The events of 2020 challenged businesses in new ways. The world is becoming a more advanced digital landscape at a quick pace. This episode on the Payments Podcast provides insight into how user experience and innovation bring together the advancement in technology meeting the new payment demands businesses face and how this will change and grow in 2021. Having the right User Experience in place can be the difference between customer retention or loss.

Podcast Transcription:

Rich Williams: The events of 2020 challenged businesses in ways that no one could have expected. As we look at the top trends for 2021, much of the focus is on technology and platform advancements. As consumers and businesses, even the way we previously handled simple tasks has changed, take paying for an item in a shop for example, we moved from a cash society to a predominantly contactless one. The same behaviour of embracing the change must apply to how we interact with the digital world around us.

Hello, I’m Rich Williams host of ‘The Payments Podcast’. Today I’m joined by Brian McLaughlin, global chief experience officer of Bottomline, as we discuss his predictions for 2021 in user experience and innovation in payments. Hello Brian and a very warm welcome onto the podcast for the very first time.

Brian McLaughlin: Hi Rich, thanks for having me.

Rich Williams: Brian, let’s jump straight into it. As we face a continuous digital shift, what trends should we be on the lookout for and stay one step ahead of in user experience and innovation, specifically this year?

Brian McLaughlin: I think where I’d start is what are generally referred to as data experiences. The reason that it’s phrased that way is data has been on the new trends, coming trends, for years, if not decades. There’s been a lot of technical advancement, a lot of permutations of data and making it more freely available across many different platforms into people’s hands.

Where we haven’t quite caught up is the experience of dealing with data. I think coming into 2021 it’s going to be that much more important that we start getting this right as the world continues to transition and rely more and more on their digital services.

The way I always think about data, it’s really like finding a needle in a stack of needles. Essentially, you have this big pile, everything from the outside or from a distance looks alike. When you’re in search of a specific needle and you approach that stack, you start realising these are not all the same, different shapes, sizes, thickness, etc. Generally, you’re looking for something specific.

What happens with all this data is it can be a bit overwhelming. As we start looking at this from an experience perspective it’s our jobs to figure out, how do we make data useful to people who don’t have a data science degree or training with analytics tools? All these other things that really come down to, how do we make data actually useful for people in ways that can be consumed easily and quickly?

Rich Williams: Brian, the old adage cash is king appears to have been replaced more recently with data is king. I think what you’ve just said confirms that. How is data changing in 2021?

Brian McLaughlin: The data itself, there are a lot of really smart people working on the data problem. Generally, the data problem is being approached from the perspective of, how do I accumulate data? How do I store data? How do I manage data? Privacy laws. It’s a very technical approach. As we start looking at it from an experience perspective, we really have to start looking at things like…

The trends over the years have been, hey, look at this really pretty pie chart, line graph or any of these other data representations that are done in these graphical formats, which are good. However, that’s not ultimately where we’re going to end up. It really does get down to… There was an art in science of this data from the perspective of, yes, we have it, but how do people understand it? How do people interpret it?

More importantly, once you start down this path the data starts revealing answers that you’d never even thought to ask questions about. It gets into volume of payments, but volume of payments by geography. Generally, this would be things like look at these five graphs that show this. From an experience perspective, we’re looking at, how do I make it simpler? How can I not be an analyst and get the value out of this that I need?

Rich Williams: An interesting first trend there Brian. What else would you predict being an important thing to keep an eye on this year?

Brian McLaughlin: This is related to the data trend, having integrated intelligence. What I mean by that is very often you could be on your personal banking system, other kind of currency system or it could be you work in a large company and you work on their accounting system. A lot of times you’ll have this tab that says, reports, analytics or something of that nature. What’s going on there is I go over here to get smart and I go over to do my work.

Ultimately, where we have to get, and we’re getting there. By we, I mean everybody is getting there. We need to thread these things together. We need an integrated experience. We need that intelligence that’s derived that we can get from all the data and all the learnings and have that integrated holistic experience.

Otherwise, you end up with these little fragment places where this is reserved for the people who understand data. It should not be held in that regard. Everybody should be able to derive value out of it, and the only way to do that is to really start integrating that into the overall experience that somebody goes through as they work through their payments log.

Rich Williams: Do you have any use cases and real-life examples of how we’ll begin to see this sort of thing used?

Brian McLaughlin: One that’s out in the wild now, although I think there’s a lot to be done to improve it. This is more business banking, so I’ll start with the business banking example. You have one group inside of the company setting up things like budgets for the year. It could even get down to, if you’re a large enough company, what’s your furniture budget for the year? Then you have another group that’s out buying furniture. There’s this disconnect between the two groups.

As we start looking at integrated intelligence, as the software continues to progress is you start weaving these things together. When I’m going to buy more chairs, it would be great to know if I’m about to tip over the budget. Rather than having to go someplace else to learn this, it’s actually integrated in.

As we start looking at these things, it’s more about tell me the information that will be really valuable at this period of time. Not sometime later, you don’t actually answer the question or you allow me to fall into this trap and I didn’t know I was falling into the trap. In the consumer space, we do see some of this already in terms of, “Hey, you’re about to go over your threshold,” or whatever.

There’s additional sophistication that’s going to come such as if you’re going on the trend you are, you will be over budget. It’s not so much, you went over budget today. It’s more about you’re going to do that over the next month, let’s say, just because we’re seeing the trends come in.

