No one knows what the future holds. In life, certainly, but especially in technology — and especially in payments technology. From wampum to pieces of eight to greenbacks to mobile devices and NFC, the conduits and ways we pay are constantly evolving.
No one holds the crystal ball that reveals which form factors will fit the wants and needs of consumers and merchants, but the trend veers toward openness, where versatility reigns and where any number of apps will work with any number of hardware permutations. With a mix-and-match approach, companies will be able to customize the way customers interact at the point of sale (POS) and thus streamline their back-end functions.
In an interview with PYMNTS’ Karen Webster, Scott DeAngelo, senior vice president of Product at Vantiv, said the focus is on small- and mid-sized merchants across several verticals, from restaurants to medical care to retail. The solution begins its rollout during the first quarter of 2018.
As DeAngelo told Webster, hardware is always changing, and software programs morph as well, spanning every type of subject matter, from games to personal finance. The only thing that stays persistent, he said, “is that layer that lives in the middle,” where the two meet. The marketplace is the central platform that binds hardware and software together, as those two components of the equation change.
The mindset behind the Vantiv/AEVI partnership, said DeAngelo, is one where, “if we can bridge software applications and smart payment devices” and provide firms “with simplicity and choice, that would be a winning combination.” He said that AEVI represents the central point where developers can code to the platform once and achieve integration to all smart devices that Vantiv offers, with three to five apps preloaded onto payment devices that are specific to verticals such as doctor’s offices or retailers.
The move toward a seamless continuum illustrates a larger trend, he said, which means merchants do not need to make a choice about a specific device form factor — an evolution that Webster said is akin to creating an ecosystem that focuses on apps rather than hardware, taking what the pair agreed is “analysis paralysis” out of the technology and infrastructure equation.
To get a sense of the flexibility and changing needs in an ecosystem that is device-agnostic, consider an example from the restaurant vertical, DeAngelo proffered: A small, locally focused restaurant may have several ways of interacting with customers, from dine-in options that are tied to what might be thought of as traditional POS devices; the restaurant might want portable devices that servers can use to help streamline order entry and bill pay at tables; and for delivery services, the restaurant owner might want to have devices “out in the field” to complete transactions at the door. Through the partnership between Vantiv and AEVI, that proprietor can use any permutation of hardware and connect to the three or four (or more) applications that are deemed essential to running the business, such as accounting or inventory management.
Through the interaction between the two firms, merchants and manufacturers can help shape the very ecosystem in which all stakeholders exist, said DeAngelo. He stated that “with a centralized device management system, the way that … we or our partners service and sell to merchants changes.”
On the service side, he said, dashboards allow for tracking of core functionality of applications in real time. From the software firm’s point of view, there’s value in tracking which apps are being widely adopted and where cross-selling opportunities may reside, for example, through free trial offers. DeAngelo told Webster that consistent and open feedback with manufacturers helps those companies shape their wares for improved design and functionality.