The Inevitability of Payments Orchestration

by Rob Lincolne
Blogs

The payments industry has arrived at a point where, for merchants defining payments strategy, it is difficult to justify a starting point other than orchestration. Payments orchestration, for those who are new is, the act of using a compliant, managed platform to simplify acceptance across a disparate and changing set of providers (while maintaining a strong link with the customer). Orchestration makes sure agility is kept high and risk and cost low. An, ‘AWS for payments’, orchestration takes the pain away and recognises key industry trends.

Over the last few years at PayDock, along with the broader payments industry, we have gathered sufficient data to confidently demonstrate that any choice – other than the choice to orchestrate – is approaching a ‘facts be damned’ decision to walk away from stability, strategy and profit and leave the door open for fast moving competitors.

But why is payments orchestration now the emergent ‘go-to’ for payments strategy?

Four main drivers

Over the past 4 years we have observed four drivers in the payments landscape, each one a lever, accelerating the other and combining to a perfect storm.

  1. The acceleration of commoditization (many vendors are now offering the same thing)
  2. The rise of B2C payment fintechs (buy-now-pay-later, alternative payment methods, and payment related loyalty schemes now have strong consumer adoption)
  3. The value in third party niche apps (fraud, identity, loyalty and authentication services have appeared with the promise of increasing acceptance and reducing risk – and merchants wish to capitalise)
  4. Changes in broader regulation and compliance regimes (merchants are finding it harder to keep track of regulations and so are looking to reduce costs while remain compliant and agile)

These four forces have tipped the market’s hand toward a single solution.

Why orchestration = the default

A recent article entitled Why Merchants Should Look For Payments Orchestration, observed that “…organizations that invest in the ability to have payments orchestration receive a huge return.” …and “If companies receive a one-sized-fits-all approach, they might not be able to stand out in the ways that they wish to do so in retail.”

Primer, a new entrant similarly observed that “it becomes increasingly complex for merchants to scale payments as they grapple with an ever growing number of ‘interdependent’ technical integrations across payments services.”

Similarly, our team here at PayDock has identified that when transitioning from legacy single-service approaches (or internally orchestrated solutions) to cloud-based orchestration our platform increases merchant profit by approximately 3-4% virtually overnight. And this is before any longer term strategic benefits are realised. A recent client’s business case identified an 850% ROI! To wave a wand and materially increase enterprise profit; this is the power of payments orchestration.

Payments orchestration is the equivalent of swapping a Lada for a Ferrari.

The burning question: “how to orchestrate?”

Build vs Buy

Merchants aware of the four main drivers (above) and transitioning to orchestration have to face the age old decision: whether to build or buy.

Our experience is that merchants tend to be somewhere on the “single-service (simple) → single-service (sophisticated) → orchestration” continuum. (We will explore this journey in a subsequent article). Often we see the middle phase skipped as a sensible transition from simple single-service to orchestration is executed.

It is our expectation that as with infrastructure decisions in general, the trend will accelerate toward orchestration-as-service.

Navigating fragmentation, commoditization and regulation introduces exponential cost and risk to any merchant. Bringing these challenges in-house is strategic suicide. We have recently spoken with merchants following a £2-3m+ investment (payments is harder than you think!) in an attempt to build orchestration only to realise that

  1. It’s not core business,
  2. The pace of the market is increasing (shock!) and;
  3. There are simpler, more agile ways to avoid the problem.

As a payments manager, ops manager, head of digital, etc. it is possible to make decisions for a simple processing solution (consider the first two phases of the payments maturity journey). It is however one thing to make decisions re single-services, but a completely different set of skills and experiences required to deploy an effective, secure and highly robust services solution into multiple markets, countries and services. Skills aside, it’s rarely the core business of the organisation.

Ops, digital and management roles do not typically possess sufficient operational domain knowledge to properly address the risks and opportunities – nor should they be required to.

It is naive to expect such roles to know everything about every market, i.e. preferred consumer payment methods consumers, the correct partners to work with, typical caveats not easily obvious, different pricing approaches, licensing and legal requirements, etc. Everyone understands the specialist role of a lawyer in law; why should the specialist role of a payments expert be any different? PayDock and other payment orchestration platforms provide the merchant the agility required to capitalise on acquired knowledge and limit downside should more information come to light or strategy change, as it invariably does.

Leveraging platforms with a specialist focus provides better value than building infrastructure from scratch.

Where payments orchestration is adopted, power shifts back to the critical finance and operations functions of the business (rather than the technical and development functions). This allows critical developer resources to be freed up to focus on core business activities.

Infrastructure-as-service is a well-accepted principle. 

We are comfortable to use AWS to provide hosting services rather than maintaining our own collection of servers in the basement. The rule of thumb is generally, “If it’s infrastructure, where can we capitalise?” rather than “If it’s infrastructure, let’s build from scratch!”

