Can Verifone's digital makeover win over jaded merchants?

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Verifone has spent years clawing its way out of a crater it dug for itself, so a fresh coat of paint on its website might seem like a minor thing. But it signals the latest big shift in the company's sales strategy.

The San Jose, Calif.-based company has made many changes since Paul Galant became CEO in late 2013. Prior to Galant's arrival, Verifone was a troubled company that Galant said had taken its customer relationships for granted for too long, not realizing those relationships were eroding and the company was losing market share.

The new CEO made it clear that his priority was to overcome these "self-inflicted wounds" of poor customer service, late shipments, delayed product launches and late certifications. The website wasn't a major focus of the company, which relied on business-to-business relationships with acquirers and resellers rather than marketing its products online.

"This redesign was done to an extent to reflect on our transformation, but also to move us closer to the merchant and end-user experience," said Valli Lakshmanan, vice president of global marketing and global experience design lead for Verifone.

Verifone is one of the many legacy payment companies disrupted by the success of newcomers like Square, which sidestepped traditional sales channels to enable merchants to buy card readers at drug stores and other consumer channels. Verifone made several attempts to adapt by offering similar products, but ultimately the company realized it needed to make bigger changes to win back its customer base.

Square's pitch was simplicity, and for merchants that hadn't accepted card payments before, Verifone's ties throughout the vast payments ecosystem may have seemed too complex for micro-merchants' needs.

"Payments are very complicated with moving parts like a brand, an acquirer, payment acceptance, security, PCI compliance, and local presentations [regulations]," Lakshmanan said. "The website looks to simplify this from a merchant perspective, and show that Verifone is here to help them through that."

Though each market has its own focus, establishing a website that is specific to regions but keeps the brand visual consistent was a very important aspect for Lakshmanan and his team.

Verifone had to focus as much on what type of experience its customers could expect with integrated payments and apps, in addition to its traditional service of providing secure payment acceptance hardware and software.

"Moving beyond payment acceptance, we are talking about commerce and connected strategies, and our website now reflects that," Lakshmanan said.

The change is not lost on those who have monitored Verifone's business model and activities for many years.

"Verifone has come a long way in repairing its customer relationships since Galant took over as CEO, and this is evident by Verifone's success in the U.S. market over the last few years," said Gil Luria, director of research for equity capital markets at D.A. Davidson & Co. "Many of its end customers are small businesses that want to know they are buying the latest technology and are supported by a credible company."

Verifone's website has been updated to "look more like a modern consumer electronics presence as opposed to a corporate website, which should help with the messaging to small businesses," Luria added.

Verifone's vision of how it could better expand its influence through omnichannel development became clear last year, the result of both the desire to help merchants and banks embrace technology and also help the company overcome declining hardware demands in certain markets.

But Verifone's troubles aren't entirely behind it. The company must continue to overcome the decline in EMV enabled terminal deployments that caused it to reveal in June of 2016 that it would cut staff and drop some of the underperforming parts of its business.

A clearer picture of who and what Verifone is across the globe will help the company in all future dealings, Lakshmanan said.

"Verifone is a global company with a history and legacy attached to it because, for some, the first payment acceptance device they ever had was a Verifone product," Lakshmanan added. "As a brand, it makes sense to have consistency, but through changes and acquisitions, it took on a life of its own with a different look to the website in different regions."

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