How Payments Can Help Save the High Street

Nobody can deny that traditional retail is dying and the high street is suffering as a result. But, as Peter Keenan, CEO, APEXX, argues here, retail is only dying – it’s not dead. Retailers that are innovating and evolving with the changing retail landscape are experiencing growth and success.

Consumers have changed the way they shop; and the rise of online shopping is often cited as a reason for the reduction in people visiting physical stores. The latest retail report from Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that, throughout 2018, the industry saw record proportions for online spending, increasing to 18.2% in August.

Some retailers have struggled to adapt to the rapidly developing digital economy. And many still haven’t made the leap from offline to online. With retailers needing to innovate to survive, those that fail to adapt and rely on inefficient processes won’t just be left behind, they will cease to exist.

Don’t overlook ecommerce

E-commerce is not just a ‘luxury’ – it’s an absolute necessity. It’s the driving force behind success in modern retail, and an area of fierce competition.

Think back to when Blockbuster turned down the opportunity to buy Netflix for only USD$50m (£38m) in 2000; they learnt the (very) hard way that businesses can’t simply be online or offline. With so much choice for consumers in retail, the differentiator is no longer the product, but the customer experience and the ease of making a purchase. Consumers expect purchasing online to be as simple as the process of walking into a store, paying at the counter, and walking straight back out.

But while retailers strive to improve efficiencies and reduce costs in every area, what is one of the most important aspects – payments – is too often overlooked. Whether you’re the shop round the corner or a global enterprise, if you are to survive in this climate, your online offering simply cannot lag behind.

There are massive opportunities for retail businesses to thrive in such a globally connected world. But many are failing to take advantage of this. Too often, international customers have their transactions declined or cancelled while they struggle to use e-commerce platforms that aren’t suited to their local markets.

Quite rightly so, consumers expect the same seamless payments experience and processes wherever they are in the world. If they don’t receive this, they buy elsewhere; whether your goal is trying to survive locally or scale globally, every customer is vital.

If businesses fail to recognise the importance of their payments systems, we’ll only continue to see the retail sector crumble and high street choice fade.

A retail evolution

Streamlining operational costs is a focus for every retail business. But online payment is rarely the first thing to come to mind, simply because the payment ecosystem has been too difficult to navigate.

Modern technology changes everything; merchants are able to explore the global payments market so they can integrate with multiple acquirers, automatically routing any payments through the best acquirer to fit their specific needs. In turn, this allows retailers to increase sales, dramatically increase conversion rates, maximise payments performance, reduce the cost of accepting payments, and, as a result, increase sales by passing on lower costs to their customers.

By integrating with multiple acquirers, retailers can offer hassle-free payments to customers anywhere in the world. In fact, everyone wins. Not only are checkout processes faster and more efficient, but retailers also access lower payments processing costs. These can be passed on to customers without affecting profit margins and make customers much more likely to return.

As the market continues to become increasingly globalised and competitive, businesses that embrace change will excel, while those that don’t are likely to become a thing of the past.