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The Future Is Now: Helping Merchants Engage Consumers

discover_mposThe future of payments was on full display in the exhibit hall at this year’s Money 20/20 conference in Las Vegas, and the themes presented there will continue to shape our industry now and in the New Year. Whether it’s digital coupons, next-generation mobile apps or using augmented reality technology to enhance shopping, have no doubt: That future is here and it’s all about engagement. Paybefore sat down with Amy Parsons, vice president and head of global commerce, Discover Global Network, at the show to get her take on what’s ahead.

“Merchants need to create experiences that draw consumers in and make shopping unique,” said Parsons. She pointed to a virtual room design feature from a large home improvement retailer through which the chain enables consumers online to digitally see what their rehabbed spaces might look like with certain paint colors before they buy. The retailer offers its virtual room design to consumers online and also has tested an in-store “virtual reality room” to preview rehabbed spaces before making purchases. The important thing for payments providers is to make sure payments can happen simply and securely in these shopping moments whether that’s through cards, mobile wallets or even voice commands. Such capabilities represent a value add, she explained, repeating a dominant theme at the October gathering.

Merchant Voice

Like other payments experts at the conference, she recommended getting merchants more involved in developing payments as part of an integrated shopping experience. As a network and merchant acquirer with direct merchant relationships, Discover is in a strong position to bring that merchant perspective to bear, she said. “We service both consumers and merchants, and manage merchant relationships,” Parsons said. “We have an eye on all their needs.”

So what do merchants need when it comes to payment innovations and the ever-increasing rate of digital transactions? “They don’t want anything that requires developmental work,” she said. “As the industry looks at better securing transactions, the work and infrastructure is quite significant. Very few entities can venture alone down that path.” That’s one reason the payments network operates the Discover Digital Exchange. The technology is a single platform for merchants to integrate with Android Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay mobile wallets, and enables tokenized NFC and in-app transactions, along with support services that include reporting and analytics.

Faced with the toil of integrating APIs or replacing legacy systems with new terminals and software that need to be tested and certified, many merchants are indeed holding back, perhaps waiting to see how the space settles. That luxury won’t long last, Parsons said. “Consumers are looking for easier ways to shop and pay,” she said. “Merchants have to get into the game. But there is no magic wand, no one thing that everyone can do. Every brand talks to consumers in their own way.”

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