Meeting the omnichannel needs of today’s consumers is not an easy task. While many businesses may master sales through mobile, online, and in-store locations, there is a lot more needed behind the scenes in making the customer experience seamless, easy, and secure across all buying channels. Forte Payment Systems thinks it has created a platform that does that for retail and service based businesses across all payments channels including mobile, ecommerce and eCheck. Listen in on what Forte CEO, Jeff Thorness, told MPD CEO Karen Webster about how Forte sees the omnichannel retail space evolving, the importance of data in delivering an omnichannel reality, and what Forte is doing to help merchants adapt.
KW: So, Jeff – tell us, what is Forte’s forte? And I’m sure I’m the first one to ever use that play on words, right?
JT: We are a technology company that provides solutions built around payments. Generally speaking, we focus on a card-not-present environment, but many of our customers that we serve have omnichannel needs. We have built a number of solutions to serve merchants in an online environment, and in retail and mobile.
KW: Omnichannel is perhaps the most popular word in retail payments today. What is the hardest part of being an omnichannel merchant?
JT: The hardest part, I would say, is doing it right. There are a lot of folks that can offer omnichannel sales functionalities, but to really achieve omnichannel, there’s a lot more involved. A merchant needs to provide a consistent experience for the customer, as well as customer service across sales – things related to inventory and being able to handle the functions beyond sales. To really achieve omnichannel, you shouldn’t have any limitations on any one of your channels that you offer your services through.
KW: Are most merchants prepared to support omnichannel retailing? What do they lack?
JT: The answer there is no. There are very few merchants that can truly deliver a complete omnichannel experience. Some of them may be able to handle sales across multiple channels, but let’s say you purchase something online, and it turns out that the item was incorrect. You won’t return that item using the same channel – you’ll go down to one of the physical locations and do an exchange. Not all of them can actually accommodate that. Some retailers may have the capabilities for omnichannel, but most are barely getting their feet of the ground.
As far as the capabilities that they lack – the key challenge here is that there’s a lot of infrastructure that must fit around omnichannel. You need to be able to synchronize data, whether it is inventory or sales data, and that data needs to flow through various channels. It’s a pretty daunting task.
KW: You have recently announced the launch of Forte Checkout. How is it different from the plethora of online payment acceptance platforms already available in the market?
JT: Forte Checkout is a tool that’s very helpful for certain omnichannel needs, but it really comes down to our platform – our APIs, our overall gateway – that I think is providing the most value. We have the capabilities to originate transactions, payment information, APIs and data repository and synchronization to help make data available to all parties that need access to it. Checkout is designed first and foremost for web transactions. We have the ability to accept payments, whether it is for a credit card or electronic check, and use that in the online environment. It also can work in a mobile environment, and with hardware-like card readers. Those solutions can be deployed for merchants looking for online capabilities as well as card-present environments at the POS.
KW: Forte has been around since 1998, the early days of online. Given that a lot of what you focus on are card-not-present merchants, how has this space evolved? What are some of the biggest changes you’ve observed and what is the impact of mobile on the space in general?
JT: Mobile in general is something in which we’ve seen a lot of change happen. People always have the need to accept and make payments when they out and about. Many of our customers are service-industry related, so in the mobile world, that’s been a great benefit.
KW: How long do you think it will be before we achieve the omnichannel future that we are all striving to enable?
JT: It varies based on the size and the progressiveness of the merchant. Those keeping tabs on merchant trends and adopting omnichannel strategies will benefit from increased customer loyalty and retention rates, as well as drive growth and revenues. Those who take a wait-and-see approach, or adopt it over a longer time frame, will not be able to enjoy the same benefits. The early adopters will have some big gains.
KW: Are there particular sectors that are more motivated to tackle this first?
JT: Omnichannel is generally thought of as a retail solution, but I think there are industries beyond just retail, such as service providers like cable companies and general builders, that need to have omnichannel abilities as well. Most merchants in general can benefit from an omnichannel approach.
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Jeff Thorness, President and CEO
Jeff Thorness is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Forte Payment Systems. A developer by trade, Mr. Thorness has engineered Forte from the ground up as a technology company focused on providing payment solutions to both merchants and developers. Tackling the industry head-on, he bootstrapped the business, carefully crafting a single source payment solution and its comprehensive suite of relevant products and services. Forte now provides payment processing services to over 27,000 merchants and processed over $16 billion in web, retail and mobile payments last year alone. The omni-channel provider has also been featured on the Inc. 5000 list for the last six years in a row.
For more on Forte’s innovative solutions and how it is setting out to help merchants in mastering omnichannel, join the PYMNTS.com digital discussion on Tuesday, June 17th at 1:00 PM (EST) by clicking the button below: