COVID-19 turned the idea of multichannel commerce from one possible strategy for businesses to basically the only game in town. Corporate organizations of all descriptions worked overtime around the world to make the great digital shift happen — in some cases almost entirely overnight. Anupam Sinha, Citi’s managing director and global head of domestic payments and receivables, told PYMNTS in a recent Masterclass discussion that the market had been moving toward digital for years, but that the pandemic accelerated that dramatically.
“Driven by COVID, we’ve seen that brands have constantly looked at how they can get a more prominent ‘shelf space,’” he said. “And in that quest to go direct to customers with more multiple channels that our customers are looking at, one of the things that they need to look at is their payment experience. The whole payment experience is very critical.”
Unfortunately, companies historically only brought their corporate treasurers in to help construct eCommerce journeys late in the game even though treasurers are often the most knowledgeable players about many key things, Sinha said. For instance, they can help with compliance, selecting a bank or payment-service provider, enabling account opens, managing settlement and looking at and mediating FX exposure.
But Sinha said the treasurer’s role in designing such processes is rapidly evolving. “We’ve seen more treasury teams becoming closer to the whole process,” he said. “As they've been driving all the strategic initiatives from an overall corporate perspective, [they] get more and more involved in driving the eCommerce initiatives.”
But it’s not the just treasurers’ roles that are changing. Sinha said the types of initiatives being driven — and where they’re showing up — are changing as the world adapts to a landscape that’s gone digital and shows few signs of ever going back to pre-COVID systems.
Where Treasurers Can Help
Sinha said treasurers’ purview had historically centered around B2B processes, but that they’re getting increasingly engaged in their companies’ direct-to-consumer strategies as well.
“There’s a lot of value that a corporate treasurer can add,” he said. “They’re the ones who know the payment landscape very well. They’re the ones who can add value by providing a very good experience. They’re the ones who can look at the counterparty risk and minimize it, and look at the settlement process and see how they can enhance it.”
In short, they are, in many ways, the staffers best placed to provide a seamless payment experience — and many firms are increasingly recognizing that, Sinha said. He said business units are collaborating more and more with treasurers so that companies can not only minimize risk, but also enable growth and additional sales by building a “frictionless experience for the consumer.”
Sinha added that in response to the growing demand for direct-to-consumer payment acceptance, Citi has introduced Spring by Citi, a new consumer payments proposition for institutional clients, designed to make seamless payment experiences possible with input from all parts of the organization.
After all, seamless experiences aren’t easy to build — particularly in an environment where customer expectations run high. Sinha said it’s partly about providing more payment options to meet customer needs, but also about creating online experiences that customers recognize as looking and feeling much the same as their offline counterparts.
He said companies must also build online experiences that go beyond a single transaction and work toward building ongoing relationships. “That’s where we are seeing use of things like subscription models, etc. — which again, the treasury team can help drive in terms of the various options that are available to customers and the consumers,” Sinha said.
The Growing Importance Of B2B Subscriptions
Sinha said that the growth of subscription services in the B2C context is intuitive for merchants, as it’s a good way to turn a one-off transaction into a more long-term relationship.
But he added, “We are seeing from a B2B perspective the use of subscriptions slowly coming into that space as well.” For example, Citi has many B2B clients who are setting up eCommerce marketplaces and selling subscriptions as part of their expanding world of multichannel commerce.
“Our customers in the B2B space are starting to look at how they can set up a marketplace or put their product on a marketplace from a subscription-model perspective,” he said. “We are seeing certain areas where this is evolving beyond what we think of as the typical areas of things like office supplies.”
Sinha expects the trend to only expand. He said B2B buyers of all stripes are also B2C consumers outside of the office, and their experiences as individual consumers influence what they expect in a business context.
Sinha noted that at the end of the day, no matter what context a customer is shopping in, the person wants the same things: a frictionless, choice-laden experience. He said firms that thrive in the post-pandemic world will be the ones that provide that — no matter what context a transaction happens in.