Don’t think of them as mere podcasts — though PYMNTS certainly does a lot of podcasts, discussing with payments and commerce experts the hottest topics of the day, with each conversation not only digging into the past and present but having an outlook toward the future. No, think of them as miniature seminars. That’s not to put some boring academic spin on these digital discussions, but only to underscore how intelligent the material is, and how the participants often learn from each other during these events.
You can be sure to learn more than a few things — and gain some new ideas and insights into business opportunities — from each of the 13 top PYMNTS podcasts selected as the best and most interesting of the past year. The podcasts take in a wide variety of topics, from the emerging connected car ecosystem and what it really means, to getting a clear handle on blockchain, to the rise of contextual commerce, to making cross-border payments easier and less expensive, to — well, you get the idea. These podcasts focus on innovation, best practices, learning from past failures and the like. And more often than not, the podcast discussions include PYMNTS research reports and original data, sometimes in collaboration with others. Some veer toward the technical while others come across as more philosophical. In all cases, these podcast are authoritative, as you’ve come to expect from PYMNTS coverage.
Enjoy these little seminars about the world of payments and commerce, and review at your leisure.
Here’s a sure bet for 2019: not only will you hear much more about the spread of “contextual commerce,” but you will see more of it and may even experience a good deal of it yourself. A good education on this online retail trend — an education backed by original data — comes from Azita Habibi, business development lead at Braintree, a payments services firm owned by PayPal. Most simply, contextual commerce means meeting consumers where they are online — they don’t have to be shopping — to enable product discovery and transactions that might spring from, say, people sharing knitting or interior decorating tips, or music fans talking about a particular band. The possibilities are pretty much endless, and PYMNTS and Braintree have dug deep into what drives contextual commerce, who engages in it most often, how much they buy and spend and what’s coming next. The research shows that 58 percent of consumers have participated in contextual commerce experiences. Of that group, 84 percent report satisfactory experiences with contextual commerce. “With the proliferation of these experiences, you’ll [see] these numbers increase,” Habibi said.
People talk all the time about removing friction from commerce and payments, and the connected car ecosystem — still in its infancy — will likely play a huge role in that. That’s the view of of mobile commerce firm P97 CEO Donald Frieden, who discussed the confluence of mobile commerce, digital marketing and ease of payments via the frame of gas station transactions. Simply put, said Frieden, the car now “becomes an extension of the consumer’s home” across retail, fuel and convenience stores. The new year will bring significant connected car advances, and a good place to really understand what’s coming is to listen to Frieden, whose company is leading some of the development of this new ecosystem.
Blockchain will continue to be among the hottest topics in payments and commerce in 2019 — and maybe one day people will agree on what blockchain really is and what it can really do. That’s a bit unfair — the world of blockchain is still emerging — but a podcast featuring Michael Ting, SVP of Digital Markets for Hyperwallet, cut through the blockchain buzz, and he talked realistically about the technology’s promise. “There are a lot of moving pieces and stakeholders that have to come to the table in order for a payment transaction to happen successfully. So, for payments to become … mainstream for blockchain, there still is some room to [grow],” he said.
B2B eCommerce doesn’t command the spotlight as does B2C retail, but that’s not the way it should be — that’s one of the messages you take away after listening to Brandon Spear, president of MSTS. Not only is the B2B market three times the size of B2C, but B2B eCommerce is primed for explosive growth, complete with sellers who are looking for better ways to find buyers, and buyers who want to find new places to go shopping. “There are some titanic forces driving the needs for sellers to have a closer relationship with their buyside customers,” said Spear. “It’s not simple, but it’s a problem I think that people are focused on solving now and through the next couple of years.”
When employees experience financial troubles, their employers often pay for it, too, in one way or another, according to David Kilby, FinFit president. Workers down on their luck might steal from their companies to pay for medication, for instance, or spend work time dealing with their financial problems, which results in an indirect financial penalty on employers. Kilby makes the case to avoid that de-facto tax by providing the appropriate resources to workers, and doing so in a way that involves education, privacy and dignity, and which can cut down on stress that can negatively impact employee health. “We look at healthcare costs as one of the biggest challenges in the employer-employee dynamic today,” said Kilby. “Employers investing in this space is not just about making happy, healthy employees — it’s also a good economic investment.”
