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Payments power success: the five pillars of a winning payments platform

Wowing customers isn’t just about providing new novel ways to pay. It’s about having an agile, open platform that takes interactions to different levels. How to achieve this? Read on.

The best business models are those that create a seamless exchange of products and services. At the heart of this lies the payments platform. More important than ever as consumers demand flexibility and choice, it’s quickly becoming a differentiator for smart businesses. Payments platforms drive the satisfying (and sometimes not-so-satisfying) commerce interactions we experience as consumers today. But meeting customers’ needs and creating a competitive edge in any market or industry relies on more than just providing a basic payment platform. You have to look deeper. Here we explore the five most important considerations when it comes to building a transformational payments platform.

1. Forget products, concentrate on what the customer wants

Being hyper-attuned to customer outcomes is essential. Ask yourself why we choose to pay in different ways. It’s not because we think eCash is cool. Or because we’re impressed with the clever tech that’s powering the digital wallet on our smartphone. It’s because it improves our transaction experiences—whether that’s access to instant 24/7 payments online or a streamlined, expediated checkout.  

We choose the options that make our lives as consumers easier and get us to our desired outcomes faster. Banks may offer loans, overdrafts, and credit cards—but they’re really just selling lending in different guises. For the consumer, it’s not about the product, but how they achieve their goals of buying a car, meeting their monthly bills on time, or going on a spending spree. The design of a payments platform should be driven by the convenience payments provide to the customer and the problem you’re trying to solve for them. Key to this is shifting from a focus on siloed products to the experience as a whole: anytime, anywhere, any method transactions.

2. Get the build balance right

The beauty of an open, integrated ecosystem is that whatever market you operate in, you can collaborate with specialists that are able to accelerate issue resolution and find solutions quicker than you can. This requires an understanding of what your strengths are. And knowing when and what to build, and how to go about it.

A lot of firms lose their way by forgetting what they’re trying to achieve, becoming more of a pipeline than a platform business. The technology you build should be around your core competencies. There’s no point getting bogged down in areas that aren’t your strength when you can partner with other tech companies to do it. The best payment platforms are designed to allow you to focus on innovation in your products and serving customers competitively.

3. Think futureproofed from day one

A flexible payments platform is a futureproofed one. It needs to have the ability to scale easily in line with your growing business and customer base. To make use of emerging and evolving tech such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, and advanced analytics. And to be open with the ability to connect with peers, third-party providers, and even competitions (more on that later).

So while you have to focus on your business’s current goals, your platform must be flexible enough to adapt to market dynamics and your changing business requirements. Having a forward-looking API strategy is key to creating a payments platform where innovation thrives in a collaborative space. From private APIs with select partners to public APIs open to external developers—your API sophistication will determine the level of innovation and creativity you can achieve in driving customer experience to new levels.

4. Pursue integration and openness at all costs

We’ve already touched on the benefits of an open payments ecosystem. Yesterday’s competitors have become today’s partners, with organisations benefitting from the ability to plug into each other’s APIs. It’s revolutionised the payments landscape. We now operate within more innovative and collaborative environments, enabling all players to bring to market new solutions that add value.

Everyone—especially the consumer—stands to gain from an open ecosystem, so it’s important to work towards integration. But doing so isn’t an overnight process. It requires keeping a focus on the wider goal and developing your API strategy to support your vision.

5. Bolster the tech by building the right culture behind it

We know that culture plays a vital role in any company’s overall success. And while having a scalable, secure, futureproofed payments platform is going to get you a long way to achieving your business objectives, it’s not technology in isolation that’s going to create the best experience for customers. It pays to look at the functioning of your payments platform in the context of your entire business and, importantly, work to a common goal driven by what your customers want to achieve and how you can facilitate that.

You need to bring classic product management and platform capabilities together in the right environment to ensure success. The whole team needs to understand the value a well-functioning platform brings to the organisation, especially if this goes across multiple parts of the business and product lines that don’t typically collaborate.

Transform your payments platform to drive innovation

The bottom line is that winning businesses have winning payments platforms. And as payments continue to deliver new experiences for consumers, understanding the characteristics behind a great payments infrastructure is key to success. It’s not enough to say you’re a platform business—your systems need to reflect that by being open, easy to integrate, and flexible. But perhaps most essential in the mix is having a laser focus on customers’ outcomes and designing tech that’s going to deliver those faster.