acceptance of mobile payments in travel industry has, in a way, steered it away from cash. That’s because mobile wallets support a wide range of digital payment options, letting travelers save much-needed physical currency for when they’re on the ground at their destinations. Pereiro sees the shift toward mobile payments to continue gaining momentum and with that, a continual decline in cash usage. “We are working with airlines on on-board payment systems,” she says. “Mobile payments are a big part of that business model.”

 

On the other hand, giving consumers too many payment options can cause confusion and friction. As a result, Periero says, the Amadeus team is working to personalize payment apps for individual travelers. This can empower them to quickly find their preferred digital payment option depending on the type of purchase.

 

Personalization has become increasingly important to Amadeus and other development companies in a wide range of industries, as consumers expect solutions to be catered to their needs and circumstances. “Personalization in payments is becoming a hot topic in travel as more and more people book on mobile devices,” Periero explains. “With that smaller screen-size it is not feasible to offer a long list of possible payment options – people just want to see the best payment option for them for that given payment. And their preferred payment option will change depending on whether they are booking a business trip, [thousands] for their honeymoon or spending $20 on extra baggage at the airport.”

 

While security is a concern to consumers when making any purchase, they are especially concerned about it when traveling, Periero notes. Due to physical security concerns, customers must disclose sensitive personal information when making airline and other travel reservations. While these measures may help keep bad actors from boarding planes, they can also potentially expose customer data to hackers and other cybercriminals.

 

Therefore, Periero says, it’s important that Amadeus and other travel solutions keep sensitive customer information safe. “Data security is one of our highest priorities and drives communications management at every level,” she says. “We work with travel companies to help them extract the sensitive credit card data from their systems and convert it into tokens so that they do not need to hold vulnerable data in their systems.”

 

Data and cybersecurity are also a concern when it comes to a company’s bottom line, Periero notes. By reducing the risk of cyberattacks, companies can inspire consumer confidence. Doing so can be good for customer satisfaction while also helping companies avoid lost revenue due to security breaches, fraud, chargebacks or fines for not complying with security standards. Security concerns will only become more prevalent as consumers increasingly turn to modern electronic payment methods, Periero points out. As consumers travel into a brave new personalized future, the pressure is on software developers to keep pace, offering the personalization and security that modern, digital payments – and their consumers – demand.

 

Read the full interview in March’s edition of PYMNTS.com’s Developer TrackerTM, powered by Vantiv. It also covers other developer-focused news and updates including:

 

  • Urban Airship debuts single-tap loyalty rewards

Urban Airship, the mobile engagement provider, recently unveiled a service that allows loyalty cards to be updated through a single tap with Apple Pay. The company describes the solution as the first of its kind for mobile wallets, which replaces the old method of using loyalty and rewards programs on smartphones. Users can now use Urban Airship to pay and earn loyalty and rewards points all via one app. The company will also be supporting other value-added services through Apple Pay.

  • Warehouse Mobile Solutions unveils inventory management app

Need to keep track of warehouse inventory? There’s an app for that. Warehouse Mobile Solutions recently released WarehouseOS, a new mobile solution for tracking and monitoring inventory. The app is designed to help make fulfillment and delivery as seamless as possible. It offers a simple interface that allows users to quickly view, track and report inventory data. It also claims to have cut the time required to fulfill orders in half. The app is aimed at helping businesses transition to delivering products directly to consumers via online orders.

 

Download the report.

If you can master the communication technique Set Them Up For Future Reference — I convert it to the fun acronym STUFFR — you will be sure to meet and exceed your customers’ and co-workers’ expectations. STUFFR consists of identifying and understanding a potential problem and discussing it with the person in advance. You also need to note their (and your own) exact words and commitment to not failing.

