By: Susanne Steidl

We already know that our lifestyles are changing rapidly thanks to technology – new products and apps crop up every quarter, and consumers are growing more eager to adopt tools to make life easier. It is only natural that payments would change rapidly as well. After years of relatively small, incremental advancements, tech has infiltrated payments such that changes and opportunities are constant. This is not news.

What we really need to be thinking about, as an industry and within our own organizations, is how to think strategically about how best to leverage progress. How to look beyond the horizon and anticipate where the world is going so we can put our attention on that. Nowadays everyone strives to be innovative but that needs to be balanced with being selective and anticipating the areas of greatest benefit.

As always, the first place to look is at the consumer. We can free consumers from cash, plastic cards, and other payment intermediaries, the more we can safely harness data, apply artificial intelligence to new payment platforms, and build fully digital, real-time ecosystems. For consumers the payments experience is truly seamless and invisible.

Along these lines, Wirecard has introduced many new technologies to the payments space in Europe and Asia. We lead the ominchannel space with WeChat Pay or Alipay. We’ve introduced our own payment app, boon. And we’re partnering with major airports, sports stadiums, and other venues to integrate travel, leisure, and consumer goods with loyalty and rewards programs. Taking off from those successes, we’re developing new solutions for the unique needs of American merchants and consumers.

Of all these, if there is one exciting new opportunity for payments, it must be the connected store. In February we announced a partnership with the French firm SES-imagotag in which we’re setting up payment tech to enable customers to pay at the shelf from digital price tags that their mobile devices can read using a QR code or near-field communication.

To many merchants, this model is nothing less than game changing, for consumers the new flows are very natural. Having looked closely at the present landscape, we know that consumers adopt the technologies and processes that are presented within a framework they trust, such as a retail establishment they have a relationship with already. After they use the system a few times, they get used to it and it becomes normal.

The connected store represents just one piece of a much larger system. POS and e-commerce systems also need to be updated and integrated so that consumers experience a retailer as a continuous omnichannel experience. That experience differs depending on a retailer’s offerings and their customers’ preferences. If a customer needs to try and purchase physical products in-person or have the product delivered to their address on the same day, then it would make sense to offer digital in-store experiences. Many consumers already take advantage of this convenience when they try something off the shelf, scan the QR code in the changing room, and then order a different color in the app whilst still in-store.

79% North American retailers investing in IoT technologies such as automated inventory verification and sensors on shelves

Source: Zebra Technologies Retail Vision Study 2017

As we live more immersed in a digitally integrated lifestyle and retailers invest more in IoT technologies, our industry will come up with more ways to provide seamless payment experiences to support the market’s demand for personalized, frictionless retail experiences. We can expect to move rapidly beyond a payments-only, card-centered infrastructure and into an advanced, user-focused digital ecosystem that forms the invisible framework behind our post-millennial lifestyle.

Possibly the most exciting challenge of all is that these decisions cannot be based on numbers alone. A knowledge of the industry, thorough assessment of opportunities, and good intuition all contribute. Making a decision takes courage. But it’s the only way to lead. The consequence of making proactive decisions, of just thinking and acting beyond the status quo and setting trends – is being among the industry’s leaders.