User experience is driving technological change in North America

Andrew Monroe recently took the helm as General Manager of North America for Ingenico ePayments. With new technologies and new regulations hitting the market, e-commerce continues to evolve and present opportunities and challenges for businesses and merchants alike. Andrew shares Ingenico’s new regional vision, the trends that will affect North America in the coming months and his advice for online businesses looking to grow.

Can you tell us about your background and what makes you excited about leading the North American ePayments division?

[AM] My professional background has been exclusively in e-commerce, the past 10 years of which have been dedicated to payments. Both payments and e-commerce are very dynamic industries with emerging and disruptive technologies constantly changing the way users and businesses operate. To me, that is the exciting part — leading Ingenico’s North America charge to help shape the future of payments by being at the forefront of technological advancement.

What will be your main focus for the coming months? What are your plans for the North American organization?

[AM] One of the first things our team did when I became GM was establish a regional vision. We wanted to create a brand in North America synonymous with customer excellence. All of our initiatives are centered around improving the experience for our customers — from pre-sales engagement, to boarding, to integration, to optimization, to ongoing customer support, etc.

To give you an example, we’re cross-training employees on roles from different departments to reduce backlog in any given department. We’ve also created stricter KPIs on response timing and quality. We want to create a culture of being centered around the customer by engaging and empowering employees to continuously improve our ability to serve.

What trends do you see affecting e-commerce in North America?

AM] Over the past two years there has been a massive amount of consolidation in the market  — FIS acquired Worldpay/Vantiv, Fiserv acquired FirstData, GlobalPayments merged with TSYS and so on. Companies are trying to gain competitive advantage by exploiting synergies gained through mergers and acquisitions (M&A). This creates a new dynamic for the North America region and forces payments companies to re-evaluate their regional strategy.

That said, the trends of technological disruption will continue. With more progress and initiatives, we will see faster/real-time payments, and more social/conversational commerce and blockchain technology.

Cross-border payments will continue to play an important role as North America-based merchants continue to expand internationally and seek to do so in a cost-effective and efficient manner. However, increasing international regulation surrounding data protection and storage will continue to make this more difficult for merchants.

And, as always, user experience will drive much of the aforementioned technological changes, which is why it’s important for both Ingenico and merchants alike to have our fingers on the pulse of the consumer.

What advice would you give online businesses in North America looking to grow?

[AM] For starters, take ownership of your data. I’ve always said that data is like a gym membership: everybody has one, but the ones that get the most out of it are the ones that use it daily and rigorously. Effective use of payments data can massively increase revenues, decrease costs, and improve the user experience. Companies like Ingenico are more than willing to assist merchants in taking ownership of their data. We’re also well equipped — we have our own data scientists, analysts and technologies specifically for this purpose.

My next piece of advice is understand your customer. This one sounds obvious, but we’ve seen countless examples of companies that go international without taking into account cultural nuances that exist. Consumers from different regions, different demographics, and in different industries demand a unique user experience. It’s up to merchants to match their offering (both from an overall e-commerce and payments perspective) to that user experience. To do anything otherwise is to sacrifice revenue and alienate potential long-term customers.

Last but not least, embrace change. As I stated before, e-commerce and payments are dynamic industries, and those that are on the forefront of change stand to reap the most benefits. Merchants need to constantly apprise themselves on emerging trends and work with partners to make use of new technologies that establish a better connection with their consumers.

What major challenges do international e-commerce businesses face?

[AM] As I mentioned earlier, two of the major challenges (and also major opportunities) facing merchants are understanding the consumer and embracing change. The two need to be combined. For example, a key challenge for technology companies, payment powerhouses and ambitious retailers is to improve the end-user experience. Ideally, you want to get to the point where payments made via non-Web applications (messaging apps, voice-activated technologies, etc.) are as seamless as they are via the Web. To achieve this, a merchant must understand both what the consumer demands are in each particular region, and what technologies need to be used to fit within that demand.

What role do payments play in the digital transformation?

[AM] Payments play a critical role. Without them, nobody would make any money!

In all seriousness, payments are following the same trends as other parts of the digital world — consumers want things to be faster, easier, and safer. In order for merchants to deliver on this and meet the needs of consumers, they need to have a complete end-to-end user experience, including the payments piece.