Gathering during a panel at this month’s PF WORLD 2019, representatives from three software companies shared insights into their payment facilitator journeys – including why they got into payments and what they’ve learned along the way. 

Moderated by Frank Lynch, vice president of sales for Infinicept, the panel featured Cristina Cordova, business lead for Stripe; Les Whiting, chief financial services officer for Wave; and Matt Doka, founder and CTO of Fivestars. 

While they came to the space from different perspectives, the panelists easily found common ground, agreeing that the previous experience for merchants was simply not working. In many ways, their forays into payments began not with interest in the payments themselves, but with the need to create a better experience for their customers – sometimes from the ground up. 

“This notion of having all the friction to get a payments account and connect it to your software was just broken,” Whiting said. 

Merchants just want to sell their products and services and conduct their businesses without thinking about payments and what comes with them, he said. Wave viewed its role as removing the friction for their customers and delivering payments packaged with their software in a way that just worked. 

“We think increasingly that’s the way that most financial services will be delivered – in some type of software that companies like ourselves or Stripe are enabling,” he said.

As a SaaS-based loyalty business, Doka explained that his company had deep knowledge and understanding of its customers that lent itself to offering payments. But that didn’t drive the decision, he said. 

“We got into payments because we realized that, especially for small businesses, the opportunity to engage at the point of transaction was broken,” Doka said. 

Those smaller businesses lacked the smooth customer relationship experience of larger retailers. And trying to create that smooth experience led the company to accept responsibility for the varied pieces by becoming a payment facilitator. As a result, they have been able to drive better relationships for their customers, he said.

“(Merchants) don’t care who’s doing the payments if they’re seeing double the ROI from their marketing engine,” he said. 

Speaking about Stripe’s moves into the payment facilitator space, Cordova said the company was working with businesses that didn’t even know what payment facilitators were. 

“The great thing about Stripe is we didn’t have to impart all that knowledge and force them to learn about this industry,” she said. “But they just said I want to build a really great experience, and they came to us and said here’s what I want to do, how can Stripe enable me to do that?”

Stripe was working with businesses that wanted to own the entire customer experience, but use Stripe’s technology to do it, she said. 

“What they didn’t want to do was go to a bank and integrate directly with their software and systems, and then cobble together a bunch of infrastructure for every single region where they wanted to work,” she said.

Regarding the development work it takes to build a true, customer-focused experience, Whiting said that there is not an ideal solution that works for all platforms – but choosing partners who can develop technology quickly is key. 

“And the reality is the big guys are super challenged by doing that, because of a lot of the legacy that they have. So, it’s the new entrants that are moving faster and meeting the needs of customers,” he said.