We’re putting the finishing touches on user experience (UX) month here at Bottomline. So far, we’ve covered how competitive differentiation in the context of business payments can be honed by optimizing UX. We’ve also detailed the advantages of a data-fueled customer experience. To close out the month, we’re going to complete the triad: competition, data and now product.
The focus on product here arrives at a time when many sources say businesses may be missing a beat when it comes to the intersection of product and customer experience. Forrester, for example, maintains that companies have let a tough economic climate negatively affect their UX-driven customer experience initiatives at a time when expectations in this area are rising. This trend can be particularly destructive when it comes to the payments industry, where it’s not just reputation on the line but capital as well. Take that trend to the B2B payments space, and we can magnify the consequences by the relative size of each transaction. B2B payment products are nothing without a frictionless customer experience, and that process starts with UX.
Among the most promising products in business payments are virtual cards and embedded payments. By their very nature, they depend upon an optimized UX to fully integrate them within the user’s journey, of which the comprehensive payments experience forms a part.
Let’s start with virtual cards. In the UK, virtual cards are predominantly debit or prepaid cards, whereas the US operates more virtual credit cards. They are growing in B2B usage due to their efficiency, earned rebate potential and reduced fraud risk resulting from the random 16-digit tokenized number that’s added to every transaction for security purposes. According to a recent report from Visa, the global value of virtual card transactions is expected to increase from $1.9 trillion in 2021 to $6.8 trillion by 2026.
As the name suggests, virtual cards have their roots in the physical credit card business. However, physical cards won’t work with an automated Accounts Payable function, which freezes it out of the vast majority to large companies. According to the 2022 Bottomline B2B Payments Survey 70% of all large enterprises have automated AP processes.
Because it didn’t need a physical form, UX design teams for B2B virtual cards had a blank slate to work with in creating the payment interface. At Bottomline, our virtual card work prioritizes UX and the customer experience that follows. It’s easy to have brightly colored buttons and effectively use white space. Most UX designers worth their salt can do that. But when you understand that a customer is using this virtual card interface to pay a vendor, it becomes critical to make sure this virtual card experience is easy to access, easy to input key data and then easy to send with confidence. The UX is arguably the most important element in the virtual card customer experience.
The embedded future
Consumers, especially younger consumers, have no problem stashing their physical cards for applications that have the payment mechanism embedded right in the digital experience. The most familiar example of embedded payments is Uber. Consumers order and pay for a ride without leaving the Uber app. The act of paying becomes invisible to the customer. They expect the same as they rise up and engage in business. By creating seamless user experiences that integrate multiple touchpoints, payment networks can increase engagement with their unique services, which in turn boosts average order value and client loyalty.
It will be an essential element in the future of business payments. The aforementioned 2022 B2B Payments Surveyshowed that companies expect an embedded finance experience within their ERPs. Within that experience nothing changes in terms of look and feel. Like Uber, the payment process is completely contained and the user doesn’t leave to pay via a separate application. Demand for embedded payments spiked from 39% in 2022 from 29% in 2021. This increased interest in embedded solutions highlights the growing importance of customer convenience and open communication with banks and financial institutions. And if you still need convincing that UX is the foundation of embedded payments, the survey showed that large and small companies identified that 55% said ‘ease of use’ had a high impact on their decisions to use them.
The Bottomline: Virtual cards and embedded payments are part of a comprehensive ecosystem in which a user won’t have to exit to complete tasks, whether coding an invoice, paying a vendor or onboarding a new client. This concept of comprehensive payments means that the user experience includes all payment types including ACH, virtual card or check in a single file. It is the perfect confluence of data and product, all rolling up into your ability to compete on efficiency, accuracy of payment and associated data and, of course, user experience