Integrated payments are a hot topic – but what are they, and what do they really mean for your business? Russell Gilmer, Curbstone’s Sales Manager, takes us behind the buzzword. Find out why more and more merchants are integrating their payments.
First things first: what are integrated payments?
Integrated payments help connect the payment processing function with other systems and software, making it a seamless, embedded business process. In Curbstone’s case, we connect it directly to the programs that our customers run on their IBM i/iSeries/AS/400. That could be a commercial ERP system or a custom-built application for one specific business process, like order processing or accounting. With integrated payments, there are no more manual processes, daily transaction reconciling, or fragmented orders.
And how do integrated solutions compare to the manual alternative?
Non-integrated payments are much more time-consuming and disjointed. Let’s say your customer service reps are responsible for processing payments when a customer places an order. On a non-integrated system, they’d have to complete their order, then turn to a completely separate system and re-key things like the transaction amount, customer name, and billing address. With Curbstone, all of the payment information is populated from the existing order.
Integrated payments can also make life easier for your finance team. With a non-integrated approach, they’d be spending hours each week reconciling payments that are not tied to orders. When everything is connected, your order entry system already knows when an order has been paid. It streamlines workflows for multiple back-office departments.
So: integrated payments are primarily a way for a merchant to increase efficiency?
Definitely. With companies today prioritizing efficiency over…almost everything….we see considerable improvements in terms of speed, accuracy, and visibility.
The benefits aren’t just for the merchants, either. The checkout process gets faster, which means customers don’t have to wait as long to get their products and get on with their day. As it becomes increasingly important for companies to become as easy as possible to do business with, integrated payments pay off on the customer side as well.
In today’s world, most merchants sell on multiple channels – for instance, in a retail store, where they use traditional credit card terminals, and online, using an e-commerce website. How do integrated payments work when a merchant processes payments in multiple ways?
It can be less complicated than it sounds when using software that’s designed for omni-channel payments. (In more straightforward terms, that just means a single platform that’s designed to accommodate in-person sales, online sales, and mail orders/phone orders.)
The actual payment processing methods and technologies are still going to be different for each channel. For instance, checkout staff at a retail store will have customers insert or swipe their cards at a physical terminal, while customer service reps in a call center will manually enter the customer’s card data using a secure portal. However, when there’s one platform that serves as the foundation for all of these payment processes, it’s much easier for a merchant to deploy the ones that suit their business.
That’s another important point to make. Merchants need an integrated solution that can grow as they grow. There’s a good chance that the way your business processes payments is going to be different in five years than it is today – whether that’s because you’ve changed your order processing workflow, launched a new e-commerce website, or adopted newer digital payment methods that your customers have been asking for. You’ll need an integrated payment solution that can accommodate those changes as they occur. If you have an inflexible framework, you’re going to be stuck doing things in less-than-ideal ways, cancelling out some of the main benefits of integrated payments.
That sounds like it could get complicated.
It’s actually not complicated at all. Curbstone provides unique technologies and APIs for almost every situation. You don’t have to re-work your business processes or data structures just to make the technologies work, the way you would if you were using a less flexible traditional payment gateway. If you run into problems, our 24/7 support team is standing by to help you get back on track.
What about the integration process itself?
It can take a considerable amount of work for a merchant to build a payment integration from the ground up. That’s why it’s important to work with a solutions provider that has specialized experience on a specific platform.
At Curbstone, we’ve been so focused on the IBM i for so long that we can make payment integrations happen quite efficiently. We’ve developed several out-of-the-box software integrations – for instance, for InTempo Enterprise and Iptor DC1, IP1 and Pharma1 – that require no custom programming at all. Users can add the payment function to their existing workflow without having to build a brand new integration from the ground up.
But, even for merchants that use other ERP packages or AS/400 applications – our RPG-native APIs make the integration process faster and less complicated. Fewer resources are required for development, and RPG programmers don’t have to deal with the steep learning curve that they would if they were using a different payment solution.
That sounds like a great way to reduce the resources required for the development process.
To that end – how do merchants make the business case for integrated payment processing? It has to be more than just promising leadership that new software will make things more efficient, right?
Efficiency can be a hard thing to quantify, but it can be done. Fortunately, Curbstone provides other, additional value that can be much easier for our customers to quantify.
By reducing your credit card processing fees, for instance, your new technologies can quickly pay for themselves. We’ve seen merchants save more than 2 percent on their fees, which – for high volume businesses – can equate to hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.
Additionally, our payment processing technologies significantly reduce your PCI scope. This accomplishes two very measurable changes.
- Your IT team spend less time on PCI compliance every year. This is easily measured and quantified. Time not spent on complicated audits means more time to allocate to other projects.
- You greatly reduce the risk of loss of credit card data. Data breaches con cost a company millions of dollars.
- Target credit card breach – 18.5 million
- TJ Maxx credit card breach – 40.9 million
- Equifax data breach – 425 million
While we don’t ever want to use data breaches as a scare tactic, the cost of a potential incident can help drive home the importance of a solution that keeps your customers’ payment data safe. And that’s not just for massive enterprises like the companies I mentioned above – that’s also for small and mid-size businesses like the manufacturers, distributors, and retailers that we work with every day.
That makes perfect sense. Last question: what advice do you have for a merchant that’s looking to integrate their payments for the first time?
Take your time. Payment integrations can touch almost every portion of your business. Building a quality integration can carry you decades into the future!
Also – lean on industry experts for advice as much as you can. At Curbstone, it’s what we do! We’re here to share best practices, proven methods, and real-world solutions that have worked for other merchants. Our expertise lets you reduce the amount of trial and error that goes into modernizing your payment operations.
Want to learn more? We’re always here. Let us know how we can help.
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This article is provided for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have questions about your specific compliance requirements, please consult with your PCI-certified Qualified Security Assessor (QSA).