As FitPay CEO Mike Orlando discussed in depth, the wearables market is rapidly evolving, as more consumers find more ways to fit trackers and similar devices into their daily lives. Those devices, of course, serve as a data conduit, with real-time information about a variety of consumer behaviors — not just those directly related to payments and commerce — flowing to businesses, insurers and other organizations. And that serves, in turn, to open the door wider for tokenization and data accessibility in a way that remains secure. What does that mean? Links. Lots and lots of new links. “Along different continuums, you can link data together,” he said. “You can have payment data that can be linked to your insurance data that can then be tied to your FSA account.”
As PYMNTS data has shown, 62 percent of consumers said innovations would make them more inclined to visit quick-service restaurants in the future. Bypass Chief Innovation Officer Geoff Johnson discussed how the race to keep up with the expanding appetite of consumers for a more innovative dining experience in the quick service restaurant (QSR) space has seen a real flurry of different types of activity in the industry, as restaurants in general, and QSR players specifically, are trying to crack the code on how to properly bridge the digital divide. “The starting point of [all this] stuff is data,” Johnson said. “Looking at the menu, the design, what things customers are actually responding to — only when restaurants have really tapped into that and understand it are things really going to be allowed to level up and change quickly.”
If conversion is among the most important things to a merchant, and a frictionless experience is the most important thing to a consumer, the twain do not meet as well as they should. That’s the authentication issue tackled here by ModoPayments (Modo) Founder and CEO Bruce Parker. The stakes are high: One global Fortune 500 company estimated that bank decline rates stand between 20 percent and 30 percent, and to shave even 1 percent off that tally “would save this firm as much as $100 million in annual revenues.” According to Parker, “we need something in our sourcing of payment services that we don’t really have today, which is more of a marketplace kind of activity or idea.”
Forty countries: That’s how many places either have real-time payments programs in progress or live. That’s progress. Yet, there is more work to be done. George Evers, Vocalink’s senior vice president of real-time product, took a deep dive in the RTP landscape, and described the opportunities for future growth. And he talked about why speed — perhaps counterintuitively — is not the only RTP benefit. Going into the new year, real-time payments stands as one of the hottest areas of the digital world, and global digital economy. That will not change anytime soon. “There is a ton of opportunity,” Evers said, for those organizations that pursue RTP innovation.
Ingo Money CEO Drew Edwards led listeners on a journey through payment nomenclature and delved into push payments, a form of instant payments — and talked about the role of speed in transactions, and why payments often lag. This comes amid a time of increasing focus on instant payments, real-time payments and similarly named services — a trend certain to gain even more fuel in 2019. But as that progress continues, one must understand the nuances and differences of the space. For instance, “instant does not mean same day. Instant means 24 hours, seven days a week … it means that one minute after you try to pay somebody something, they get their funds. ACH is still a batch-based system and is speeding up their funds” but is not instant, he clarified.
Online giving is nothing new, but as John Gossart, COO and co-founder of fundraising resource Goodworld, explained, hashtags, social media and viral marketing could bring significant changes to the digital charity space — changes that could have big impacts in commerce and payments in general. After all, making payments as easy, quick and seamless as possible — the main goal of Gossart’s current work, though focused on online donations — reduces cart and transaction abandonment. According to Gossart, U.S. online shoppers leave behind $1.79 trillion worth of uncompleted transactions every year for various reasons.
Moving funds across borders is no one’s idea of fun. KYC and ALM requirements inject significant friction into the process. But as Anil Sawrup, chief commercial officer of Cambridge Global Payments, discussed. digital technology is helping to ease those hassles and delays (the main issue, in fact). Doing so can involve a wide variety of tools including blockchain and real-time payments functionality and APIs. But easing the cross-border movement of money can, he said, foster “the ability to pay businesses or individuals overseas in an unbanked market — they want to get paid on a card or a cell phone.” This dovetails well with millennials, who favor a prepaid, eWallet type of app that serves their lifestyles and ensures they “can go spend the money where [they] need to.”
Future-proofing any technology or process is more art than science — and rough art at that. But as WePay Co-Founder Rich Aberman explained, there is little doubt that the future is changing right now for the point-of-sale industry, which could stand as alarming news for legacy players or, at least, the old ways of doing things. Those in the POS business are now designing around the certainty of an uncertain future — and making sure to layer in enough “agility and flexibility” so that the products are designed to adapt toward things the designers can’t see. That’s a massive departure from what a POS system was 10 or 15 years ago, when they weren’t designed to be future-proof, or really even designed to be a single thing. “What people had were these Frankenstein configurations made up of the hardware, the software and the core payment functions — and all of those things were decoupled,” Aberman said.