April 19, 2021 at 05:00PM

While there have been many challenges in the past year, Talbott Roche, CEO and president of Blackhawk Network, also recognizes many opportunities inherent in the wave of digitization. “Payments can be the conduit to deepen connections between brands and consumers, solving their problems, meeting their demands and creating better, more meaningful shopping and payment experiences that will persist long after the pandemic is over,” she says in The Connected Economy’s Power Source – CEO Edition.

In a time of increasing change for businesses and people, the current global climate has accelerated the digitization of payment trends at a much quicker pace than previously envisioned.

Payments can be the conduit to deepen connections between brands and consumers, solving their problems, meeting their demands and creating better, more meaningful shopping and payment experiences that will persist long after the pandemic is over. From cash to rewards and gift cards, mobile wallets must transition to become truly useable resources across technology, retailers and buying experiences.

We see immense opportunity to offer true omnichannel retail experiences, and programs that increase the capacity to accept new payment resources, such as barcode-based “cash payments,” are helping consumers more easily make physical purchases for digital goods.

These unified commerce experiences really took off during the height of the pandemic and the 2020 holiday season, as consumers found new ways to shop and retailers were forced to look at more unique customer acquisition and payment experiences, including contactless and delivery. The glue here became mobile wallets, which saw a major increase in usage in 2020 across the globe, one that the industry had predicted would take upwards of a decade to reach.

But getting consumers to use their mobile wallets is just the first step – and in a post-pandemic world, our role is to continue to innovate. We must drive additional options across the payment, coupons, rebates and incentives spectrum into the mobile wallet to create the best experience for consumers – and in a way that does not overtask retailers’ existing operations.

The biggest winners in the next phase of the payments race will be the ones that are able to strike a balance between providing choices and seamless experiences to the consumers, while making it effortless for retailers. Streamlining the purchasing process for digital and mobile shopping has become a must for retailers.

Retailers and consumers alike are looking for more ways to unleash the value of their mobile wallets to spend across a variety of situations, and to make it possible to redeem points, rewards and gift cards seamlessly across the omnichannel shopping experience. We must also bridge the gap between cash and digital payments for underbanked, unbanked and cash-preferring customers.

In many ways, we’ve already seen this impact start to set in, spurred by the demand for quick innovation and adaptation brought on by COVID. Over the next one to two years, I see the payments industry being well-poised to help build these better connections between consumers and businesses. To me, the concept of streamlined, seamless digital payments is the single biggest factor in making a transformational leap in payments.

The brands that are thriving are those that are actively looking for ways to overcome new challenges by creating fresh, seamless experiences to engage customers across the channels they find most valuable. It will be key for retailers to invest in their digital platforms, expand and ensure payment option parity across their physical and digital channels, and deliver a seamless, truly omnichannel experience.

Digital Payments To Move The Needle For Retailers …

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