2018 has been the year of many things in payments and commerce.
For Visa Global Head of Payments Products and Platforms TS Anil, it’s been a year in which many big steps have been taken on the journey toward giving merchants something that has made checking out in the store a safe, standard and interoperable checkout experience.
A single digital terminal that can be used to create a secure, interoperable experience when consumers check out online — that experience comes by way of Secure Remote Commerce (SRC): an industry effort to extend the EMVCo standard to online checkout. Anil told Karen Webster that starting this year, SRC was universally embraced by all the card networks, along with other industry power players.
SRC will end the year having published a draft specification along with a roadmap for its 2019 deployment. It’s widely expected that by early next year, after the industry completes its review and comment period, SRC’s final specs will be released.
And that’s when the visible ramp-up and acceleration of what Anil describes as “future-proofed” online payments experience for consumers and merchants will start to be seen.
“On the back of those final specs, this spring and summer we will start to see commercial applications built off SRC make their way into the market,” Anil said. “A year from now, at the end of 2019, I think we will see the beginnings of scale with more websites offering [the SRC guest checkout experience], and more applications built off this common industry standard.”
It’s a rather bold prediction for a payments industry not exactly storied for getting big shifts like that which underpins SRC to market, he noted, one that doesn’t require merchants or consumers to trade off security and ease of use.
Security and convenience “eventually always have to go together,” Anil emphasized.
What will accelerate the road to scale, he says, is the work already done to advance many of SRC’s core tenets.
Network tokens are one such example, Anil said, having become increasingly common across issuers, merchant gateways and acquirers over the last four years.
Tokens, he noted, are an excellent example of a technology that makes security and convenience the perfect pair.
Encrypting card data creates a more secure online shopping experience.
But tokens also create a more convenient online experience, since replacing lost, stolen or expired credentials can be done without the consumer having to physically intervene.
Tokens also free consumers from having to enter card and shipping data for purchases when checking out as a guest on a merchant’s website — taps and clicks are replaced by tokenized credentials already on file.
In anticipation of SRC, Visa, Anil said, has spent much of the last year working on ways to make the deployment of SRC an easier lift for merchant by, for example, mapping network tokens to existing token vaults.
“We expect to begin migrating Visa Checkout to comply to the SRC standard later in 2019. As the draft [SRC] specs are being finalized, [our teams] have all been thinking about what SRC looks like from an execution perspective, leveraging work that’s been done to this point,” he said.
The Single Digital Terminal
SRC is often described as a “universal buy button” that will appear on a merchant’s checkout page and can be used by any consumer who wants to pay with their network-branded payment card credentials.
“When SRC and our support for it were announced, a large portion of the industry thought this was just the networks consolidating their proprietary checkout experiences into a single button,” Anil said.
It’s an understandable analogy, even if, Anil said, it’s not the most accurate way to think about SRC.
SRC, he noted, is uniquely meant to improve the guest checkout problem — the way he says 75 percent of online consumers check out today. It’s that tedious and conversion-killing experience requiring the repetitive entry of one’s card data that SRC seeks to eliminate.
It’s why the better analogy, Anil said, is that of a single digital terminal.
If one thinks about a physical store, he noted, merchants have a single physical terminal that accepts network-branded cards and streamlines the checkout experience — no matter what type or size of store. Those standard card specs and that single physical terminal creates a better and more predictable and secure consumer experience. It also creates a jumping-off point for many other innovations to streamline the in-store payments experience for both consumers and merchants.
SRC is an effort to give merchants that same single terminal experience — but digitally.
“We need to give [merchants] that same kind of tool for their digital experiences,” Anil explained. “EMVco standards via the SRC spec creates that single digital terminal for merchants and innovators to then build different experiences off those standards.”
Anil also pointed out that SRC is intended to support the commerce use cases that happen away from a screen-centric activity. Once the screen is out of the picture, the concept of the “buy button” doesn’t really make much sense.
“The digital future is evolving pretty fast — there are IoT devices, wearables, various voice-based scenarios where checkout is not controlled by a button; it’s just not part of the experience,” Anil explained. “That means SRC is also about future-proofing and asking where digital commerce is going in the future. SRC is much more than a button.”
Right now, Anil noted, there is “deep engagement” across the ecosystem to create a standard that unlocks the vast majority of online commerce in much the same way as physical terminals and card specs have done for in-store transactions.
Anil also firmly believes that SRC as a framework will also open the door for rewiring the digital commerce experience as we understand and use it today. The process of authenticating a consumer and paying for a purchase doesn’t necessarily have to happen at the end of the flow. In some sense, Anil said, SRC can inspire new flows and use cases that create an even better, secure checkout experience.
“I think that if we come together as an industry, we can create magic for consumers and merchants,” Anil said.