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By Andrea Dunlop, managing director of Access PaySuite.

The world is forever evolving to become increasingly digitally-focused, but this has accelerated more than anyone could have imagined over the past 12 months. Driven by government orders to stay at home, reduced social contact and exposure to high-volume touchpoints, efforts to contain the Covid-19 pandemic have led to a virtual-first society, affecting almost every part of human life.

Day-to-day tasks including the way we order groceries, connect with friends or even receive our monthly payslips are now facilitated by technology. As such, the wants, needs and expectations of the customer are changing almost as fast as these virtual experiences became the norm.

Now, as more and more purchases – ranging from small one-off buys to larger, or regular investments – are happening in the digital space, it’s crucial that retailers, suppliers or any business that takes or collects funds from another party understands how to make their payments work effectively in this new reality.

It affects all markets and all contexts. Whether you’re a bar operator taking orders via an app or a business working with retainer clients and setting up a regular fee, your virtual payment experience is important. Alongside the standard expectations there are lots of factors to consider, also driven by the pandemic; customers are increasingly savvy to fraud so ensuring trust is key.

Slow, disjointed payment platforms don’t appear authentic. Payments must be as simple and secure as possible in order to provide an excellent customer experience, as well as the superior back-end efficiency needed to adapt your business and grow in the modern world.

Andrea Dunlop

Andrea Dunlop

A near-seamless link  

For this reason, the integration of payments and software lies at the heart of forward-thinking businesses. Embedding your payment system within your existing operational software has numerous positive outcomes for customers, which we’ll expand on later. If you’re a business owner, first it’s important to understand what integrated payments are, and why choosing to use them could be one of the most effective ways to streamline your processes.

When referring to integrated, or embedded payments, we simply mean choosing to ‘link up’ your payments technology with other software you use. For example, if you currently use software to manage your invoicing and want to utilise embedded payments, then you need to search for a payments provider with APIs that are compatible with the software, or are flexible enough to integrate. Other types of software that payments can be embedded into include CRMs. Business and accounting systems can now communicate with impressive efficiency, offering a near-seamless link.

Insights through synergy 

By integrating payments you’ll immediately open the door to automation and increased transparency over your finances, and how they affect your KPIs. Data input and output from the linked software can be viewed together on one dashboard, providing synergy between each service.

With one subtle difference the efficiencies are huge, and lots of time and money can be saved with proper integration. Automatic alerts can be set up to issue late payment reminders, chase up debts or log when a payment is received. You’ll have complete transparency over your cash flow, reducing the risk of human error and improving your reporting abilities. When invoicing and credit checks are integrated, late payments are spotted quickly so you can take action before it causes financial damage.

As well as keeping your cash flow safe, embedding payments into your existing software suite adds an extra layer of business security. Cloud-based by nature, look for a provider with ISO accreditation to reap the benefits of a securely hosted system.

Once linked, each user can quickly log on into one account and view the whole financial database with ease, rather than cross referencing numerous suites using a fragmented, disjointed process. Time that staff would have spent collating information from separate sources can now be spent on value-added areas, reducing stress while improving overall efficiency and results.

Customer-first approach 

Digital payments are now the norm for most consumers, with payments happening in increasingly diverse spaces. Alongside remote card machines and mobile wallets, even social media is being used and accepted as a platform to pay for a service. A recent Facebook report found that 60% of 18 – 43 year olds had completed a transaction with a business through messaging apps like Messenger or WhatsApp, falling slightly to 56% for all ages.

While the physical restrictions of Covid-19 are a key driver for this trend, there are additional consumer benefits to digital spending that may also explain the move to digital. Just as integrated payments can offer businesses improved financial visibility, paying digitally also offers the consumer spending-based insights.

Apps such as Monzo innovated this functionality, with legacy banks such as Barclays now also offering budgeting reports based on each user’s data. In fact, 62% of people think that they are in better control of their finances as a result of using online banking, and 18% have used lockdown as an opportunity for a financial overhaul.

Customers are confident in paying for services online and increasingly aware of clunky or outdated processes. In order to make the most of this, businesses need to offer a secure, frictionless payment experience that can integrate with a customer’s bank as well as their operational software.

Industries in action 

Integrating payments systems to streamline your direct debits and regular payments is a popular use of the technology, but it’s not limited to the B2B landscape. Nor is it only suitable for certain sectors.

To get a full picture of the scalability and possibilities of contactless payments, we must look to the early adopters across a wide range of industries. Though their specific applications are different, each one recognises the benefits of integrating reliable payments tools into their business-specific software, enabling them to streamline the most important aspects of their organisation.

In education, schools and parents are using cashless payments for school dinners, school trips and to purchase items such as equipment or photographs from their online shop. By integrating their payments with wider systems each school benefits from comprehensive reporting and income generation, while parents enjoy a fast and simple way to keep up with regular and ad-hoc payment requests, rather than relying on paper letters that can easily get lost.

At a time when ordering via a mobile device at a bar or restaurant is the norm, POS payment solutions that integrate with additional payment and financial software are helping hospitality businesses amid the digital transformation. As well as helping to streamline up-to-the-minute data on business performance, an integrated approach also enables more consumer-friendly payment options. For example, customers at a restaurant could choose to tip their waiting staff and chefs separately, all in one single transaction.

Overseas, the USA has been ahead of the payments curve for some time. Huge sectors such as law and healthcare also often integrate digital payments within their operations, highlighting how versatile the technology can be, and where the UK might be heading.

Providing an integrated solution

It’s with this in mind that we designed and launched Access PaySuite. Recognising the growing requirement for integrated solutions, we want to empower businesses with the tools to quickly upgrade their systems to meet consumers’ ever-changing expectations. By taking this approach, there’s opportunity for huge growth due to advanced monitoring capabilities offered by digital solutions, combined with the time saved through streamlining finances. Compliance is always ensured, giving businesses the stability and freedom to drive profitability.

We’re specialists with integrated and collaborative tools at Access Group. With the recent development of Access Workspace, a hub that connects business software and the employees that use it, our technology can be used to deliver seamless experiences across the board. Compatible with Access PaySuite, it’s easy to use this system alongside other tools you may run for HR, payroll, CRM, sales or other operational functions.

Scalable and diverse, there’s no end to where integrated payments via Access PaySuite can take a business, or which industries can use it. Our specialist solutions have been developed for sectors such as charities, insurance, telecoms, utilities, finance, and more. Using this expertise, we’re trusted by thousands of commercial businesses and process over 15 million transactions a year.

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