It’s been two years since the Europay, Mastercard and Visa (EMV) fraud liability shift from banks to merchants took hold in the United States, driving a surge in the number of merchants to migrate to point-of-sale (POS) EMV chip card reader terminals. Despite U.S. adoption rates that lag many other parts of the world – only about half of the transactions today are facilitated with chip card readers – the speed of innovation in commerce isn’t slowing down globally. While EMV technology might feel like old news, the next generation of payments – including biometric systems, digital currency, Blockchain-enabled transaction management and increased use of P2P payment systems, among others – are close as your nearest smartphone, wearable, or IoT device. The ability to securely accept payments through a multitude of options will determine how merchants fare in the years ahead.

Many of the latest developments that seemed so distant just a couple of years ago are already ready to dominate the market and transform how consumers will shop and pay in the near future, giving brick-and-mortar merchants competition like never before. It is no longer enough to participate in multi-channel commerce, with a website, smartphone app and physical store; omnichannel – 100% continuity of the purchasing experience – is what customers will soon demand.

“If I can order a burrito from my smartwatch or refill a prescription via an app and pick it up in just a few minutes, why can’t the same concept be applied to things that I buy in the store?”

Customers aren’t always interested in understanding how the technology works, and why it may be challenging to implement, so long as they can purchase what they want quickly and easily.

Often, the simpler an experience appears to a customer, the more complicated it is in the background. From education to testing to security requirements, the pressure to become savvy enough to keep up with technology is immense for merchants.

What can they do to stay in the game, or even ahead of the curve?

Understand the customer. The customer base, as a whole, is shifting and businesses must understand the mindset driving generational purchasing habits. If you think about it, nothing invented before you were five years old is an invention to you – it just “is.”  Those born before 1996 or later, Generation Z – a generation that wields $44 billion in spending power – have never lived in an era that didn’t have the Internet and are more accustomed to daily life with a smartphone than without. Businesses need to understand the importance of meeting their customers where they are by offering the flexibility to pay for goods and services in the way that works best for them – whether in person, online, in-app or a combination of all three.

Design security into the payment experience. Most importantly, businesses need to think about re-designing customer experiences while keeping security top-of-mind. The same digital revolution that has enabled greater innovation in payment technology has also created a world in which information is readily available at our fingertips. Experiences matter and merchants must provide their customers a positive one to generate both repeat business and positive word-of-mouth. However, that re-envisioned purchasing experience must be grounded in safeguards against fraud – also of utmost priority for customers.

Build a strong team. Depending on the size of the organization, businesses should build or partner with a third-party team that understands security and payments, and who can help sort out the murky future ahead from an advisory, security and testing perspective. For example, large organizations should have C-level executives who focus solely on security – not only to maintain the budget necessary to prioritize security within the company but to also demonstrate the extreme importance of this corporate function internally. This dedicated team can help a business ensure its bases are covered from a security standpoint – from the basics to PCI to overall infrastructure.

As the market evolves to allow for more innovative and flexible payment options, these key considerations can help ensure merchants can leverage innovation to drive success by keeping both the customer experience and data security needs in balance.

“Payments are the lifeblood of business, as they go hand-in-hand with successful commerce,” said Katherine McClure, senior sales executive at UL. “While the innovation is promising, now more than ever, businesses can never be too confident about security and should not take shortcuts on what is needed to prevent breaches or fraudulent activity.”

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