Ecommerce needs partnerships to thrive

By: David Nunn, Head of Braintree Europe

Companies are switching their gears in ecommerce.

They’re starting to move beyond just their familiar web presence and engaging consumers wherever they happen to be spending their time, whether that’s on a social media platform, a news publication, or just about any other popular website or app they use.

Users can buy from the same company in a variety of different places digitally. It’s rewarding to the company to be flexible in how it sells, and it’s empowering for the consumer to choose where they want to spend their time and money. So, a significant trend is emerging– how brands and platforms work together will define the most enduring commerce experiences of the future.

Partnerships can take many forms, and new ones are being created every day.

Tight orchestration and collaboration could mean partnering with a payments service provider, a rewards platform, a social platform, a content platform, or even with other merchants. In any of these cases, synergistic partnerships can heighten the user experience and gain the business a big strategic advantage.

However, when just one negative app review can cost businesses users and a single security error could mean a not insignificant GDPR fine, how do businesses balance the dilemma between customer experience and information security? Experience needs seamlessness and convenience, while security demands rules and boundaries. How do retailers and platforms navigate those when losing one or the other could mean losing customers, revenue and their reputation?

David Nunn
David Nunn

Merchants seeking to deliver a seamless experience are all-too-often held back by the question of payment sharing i.e. how to do it as seamlessly and securely as possible. To approach this problem, we have to unpack what makes partnerships work. Firstly, each party usually has something the other needs: Ticketmaster has paying customers while Facebook has unrivalled reach, for example. But also, each party needs to access highly sensitive payment information without adding risk. Add to this that neither particularly want to take on new risk, nor to build from scratch the infrastructure that could handle the exchange of secure, tokenised payments data.

In today’s highly competitive markets, businesses are better off focusing their resources on selling their own product or service rather than also building highly technical, compliant and heavily customisable technology and infrastructure. As a result, while many companies are eagerly pursuing more integrated experiences with partners, more and more wish to move away from the tricky territory of handling their customers payment information directly.

From the need to deliver new commerce experiences and reward schemes to the promise of extending to new markets, there are so many examples where payment sharing will be critical.

For instance, transaction processing needs to be enhanced on the back end to help merchants manage complexity in their environment. This could include unifying disparate payment systems, working with specialised fraud-service providers, or dual-vaulting a user’s payment information for increased availability and redundancy. Companies such as Vivid Seats connect with a fraud detection partner that specialises in ticketing, while Monoprice uses a central vault and then mirrors that data in a secondary vault for backup. This creates high availability and redundancy to maintain stability.

Rewards and loyalty programs drive user engagement and customer stickiness, but it can be a burden to develop the engineering and business processes around them. For greater efficiency, businesses can partner with rewards platforms, online-to-offline commerce platforms, and even directly with card networks to provide cash-back or card-linked offers. The user’s card details act as the consumer identifier, and merchants can securely share this on the user’s behalf so that purchases can be appropriately tracked and rewards accrued. An example of this is Yelp Cash Back, Yelp’s card-linked loyalty program in the US. Used across thousands of businesses, users register with Yelp and receive real-time cash rebates at the point of sale when eating out and shopping with participating businesses.

Contextual commerce, where retailers relevantly surface in the contexts their audiences are already spending their time in, is starting to drive considerable value for users and retailers. Businesses are partnering with other merchants and platforms to help enable users to purchase directly on new channels, the places they first discover products and services. In many instances, the discovery platform acts as an aggregator, provides content, and owns the checkout experience, but may not wish to take on the work or liability of post-purchase activities and fulfilment. Similarly, businesses themselves want to own the direct relationship with the consumers they’ve attracted via third-party channels rather than risk losing them to the friction-filled experience of click-throughs and redirects.

For instance, Bandsintown, a music artist-and-performance-discovery platform, connects to various ticketing companies letting users discover and select shows, and purchase tickets end-to-end without leaving the Bandsintown platform. Meanwhile, Skyscanner, the popular metasearch engine and price comparison tool, created its direct-booking platform on top of Braintree Extend, where Skyscanner hosts and controls their entire checkout experience and yet simultaneously securely connects multiple airlines and partners to complete the checkout. Finally, Slickdeals, a leading deal community and shopping platform, created its own end-to-end direct checkout experience to engage with users while helping to increase conversion for their connected merchants.

No matter where the checkout begins, consumers today demand effortless commerce experiences, which requires fast, secure and convenient payment completion. Starting with transactions, loyalty/rewards and contextual commerce system as a launchpad, a strong payment infrastructure can enable partnerships to thrive. In fact, rather than being a cause for concern, it can unlock business’ abilities to innovate and light up new use cases that the digital commerce world has never before seen.

Short bio 

David Nunn is the head of Braintree Europe, since 2013. He is passionate about company culture, payments optimisation, and finding solutions to power businesses’ growth. David is responsible for Braintree’s growth across Europe. Braintree, a PayPal company, is an industry-leading online and mobile full-service payments platform powering the best-in-class next-generation purchasing experiences globally. 

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