What do merchants truly want in a payments solution?

Compared to the average sole trader, card-accepting merchants are a group with understandably more complex needs when it comes to payment acceptance. This begs the question – what do merchants truly want in a payment acceptance solution?

There are, of course, the hygiene factors:

  • Value for money
  • Reliability
  • Security
  • Settlement times
  • Quality of customer service

Despite many providers focusing on these areas, one key aspect remains historically overlooked: flexibility. What exactly is flexibility? In this context, it refers to the ability for providers to tailor solutions based on an understanding of each merchant’s uniqueness: what may work for merchants in the hospitality sector may not necessarily translate to those in retail. Merchants are becoming increasingly discerning when it comes to their payment providers and are more likely to switch if their needs are not being met consistently.

How do you navigate these ever-changing needs and preferences of merchants, providing flexible solutions that are cost effective, innovative and don’t negatively impact your bottom line? Here are some recommendations on how to drive value with merchants and set you in a winning position.

Prioritise ease of use and time saving

Whilst merchants do have a plethora of solutions available to choose from, they lack the most valuable commodity of all: time. Time-poor merchants want a plug-and-play solution that will not take a long time to set up and learn. Providers that excel in this area are gaining traction; RFI Global data indicates that in the UK, as of 2021, providers with “easier” onboarding processes like Square and Shopify have grown their awareness to 33% and 21% respectively.

Merchants are increasingly looking for integrated, holistic services, reducing the need for manual intervention and reconciliation.

Build trust by showing appreciation for their unique needs

RFI Global data also shows that the ability to understand the needs of merchants, and leveraging this understanding to offer solutions to meet those needs and drive growth can have a clear impact on recommendations and NPS. This is because an appreciation of the unique needs of individual merchants will help foster a strong perception of trust – a top 2 driver of acquirer choice in the UK (38%), Canada (39%), and the USA (35%), and consistently strong driver of satisfaction. Conversely, how can a merchant trust a provider that does not appreciate and understand their needs?

Invest in innovation to curb switching

Now is the time for traditional payments providers to invest in innovation, with merchant switching appetite increasing from an average of 40% in 2020 to 49% at the end of 2021. Whilst the five key hygiene factors previously mentioned are undeniably important, merchants may increasingly look towards providers that innovate in order to provide solutions more suitable to their unique needs. If traditional providers fail to innovate, there is a substantial risk that merchants will leave these providers for those that do.

Furthermore, merchants who have had positive experiences when switching are more likely to do so again. RFI Global data shows that 62% of merchants who have switched providers successfully are willing to switch again, compared to  only 21% willing to switch among  those who have never switched. Understanding your merchant clients, and using that understanding to innovate and offer more relevant products and services will not only drive acquisition, but also improve retention as merchants will have no reason to look towards alternative providers to have their needs addressed.

Be more than a payments tool

Overall, merchants want a provider that fulfils the five key hygiene factors, but there is also an increasing desire for innovative solutions that meet the unique needs of their businesses. This can be achieved by offering flexible solutions that help support merchants as they grow, Moving forward, the providers that will find the most success will not be those offering merchants a payments solution, but instead those that become a trusted partner on their journey.

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