 

The number one benefit of Set Them Up For Future Reference is accountability. Most people want to make their word good after they make a commitment to do so. People feel obligated to live up to their word. If a customer or co-worker doesn’t live up to their word, you can play back the words they committed to during your prior conversation. Arguing with your own words is tough to do. People usually acknowledge, apologize, and then adapt their behavior.

 

Here’s the four-step process for STUFFR:

  1. Obviate. This means to anticipate and prevent. A simple form of obviating is looking out your window, noting the gray skies, and grabbing an umbrella in case of rain. You don’t have to see raindrops to anticipate that you might get drenched later. Obviating requires skepticism. You need to look at your company’s situation, your situation, and the customer’s situation, then discuss what could go wrong and what the two of you can do to prevent it.
  2. Set clear expectations. Don’t just say to a customer, “We need your request ASAP — we get jammed up around the holidays.” Say more specifically, “If you want your new system installed by the end of this year, I would need to place your order for hardware and all the peripherals by December 9th. That way, even if there’s a one- or two-day delay in shipping, we will still have time for configuring our software and the system before our installers take their end-of-year vacations December 23rd through January 1st.”
  3. Recap the conversation to ensure that you both agree. You could recap the previous conversation by saying, “So you’re OK making a decision by December 9th or waiting until after the New Year to have your new system installed? If we don’t place the hardware order before the 9th, I can’t guarantee installation that month.”
  4. Write it down! Don’t rely on your memory to capture details of your discussion. Make notes during the conversation (and enter them into your CRM system when appropriate). Again using the previous example, the customer could email you their order on December 20th and expect an installation date of December 30th. When you call them back, the customer could say, “But for new systems at our other locations you’ve always been able to install them in 10 days or less.” If you don’t have clear notes, you could start doubting yourself: “I swear we had that conversation three weeks ago – did I forget to tell them about the installers taking time off for the holidays?” If you properly STUFFR and made good notes, all you need to do is open up your CRM and share with the customer details of that conversation. Memory jogged and management crisis averted.

 

STUFFR is a two-way street. The customer or co-worker knows what steps they need to take to get the outcome they desire, and you have committed to them the actions you are going to take as well. Using the above example, you have promised if the customer places their order on December 8th, their new system is guaranteed to be up-and-running by the end of the year. Just like you can play back someone else’s words … they can play back yours.

 

Avoid the word “try” when setting someone (or yourself) up for future reference. It’s unclear and it also softens any commitment. “I will try to email that link to you today” is far different from “I will email that link to you by the end of business today.” In the words of Yoda from Star Wars: “Do or do not. There is no try.”

 

So now that I’ve convinced you to like a new business acronym, let me try to warm you up to an often despised task: homework.

 

This is an exercise I use during my professional development sessions with Vantiv partners through our PaymentsEdge Advisory Services division. I ask reseller or developer staff members to map out an upcoming customer or co-worker interaction using the four-step Set Them Up For Future Reference framework.

 

  1. Obviate: What could go wrong and how you can prevent it.
  2. Set clear expectations (remember to be clear and specific).
  3. Recap the conversation: What will you say to them to conclude the conversation?
  4. Write it down: What specific notes will you keep on file?

 

This homework assignment has several upsides: it’s due whenever you like, it won’t be graded and, best of all, it will positively impact your business.

 

 

For more On the Edge content, please visit the Vantiv Partner Advantage website.

 

Jim Roddy is a Reseller & ISV Business Advisor for Vantiv’s PaymentsEdge Advisory Services. He has been active in the POS channel since 1998, including 11 years as the President of Business Solutions Magazine, six years as a Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA) board member, and one term as RSPA Chairman of the Board. Jim is regularly requested to speak at industry conferences and he is author of the book Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer.

On a never-ending endeavor to be your preferred payments partner, Vantiv reached two milestones in March—our 5th year as a public company and becoming the leading merchant acquirer in the U.S., processing more payment transactions than anyone. Whether for you, with you or through you, it’s a journey of everyday spend that we’re on with you, every day. 

 

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