I’m also referring to something bigger than I see money coming in, I see money going out and this is the problem you have. I’m talking about pulling in additional intelligence from the outside world. For example, if I’m at a construction company and I’m doing my money in and money out budgeting activities, but I have another system that’s pulling in social media data or news data. It’s scraping the internet and it’s telling me so and so just won a big contract in this state.

That potentially is going to influence me because it means I lost the contract if I’m on that side. It could be if I’m a supplier I have an opportunity there. This is where payments are potentially a hub for that information. The information can’t be just consigned to the payments world, it’s got to start bringing in this other data that makes your whole value proposition that much more rich.

Rich Williams: As we wrap this up now Brian, what would be your final prediction for 2021?

Brian McLaughlin: There’s another thing that we’ve been looking at for quite a long time and by we, I mean the UX world, not just my particular place of work, is advanced personalisation. What I mean by that is personalisation is another thing, like data, has been on top trends for years and years.

For the most part most people understand this to be… It’s generally confined to the consumer space from an ecommerce perspective. If you bought this, you’re likely to buy that. That’s powerful, it works if you’re an ecommerce business and you have that kind of capability, I’m sure you’re getting more value than if you didn’t have it.

What I mean by advanced personalisation, it’s more than that. It’s actually starting to look at things like the way you use your digital world is like this. Therefore, I’m going to continue to adjust to not only make it easier for you to use the digital world, but I’m going to improve your efficiency with the digital world. What I mean by that, say for example I have a job that I end up doing the same repetitive things over and over and over again. The system starts to learn that and it starts to either do it for me or it starts to bring in additional information to help me do it better.

This is what I’m referring to as advanced personalisation, so it goes beyond the if you like this, you’ll like that. It really starts getting into the position of getting to know individuals and then acting as though they know the individuals. It’s a really important relationship and it’s one that we humans do all day long, we do it naturally and don’t really think about.

It’s very difficult to do it in the digital space without coming across as spooky, distrustworthy, invasive or some other things. There are a lot of ways to do this that none of those apply. It’s actually really helpful and something the digital world can be very good at, but it’s very complicated and very difficult to pull off.

Rich Williams: Brian, I’d just like to end with one final question if I may. As personalisation becomes more advanced, how do companies ensure they’re on the right track? For example, we’ve seen the horror stories previously with a system saying, “Hello,” then exclaiming the wrong name. How do we avoid these pitfalls?

Brian McLaughlin: Did I mention it’s difficult? Yes, I think I mentioned that. One of the things ultimately it comes down to… Any UX person that happens to be listening will certainly get this. It really comes down to understanding how humans interact with each other and how humans deal with change. What I mean by that is if we start purely from a technology perspective, we run into problems.

A lot of the time we’re not anticipating the fact that these humans, these complicated humans that are on the other end of this, they don’t react the way that I thought they would. This is not helping them or it’s not being accepted in a way that’s considered useful, it’s considered invasive or something else. As long as we keep a sharp eye out for everything we know about humans interacting with each other and also how we interact with digital processes, this is something that’s really going to go a long way.

The example I use often is the iPhone comes out, we all remember that day. If you’re old enough, you certainly remember that day because a lot changed after that day. Shortly after that people started discovering there was geotracking in the phone. There were all kinds of articles and all kinds of news stories about how big brother is tracking you and it’s really bad, bad, bad. Trying to figure out how to shut it off. “I’ll never buy an iPhone.” “I’ll never buy a smartphone.” All these things started happening.

If we wind into the future, today for example, I’m in the north east of the US and if for some reason I decide that this afternoon my wife and I want to go down to the art museum down in Boston. I pull out my phone and I put in Boston Museum of Art, not only does it tell me the web address, what it will do is give me directions there. It will tell me the fastest way there. It will tell me what the weather is going to be on my way there. If I do choose that option, it will wrap me around traffic problems. I’ve completely forgotten about the fact my phone knew where I was.

There are a couple of things that are taking place there. One is simply the fact of things become normalised. Also, I’m getting enough value out of it that I’m willing to give up that piece of data because what I’m getting out of it is more valuable. It’s a long-winded way to get to the, “Hello, wrong name,” inserted in there. It really does come back to understanding the humans and understanding how we as humans interact with change. Making sure that pace of change is aligned with how people are willing to adopt it. There are going to be glitches on the way, absolutely.

I guess while I’m speaking about the iPhone, when voice came out and as smart as it all is, it would just get things wrong sometimes. Things go wrong sometimes. The amount that these systems get right is really, really impressive. I think this is always going to be part of our journey. It’s understanding the change, getting people to accept the change. Know there are going to be bumps along the way and just keep pushing through them.

Rich Williams: Brian, it’s been really exciting having you on the podcast. I’m sure this will give organisations some great direction into those areas they need to focus on this year regarding user experience and innovation and payments. Thanks once again for joining me today Brian, it’s been a pleasure.

Brian McLaughlin: Alright, thank you Rich.

Rich Williams: Unfortunately, we’re out of time today. In the meantime, you can listen to more episodes on all things payments at the touch of a button using your preferred provider. Don’t forget to like, subscribe, rate the show or leave a comment as you wish. We’ll see you all next time.

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