It's difficult for acquirers to have the proper payments technology available when merchant interest peaks. This is even more difficult as efforts such as Smart Cities and Internet of Things initiatives overwhelm retailers with options.

Retailers seeking ways to engage with consumers are revamping their stores and and further linking the sales experience with online, mobile and loyalty offerings. It's all a greenfield for acquirers — if they are prepared to serve it.

"Time to market is crucial, we are right at the cusp of where that turn is happening," said Zavida Mangaru, head of products at Total Merchant Services. "Merchants are seeing that they can replicate their messages in many places through omnichannel, rather than having one big footprint in one place."

Zavida Mangaru, Total Merchant Services
Zavida Mangaru, head of products at Total Merchant Services Total Merchant Services

Merchants are increasingly aware of, and interested in, technology that provides various touchpoints with consumers, Mangaru said.

"That's what will drive consumer adoption," Mangaru added. "The more places I, as a consumer, can use the advanced technology, the more likely I am to adopt it."

Woodland Hills, Calif.-based Total Merchant Services wants to grab a piece of that pie, expanding its Groovv integrated payments POS platform this week for developers to include an omnichannel environment for merchants through application programming interfaces and software development kits.

"We recognize the shift that is happening in retail and the desire for a mixed-use environment that allows a merchant to operate in a stable environment, like a store, but also use more mobile options within the stores or restaurants, or on the road," Mangaru said.

Offering the proper omnichannel technology allows a merchant to have a space within a mall setting, but also have a small station in the communal areas of that mall, she added.

One hand feeds the other in payments and retail settings these days, making it important for merchants to be able to offer customers the ability to order products at any location.

"Having this level of service greatly improves customer loyalty, a factor that is very important in today's retail ecosystem," said Jeff Scott, CEO of Infinite Peripherals, a mobile solutions provider.

With those services in place, retailers also can use their locations as shipping points, giving customers the option for same-day delivery or in-store pickup, Scott said.

As such, the current trend in omnichannel and mobile commerce essentially puts to rest the notion that retailers need to align themselves with a single mobile wallet or other emerging payment type. Rather, acquirers are taking the view that merchants simply need to be able to accept all forms of payments, from EMV to NFC and beyond.

"Accepting all payment methods is an integral component to the omnichannel experience," Scott added. "But the mobile wallet could make this more convenient and secure for both the customer and retail stores."

For now, ISOs and acquirers need to concentrate on the online channel in terms of being able to accept various payment types, said Richard Oglesby, president of AZ Payments Group and a senior analyst at Double Diamond Payments Research.

"There still isn't a lot demand from consumers to pay in-store with a wallet solution," he added. "When merchants don't accept in-store wallets, there aren't any major drawbacks."

A mobile wallet becomes a bigger factor in e-commerce because consumers can easily switch from one merchant to another when shopping online, Oglesby said. "The merchant that provides the most seamless experience from end-to-end is the one that will earn the sale."

But an acquirer's timing for all of this isn't just dumb luck. They have to be keenly aware of their merchants' taste in technology and willingness to change.

"It's also a matter of being able to expand on existing merchant relationships," Oglesby said.

If an ISO or acquirer has a portfolio of small restaurants, and they begin adding order-ahead capabilities, the provider "better have an API available so that their developers can route the order-ahead transactions to you," Oglesby added.

Otherwise, the failure to do so gives another acquirer a foot in the door. "So it’s not always a matter of winning the developer, it could just be a matter of keeping the merchant," he said.

While technology is on a fast track, merchants may still show some reluctance to spend on upgrades.

"With many retailers so invested in legacy systems, it becomes an immense challenge to reverse engineer them," Infinite Peripheral's Scott said. "Rather than starting out fresh and throwing everything out, retailers should focus on adapting their legacy systems with mPOS technology and make sure both systems are integrated properly."