APEX: let the good times (and insights) roll
Engagement, security and compliance—at the recent All Payments Expo (APEX) in New Orleans, those words were heard as often as jazz, bread pudding and pour me a drink to go.
As the newest Paybefore editor—nice to meet you—the March conference served not only as a primer on my new beat but also a reminder of how closely related payments is to e-commerce, my previous coverage area. For instance, as e-retailers fret over how to better capture the attention and loyalties of an increasingly mobile consumer base, those on the payments side are trying to figure out how those potential customers prefer to pay. Doing so successfully in any channel requires deeper dives into the minds of shoppers, account holders and bill payers. And sometimes, it seems, simplicity may win out.
“You all care [about new payment options], but consumers don’t,” said Sam Maule, emerging payments practice lead at Carlisle & Gallagher Consulting Group, during the show. “They have solution overload,” he said. “There’s way too much noise and what pain point does any of it really solve? It shouldn’t be what are we trying to solve for, it should be who are we trying to solve for?”
Payments, though, can work to engage customers, according to Talbott Roche, president and CEO, Blackhawk Network, who gave one of the conference’s keynote speeches. “Payments provide a new platform for deeper engagement with the connected consumer,” she said. “New payment technologies are a way for us to build trust, transparency and interactivity—as well as provide flexibility, speed, deliver more value and reward the consumer for their business.”
While many at the show were eager to discuss new opportunities for engagement, frustration was palpable in at least a few sessions devoted to compliance and regulations—especially one in which payment industry lawyers talked about the CFPB’s looming prepaid rules, which those experts predict will not be released in final form until this summer. For now, the industry only can anticipate the changes to come and how best to spend its money to conform to the new rules. Perhaps the most holistic advice—and, to my ears, the most realistic guidance—came from John Hagy, chief legal officer for Meta Payment Systems: “You’ll have to spend whatever it takes to comply.”
Finally, as a scribe who used to cover payment card technology and global banking before e-commerce and prepaid, I found encouragement in an APEX session focused on EMV progress in the U.S. Though merchant acceptance represents a dragging force on the ongoing rollout of anti-fraud technology here, the rollout should hit its full stride by 2020, experts said. That certainly doesn’t mean criminals will experience the bitter taste of total defeat— those bent on theft usually find a way—but it does narrow the scope of the battlefield. I’ve spent too much time documenting consumers getting ripped off by thieves who steal their payment and identification data, and—perhaps because of my experience covering crime for newspapers—I tend to consider the costs and hassles suffered by victims in those breaches. It would be nice change for everyone involved not to have to cover such news so often.
If you made it to New Orleans, I hope you had a fun and productive time. If not, I hope you gained something from our APEX coverage and can join us next year. In the meantime, I look forward to getting to know you and hearing about how your company is changing payments and the customer experience for the better.
By Thad Rueter, Paybefore