Pursuing a “buy anywhere” strategy? Key integration factors to know, by Kimberly Berneck, senior vice president of delivery, BTM Global

Whether you call it omni-channel, multi-channel, or a “buy anywhere” strategy, companies are scrambling to give their customers a consistent and secure experience anywhere. This convergence of brand experiences and environments is especially scrutinized when it comes to handling customer payments.

Currently there are very few companies that are truly able to convert payment information and centralize it in one location for more efficient returns and processing. Most organizations, especially retailers, have two different systems to keep track of payments depending on the type, so there’s very little convergence happening. This seems to be working fine for now, but consumers won’t be satisfied for long.

Integration is critical

Integration among your systems, applications and interaction points is important to achieving payment convergence, but it’s also a complicated area. When working with your integration partner, it helps to be aware of a few critical questions and considerations so that you can come to the table more informed and ask the right questions.

Know your customer

What type of customer experience do you want to offer? Maybe you have an idea of what you want your applications to do and how you want them to perform, but what does the end-result – the customer experience – look like?

For example, if I buy a shirt online using my tablet, then return the shirt to the store, many retailers won’t know how I paid for the shirt because they don’t have a centralized location that holds that payment information: Did I use a gift card? Apple pay? A credit card? Perhaps they’ll want to give me store credit instead of a refund, or will need to see the credit card I originally used. This isn’t a seamless or convenient experience for the customer – or the store associate.

Your integration partner can help guide you on how to achieve your version of the best customer experience.

Capture the right data

Data capture and analytics are key to making the best customer experience a reality. Can you capture the data you need to capture? Do you know which data you should capture to give you the right customer insight? A lot of integration is required behind-the-scenes to make this work. Make sure you have the same, consistent data flowing throughout your organization. To offer a product anywhere at the same price, you need to have your information in sync and available to all systems.

When it comes to customer behavior and needs, you are the expert who will have to answer questions about what insight you need and which data and metrics go into those insights. What are the key behaviors and desires you need to understand? What matters most to them? When, where and how do they buy? By knowing your customers’ priorities, you will have clearer insight into how best to serve them and – just as important – what drives their engagement with your company. What do they think sets your business apart? What are your differentiators? With a clear understanding of your most loyal customers, you and your partner can prioritize your time, budget and desired outcomes most wisely.

Centralize your data for a “buy anywhere” experience

Centralizing customer and payment data, along with integrating systems throughout your enterprise, will enable your customers to engage with you on any channel that suits them, and it lets you know and track their behaviors and purchases for an optimal experience. With a good understanding of your customer and your business objectives, your integration partner can help bring those plans to reality.

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