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Omnichannel Strategies Paying Off For Merchants, Partners — And Consumers Most Of All

Masks are coming off, restaurants are humming again, summer’s almost here and there’s a palpable optimism in the air. Beneath increasingly sunny skies are breakout opportunities for the real reopening now getting underway, where we find merchants and technology firms taking digital transformation in new omnichannel directions — to the delight of consumers.

Out of a time of upheaval and chaotic change comes the “vital realization [that] consumers love omnichannel commerce,” Fiserv Vice President of Carat Product Strategy Chris Abele recently told PYMNTS. “Being able to shop with convenience and have a consistently seamless experience on any channel, any device and any payment method is key for customers.”

The common denominator now is that consumers expect merchants to provide an unbroken continuum of experience in-store and online — retail journeys that take place in two or more ecosystems — and this expectation is doubly true among high-visibility enterprise brands.

To that end, Abele shared insights for merchants now moving decisively into omnichannel, turning the urgent digital shift of 2020 into new and better post-pandemic business models.

Contextual Commerce And Leveraging The Physical Footprint

With a nod to proliferating connected experiences enabled by payments innovation, Abele noted that almost regardless of the vertical, Fiserv is “advising our merchant clients to meet consumers where they shop and cater to their payment preference at checkout.”

In an example of this, Fiserv partnered with Google to launch Google Pay 3.0 last November, allowing merchants to offer greater payments choice and flexibility. Abele called it “a great way for merchant brands to promote and extend offers directly into the Google ecosystem, potentially reaching customers they might not reach through their traditional channels.”

Omnichannel, though sorely tested during lockdowns, is now emerging as a favored way to engage. While urging companies to use brand power and “the reach of digital touchpoints to better connect with new consumers their way,” Abele said that “merchants with physical stores can leverage [those assets] as a competitive advantage versus online-only giants as people shake off more of their pandemic-era habits, chief among them avoiding stores.”

The tactile, immersive nature of real stores offers an edge that eCommerce can’t match, Abele noted. “Solutions that allow brands with both a physical and online presence to make product recommendations and offer discounts to someone who starts shopping online but completes their journey at curbside or in-store is becoming a prevailing and highly effective model.”

Pointing to a large Fiserv footwear and apparel retail client that’s going deeper into omnichannel promotions, Abele said that “merchants can add limited-time discounts to [offers] to increase urgency and drive more traffic.” He added that “such promotions can actually drive a consumer into a store and potentially drive increased basket size as a result. In the case of the retailer mentioned, we are seeing a 65 percent increase in average spend.”

 Enabling The ‘Anywhere, Everywhere’ Payments Experience

 Instant gratification is the order of the day, thanks to heavy use of mobile order-ahead and delivery over the past 15 months. That is now the experiential baseline, and for stores to be part of the future, they need to act the part — behaving digitally by design, starting at the POS.

“Experiences like PayPal and Venmo are familiar to many consumers from their eCommerce activities,” Abele said. “Enabling more touchless innovation at the physical point of sale is an area where we see significant uptake within the next 12 months. We see immense potential in expanding in-store mobile purchase experiences — buying items in-app via smartphone while actually walking a physical store aisle, and then having that order shipped to you.”

Fortunately for Fiserv, it has its own sports stadium to test out next-gen touchless payments experiences. Abele told PYMNTS that Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee is helping the company visualize and create “the world of connected payments experiences, like those we are testing, where payments to in-stadium merchants are orchestrated to deliver new and better-connected experiences” to fans in the stands — and perhaps those streaming it live, too.

In the bleachers or on the sofa, fraud follows wherever digital commerce goes. Saying that “the effort of combating fraudsters has created many unintended consequences,” Abele noted that legitimate consumers are getting more false positives in a fraud-fraught year, “causing friction for the consumer and increasing the risk that they will choose either a different payment method or will choose to shop from a different merchant site altogether.” He said that such transaction declines “for otherwise creditworthy customers” are a special Fiserv focus in 2021.

“We are looking at ways we can improve the communication stream between merchants and issuers by passing additional, highly relevant information directly to issuers,” Abele told PYMNTS. “This allows issuers to make more informed decisions on all transactions, resulting in more legitimate transactions being approved for merchants.” He added that “initial results have been very encouraging,” with merchant decline rates reduced by 1 to 3 percentage points or more in certain circumstances.

Data, Loyalty And The Immediate Future Of Omnichannel

As loyalty programs move from a passive past to a highly proactive present, data is the key that companies in the merchant tech space use to drive greater affinity.

Abele told PYMNTS that “for many merchants, loyalty programs represent [less than] 5 percent of their total consumer base, meaning there remains a significant opportunity to create personalized experiences for the majority of consumers.”

Fiserv data proves useful for this, as program members and merchants demand more personalized loyalty.

“This data-driven approach to loyalty allows merchants to segment consumers into hundreds of personas, then build the right targeting to test, modify and measure results. Because with payments data, you can track the impact of targeted marketing spend, and more accurately understand customer spend,” Abele said.

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