Merchant Innovation

Why Onboarding Drives Merchants Away

Merchant acquisition is an unforgiving activity, and the numbers prove it: 20 percent of retailers leave their merchant service providers every year. One reason is the often frustrating, overly complicated process of merchant onboarding — one in every five merchants don’t complete the application process.

There has to be a better way, right? Tactics that can reduce all that abandonment and attrition while also giving merchant clients access to cutting-edge payment services and tools?

An upcoming PYMNTS webinar entitled “Ditching Merchant Abandonment and Attrition,” scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 25, will explore those issues in depth.

Agreement Express CEO Mike Gardner and PYMNTS CEO Karen Webster will tackle such topics as the best abandonment-reduction practices during the merchant application and approval process, and how to reduce attrition with a new way to cross-sell. The digital discussion and slide presentation will also include a use case about how all this knowledge can be applied in an ISO-acquirer relationship.

Pleasing merchant clients is a never-ending effort at balance — an effort that comes with the awareness that those clients can shift to a service provider’s many competitors, who are always aggressively looking for new business. A merchant, after all, can always go someplace where onboarding and other parts of the relationship are easier, Gardner told Webster during a recent interview that served as a preview of the Sept. 25 webinar.

Merchants want simplicity. They don’t want to be in the security business, they don’t want to become payment experts or technologists – or really anything other than their original entrepreneurial quest. And they want to avoid friction, as friction serves as one of the best customer-repulsing allergies out there.

Service Contradictions

But merchants are also human beings, and humans beings are a mess of contradictions. In this case, that means merchants also, in a sense, want it all from their service and payments providers. After all, the rise of eCommerce and online marketplaces has resulted in “people being used to going to one place for something,” Gardner said. “It’s the Amazon effect.”

Were an ISO to, say, focus on a single product or offering — what the film-school crowd might call a “passion project,” perhaps — “it would be a thing of beauty,” Gardner said. “But it’s only one thing.”

But growth – the expansion of product and service offerings according to real or perceived market demands – also presents challenges. “By the time you get to the fifth thing, it’s like the Frankenstein effect,” Gardner said. “It looks like you are bolting stuff on.”

And that can be overwhelming for a merchant services provider that is striving to stay relevant – yet also necessary.

Vendor Stickiness

“The more products you have to offer your clients, the more sticky you are,” Gardner noted. “But the more products you offer, the more difficult it might be to operate my business. And that might make things more complicated,” which could in turn encourage abandonment.

It can seem like an impossible task to strike that proper, profitable balance — the scope of offerings and the simplicity of onboarding and other processes that keep merchant clients from bolting to competitors. But the upcoming PYMNTS webinar will offer guidance on that issue.

A one-click approach can help, for instance, as a recent PYMNTS interview with Agreement Express COO Cory Taylor demonstrated. That story used as anchors the following data to support that point: A 42 percent conversion rate and a 10-minute application process.

Payments has never been an easy task, not even in the days of shiny beads. But that doesn’t mean that merchant service providers can’t find a way to thread what can often seem like a very small needle.

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