The individuals who gathered in Santa Clara, Calif., for PF WORLD 2019 last week were there for a variety of reasons, networking and education chief among them.

But underlying interest for many of the payment facilitators, software companies, processors and others was one common element: opportunity. The event examined that opportunity from multiple points of view. 

From a market perspective, industry watchers often focus on the amount of processing volume and revenue that payment facilitators are expected to represent over the coming years. For example, in his keynote address, Poynt founder and CEO Osama Bedier said that payment facilitators will handle $1.5 trillion in payments volume over the next three years. 

But the broader perspective is also represented in the prospect of including small and micro businesses around the world into the financial system, and the impact that can have on local economies. 

Speaking on a panel about the future of the payment facilitator model, Todd Ablowitz, CEO and co-founder of Infinicept, talked about his experience learning that Indonesia has millions of small businesses – many of which are craftspeople and other micromerchants.

“You figure out that, when you include small businesspeople into the economy, what happens? It brings the poor into the middle class. It brings women into the economy who may not have other opportunities to be in the economy,” he said.

The integration of payments into software and technology has made it easier for providers to bring these merchants into the fold. At the same time, it has created a better experience for merchants everywhere, removing obstacles for small businesses to thrive.

Discussing the potential within verticals where electronic payments have yet to take hold, such as rental payments, Rich Aberman, co-founder and chief strategy officer of WePay, noted the progress that has been made in others. The arguments about the reasons for slow adoption of digital payments in certain industries – steep interchange rates or a lack of resources to sign up many small businesses, for example – are the same as they were with taxi drivers a decade ago, he said.

“And now every taxi driver in the world accepts credit card payments,” he said. “What drove that was that Uber didn’t go out and sell merchant accounts. They went out and sold a value-add application that made it dead simple to start a microbusiness.”

From a more micro perspective, the opportunity can be felt directly in improved relationships with customers, according to Matt Doka, founder and CTO of Fivestars. 

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

He talked about the fragmented nature of loyalty and payments at many small businesses, and the challenge his company set out to overcome with its own loyalty programs.

“That product-first journey is what gave us the energy to get into payments, because becoming a payment facilitator is not a joke and it takes a lot of work. But the outcome has been phenomenal.”

Integrating loyalty with payments increased results exponentially over the company’s previous software, he said, because it delivered better relationships with its merchants’ customers.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll go deeper into not only these types of opportunities, but the strategies and tools needed to capitalize on them, as we begin our video series with a closer look at some of the event’s sessions.