By Ken Musante
Over time, all payments will be integrated with a business’ software or operating system. Integrated payments are far superior from both the merchants’ and the providers’ perspectives. These same benefits may, however, result in businesses paying more for their card processing.
Defining Integrated Payments
Integrated payments allow for a company’s payments infrastructure to communicate with inventory, accounting, HR, and/or restaurant applications. Instead of a payments system and a software package to run the business, there is one integrated system that manages the business, inclusive of payments.
From a merchant’s perspective, the benefits allow for single entry of transactions and cash, gift cards, and payment cards are all run the same way. Ideally, data entered into a Point of Sale (POS) updates the business's accounting software in real-time. Customer lookups and data to identify customer behavior, spend, repeat behavior, and purchase history are in the same system which provides inventory and/or employee payroll. Your payments and your CRM work together to provide a customers’ revenue and profitability to help direct the demographic a business should pursue.
Integrated – The Right Way
One of the reasons payment applications remained stand-alone for so long was that businesses were concerned that the scope of their PCI audit would be significantly larger. Businesses were rightly concerned that if their payments were integrated with their CRM, card data would be significantly more at risk. To address that concern, software applications wisely focused on semi-integrations which allowed for them to access non-sensitive transactional information while not accessing any card data. The payments solution remained cordoned off to protect the most sensitive data and minimize PCI scope. Software and application providers could focus on the ‘running the business’ aspect of their service and leave security and certification to payment specialists. This allowed businesses to harness the nuclear fission inherent in an integrated system without exposure to the potential of a breach fallout.
Putting The Pro Back In Proprietary
Integrated payments allow processors and card service providers to market a proprietary solution that is specific to their offering and for select verticals. Because of the proprietary nature, the solution may only work with their solution. Fast food, Casual dining, and Fine dining may all use an application catering to their need. Retail businesses will select a package that is right for them and allow for them and individualized for their location. Because of this, businesses may not be able to easily switch providers as the software they use to run their business is integrated with their payments application and business processes. Consequently, merchants may see their processing rates drift up over time. Processors understand the reliance and synergies provided when a business has an integrated payments solution and may take advantage of the loyalty to the integrated application by inching up their processing rates.
What’s A Business To Do?
Businesses can and should be diligent when selecting a payments application. They should understand the middleware involved and the card processors which support it, in its entirety. I emphasize this last point because there are integrated solutions that are built on payment agnostics gateways such as Authorize.net or CyberSource but because the overall solution and hardware have only been certified to one provider, the fact that the gateway is agnostic is irrelevant. This is crucial for a business to understand. As shared above, there are valid reasons for an integrated solution to only connect to one card processor. Having only one processor can allow the offering to keep its fees down and afford the solution agility it might not have if it had to certify to multiple endpoints. A merchant or business, however, should know this and use this as one of the criteria when selecting a solution.
Merchants should understand their options and like with any significant cost, minimize it as they grow. Integrated payments are a great evolution. It should benefit businesses by providing efficiencies and innovation. It should not come with a corresponding increase in the cost of your payments.
About The Author
Ken Musante is an experienced industry executive with experience founding and running an ISO and a bank processor. Ken has deep industry knowledge regarding Interchange optimization, Payfacs, and integrated solutions. Connect or contact him at 707 601 7656, firstname.lastname@example.org, https://napapaymentsandconsulting.com/.