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ACI Worldwide: "Our goal is to enable consumers to seamlessly switch between channels during their shopping experience"

Wednesday 29 June 2016 | 09:48 AM CET

Craig Saks, Group President of Strategic Products at ACI Worldwide, shares his views on how evolving consumer behaviours coupled with rapid technological changes are blurring the line between the in-store and the online payment experience

Can you briefly explain ACI Worldwide’s strategic vision for the recently launched UP eCommerce Payments solution?

There are two main facets of ACI’s offering that address the merchant payments space: the eCommerce payments offering, strengthened enormously through the acquisition of PAY.ON in 2015 and our card-not-present security and fraud prevention solution, ACI ReD Shield, plus our in-store capabilities that have for many years served top tier merchants. The UP eCommerce Payments solution brings our different online capabilities together in a single integrated solution and our vision is to enable merchants to facilitate payments seamlessly across all channels.

It is clear that the market is changing, and changing quickly. How do you think the way in which merchants – and consumers for that matter - think about payment is changing and what is driving this?

The line between the in-store payment experience and the online payment experience is blurring, and this trend will only continue. What we think of as a POS experience is going to become far more like an online experience, in terms of the way shoppers interact in a physical retail environment, and how they are able to complete payment. This is a driver for us at ACI to understand how merchants and shoppers want to move between the different channels throughout the path to purchase. The goal of ACI is to enable consumers – via our merchant customers and payment provider partners - to seamlessly switch between channels during the customer journey, without payment ever being the constraining factor. In line with this desire to switch seamlessly between channels, we foresee that payment acceptance in the physical world is going to be increasingly software-based rather than hardware-based.

You mention the shift from hardware to software-based payment acceptance – how quickly do you anticipate this happening?

Physical points of sale are not going to disappear in the next five years, but if you look at a lot of solutions that even the traditional POS vendors are rolling out, they are more and more based on a software platform, and SaaS solutions are becoming the new norm. Also, these support types of interactions and engagement at the POS that, until now, have been more associated with the online space. We believe that within the next five years there will be further investment in technologies such as NFC which, in turn, will enable greater acceptance of mobile proximity payments, and this will also drive the shift to software-based systems.

What do you consider to be the most overlooked - or underestimated - factor in the shift towards digital channels? 

This notion of a single user experience, allowing consumers to start shopping in one channel and finish the payment in another channel, is gaining traction. For example, shoppers starting their journey in a physical store, but completing the purchase in the online channel, or vice versa. But in practice, enabling such an omni-channel experience requires not only the ability to move between channels and to have a single view of your customers, but payments security and fraud detection becomes a critical element as well. Single payment infrastructures that can support all different payments and all different shopping contexts and customer journeys will be necessary to achieve this. This presents a huge challenge to the market as there are a lot of traditional payment infrastructures that have developed in silos, and merchants have to figure out how they are going to move past this, in order to enable a seamless experience for their customers.

Secondly, commerce is really becoming a more global conversation. There is a lot of innovation that is going to happen in the next five years in terms of ways to pay, and merchants not only have to deal with delivering a more seamless customer experience across channels, but also with an ever more global customer base and the accompanying payment security challenges. When expanding cross-border, merchants first and foremost need to understand the legislative and regulatory aspects of each market, but also be aware of local payment behaviours. Within this environment, those vendors that can genuinely deliver easy integration of payment methods will stand to benefit hugely.

Within this environment, is there scope for disruption?

In the next few years merchants will strengthen their role, and intermediaries will fight to add new value to those merchants. Access to customer data through PSD2 and open APIs is going to enable the merchants to bypass intermediaries and send payments directly to the banks, with the resulting advantages. Merchants will have more say in the way payments are completed, who gets paid what within the payment channel, and whose brand is visible during the payment process. The rules of the game are fundamentally changing, and ACI’s task is to be on the front lines, ensuring that our technology enables merchants and payment providers to deliver a next-generation payments experience that is simple, global, and secure.

Consumer expectations and behaviours are rapidly evolving and this is a form of disruption too, as it is pushing merchants and payment providers to innovate quickly, adjusting to the transformations in digital commerce that are also reshaping payments.

About Craig Saks Group President, ACI Worldwide

With more than twenty years of payments and banking expertise, Craig serves as group president at ACI Worldwide, a leading global provider of real-time electronic payment solutions. At ACI, Craig leads the company’s advanced product portfolio, which covers Retail Payments, Wholesale Banking, Merchants, Electronic Bill Payment and Presentment, Payments Risk Management, Payment Hubs, Payments Tools and all associated channels, including mobile and online. Prior to ACI, Craig held senior-level positions at S1 Corporation (acquired by ACI), Fundamo (acquired by Visa) and PWC. Craig is an expert on global payments and a leading industry authority on payments disruption.

About ACI Worldwide

ACI Worldwide powers electronic payments for more than 5,100 organizations globally. More than 1,000 of the largest financial institutions and intermediaries plus thousands of global merchants execute $14 trillion each day in payments through ACI. Through a comprehensive suite of software and SaaS-based solutions, ACI delivers real-time, any-to-any payments capabilities.