The latter appears foolish, yet is often surprisingly the attitude taken toward payments.

Another final factor which, while material, is difficult to represent in a spreadsheet is speed. In today’s markets speed translates to competitive advantage and lack of it translates to opportunity cost. When architecting orchestration from scratch it is unlikely that the solution, culture and resources available will be positioned to keep pace with dedicated fintech platforms focused on this single specialised service. When undertaking non core business projects, resources will inevitably be pulled in different directions, execution will be slow and cumbersome, and corporate knowledge will be scattered.

As aptly observed in a recent article, “If, say, large enterprises want to incorporate a new payment method, type, service provider or processor, that task can take millions of dollars and the better part of a year to accomplish.” – PYMNTS.com

An orchestration-as-service platform offers the merchant the best of both worlds: the speed of a fintech with the needs of a large brand, without the internal cost or disruption.

Any merchant relying on a from-scratch orchestration strategy will inevitably be outpaced by competitors who have chosen to capitalise on the head-start provided by as-service orchestration infrastructure providers.

Multiple Beneficiaries

Merchants are not the only beneficiaries. One infrequently discussed, yet essential benefit is the ‘enablement’ orchestration platforms offer the general industry including adjacent verticals. This represents a shift away from disruption and toward collaboration.

Large consumer brands (Amazon, Apple, Facebook) seek to disintermediate incumbents and alternative new service providers. These innovative brands sit alongside traditional providers and seek to leverage their consumer base to consume the payments layer as well. At any time they are poised to introduce irrelevance to high-street providers as they execute their payment strategies with strength and speed.

Legacy payments providers like acquirers and schemes may not be equipped and experienced at engaging and managing merchants directly – something they have not invested in for some time – yet are now seeing the need to rapidly forestall competitive disintermediation.

With orchestration partners, acquirers and schemes can have the ability to lift capabilities to the market surface and offer processing technologies that cannot be developed fast enough internally. Partnering with (and promoting) orchestration ensures that the core propositions of trust, stability and cost offered by legacy providers are visible and consumable by merchants.

Orchestration removes the chaos and noise of payment fragmentation allowing service providers to double down on what they’re good at: core business.

Orchestration benefits extend not only to established providers but also to any new kid on the block I once overheard the phrase, “There is only one PayPal.” Indeed. As consumer brands, alternative payment methods, buy-now-pay-later platforms latest-wallet-5000 jostle for mind-share, it is becoming increasingly apparent that only orchestration equips the merchant to dynamically engage new brands along with the value of long standing high-street brands.

Global merchants need to be light on their feet and embrace their local consumers and methods. In order to be increasingly global, merchants must look to become increasingly local. A payments orchestration platform fills the gap between old and new, global and local, consumer and merchant.

One Big Happy Family

Orchestration is to payments what oil is to an engine. It helps it all ‘just work’ (and the friction without causes a headache)! The payments world needs this now more than ever. It’s an incredible time of exciting progress. Let’s enable that progress and while we’re celebrating so many innovative new payment options in the market, not forget the merchant who has to ‘make it all work’ at the end of the day.

Remember iTunes? The outcries about the damage it would do to the music industry, the loss of the CD, the erosion of value etc. With the exception of cover-art, iTunes became an important lesson in consumption enablement. Make it easy for value to be consumed and it will be.

At PayDock we’ve noticed that if you make it easy for a merchant to capitalise on the value of a fintech or high-street processor, they will! Removing cost and risk and letting the business drive the solution (rather than the other way around) – we see our merchant customers increasing the payment methods they offer their consumers, increasing revenue, reducing costs and increasing consumption. The iTunes paradigm lives on.

Payments orchestration is the iTunes (or in today’s world, the Amazon), of the payments market. Make it seamless, remove the risk, and all parties thrive.

About PayDock

At PayDock we have been working in the orchestration space and solving merchant pain since 2015. We observed the early signs of a fragmenting market and were determined to assist as the problem grew worse. Today we offer full-service merchant orchestration capabilities as well as full white label orchestration stacks in partnership with large service providers and technology vendors.

Engineered for ‘five-9’s’ reliability PayDock has been a PCI-DSS Level 1 Service Provider for 5 years running and offers merchants a sophisticated orchestration engine that embraces payments, fraud, reporting, actionable data insights and downstream integration capabilities. We return material profit to our customers and readily produce business cases to demonstrate the immediate benefits across organisations of orchestration-as-service.

We encourage you to talk to us about your payments strategy to identify how for your business, orchestration lifts profits and brings the future closer, faster.

Welcome to the future of payments.

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Pre-Orchestration @ https://unsplash.com/photos/wP3pX6J39dE
Orchestration @ https://unsplash.com/photos/SPbcqTVoYqE