Commerce used to be about making plans, jumping in the car, maybe with a fistful of coupons, heading over to the store, grabbing things off the shelves and waiting in line to be rung up at the register – which literally rang, with a bell and a “sale” sign that popped up in a window.
Maybe you got back change, if cash was tendered.
It was all so … 20th century.
Now, commerce is about connection.
As in: connected devices.
As in: now, always on, where consumers consume according to their wants and needs, and the store is never closed, not really.
For a merchant, that’s both the promise and peril of commerce in a connected world.
The promise, of course, is to meet the consumer where she is and where she wants to do business, on her schedule.
The peril is how recognize her once she gets there in order to deliver a seamless and personalized shopping experience.
For a merchant, a connected commerce world means managing the disparate, siloed systems, cobbled together as these new shopping channels and commerce environments emerge — from physical to online to mobile … and soon to the billions of connected endpoints all capable of doing business.
It also means managing the silos of tokenized data across those disparate endpoints that make it difficult, if not impossible, to get a single view of that consumer. That makes even simple use cases, such as buy online and return in store, a systems hassle and an IT headache for most merchants.
To ease that burden, Visa introduced Token Management Service (TMS), a token aggregation solution that gives Visa merchants a single view of the customer across all of the channels she shops and payments methods she uses when shopping there, without a heavy IT lift or the need to change their existing token service provider relationships.
In an interview with PYMNTS’ Karen Webster, Andre Machicao, senior vice president of Visa CyberSource, said that TMS had been a few years in the making, framed specifically to give merchants an effective way to close the omnichannel gap and create a truly integrated customer experience.
Machicao said that as Visa teams have worked with clients to support their omnichannel ambitions, they encountered a consistent and persistent theme: Despite merchant excitement over its potential, delivering an omnichannel experience seemed daunting, especially as more commerce opportunities appeared.
Connecting all of the disparate token dots to create the foundation for a more efficient consumer/merchant relationship, while keeping account information secure, required more time and developer resources than they could spare, given other more pressing priorities.
TMS, Machicao said, abstracts the complexity associated with managing token silos so that merchants truly have a single, and comprehensive, look at the customer across all methods of payment, including alternative payments methods, rewards points as currency and merchant loyalty programs. This also includes the ability to scale as shopping channels and shopping destinations – think geographies — proliferated.
“Even in the long term, where we expect to have pervasiveness around payment network tokens across all the major brands – for a merchant, if their payments strategy includes the acceptance of ACH and alternative payments, even if that is a minority in their payment acceptance – if they do not have a token service that works across all of those methods, they still are left with a gap,”Machicao said.
The deployment of TMS, Machicao said, requires only limited changes to the merchant’s existing IT infrastructure, acting as an overlay of sorts to existing processes (and with a single point of integration). Data is stored not on the merchant’s network, but across Visa’s own data centers, ensuring compliance for merchants while reducing their individual compliance scope.
Easy access to these now aggregated payment tokens creates a single identifier for the consumer, one that is compatible with the PAN format used by merchant loyalty, CRM, ERP and other systems to manage the customer. That single identifier is enriched as consumers use new IoT channels to initiate commerce.
Today, that global rollout comes as beta testing ends. Machicao explained that by monitoring the omnichannel progress of a select group of clients during the test, he was struck by the creativity coming from merchants and service providers who were able to focus on making payments an embedded part of an outcome-based and contextual experience, rather than the IT burden associated with creating the interoperability.
He noted that TMS, itself, is a discrete utility, that merchants can deploy as they choose, across a wide array of channels and use cases — but the real story is how it will be used to reinvent the relationships with their customers in a world in which the lines between shopping channels are indistinguishable, from the consumer’s perspective.
“What’s really exciting about this [TMS] announcement is that it’s a story about retailer top line growth. TMS is a tool that can help merchants drive new sales conversions … and that’s an exciting place to be,” said Machicao.