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How to make BNPL even better? Focus on these three areas

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By Nandan Sheth, CEO, Splitit

 

Nandan Sheth

Buy now pay later (BNPL) has remained a hot topic of conversation for a good reason. Consumers love interest-free installments and merchants like the increase in sales. BNPL accounted for 2.1% of global e-commerce sales in 2021. With over 50% of consumers saying they plan on using a BNPL service this year, there are no signs of slowing down. Yet, many businesses are now starting to feel the greater implications on their business and bottom line.

I have had many conversations with mid-market and enterprise merchants across the globe over the last couple of years. While the impact of BNPL has been generally positive, a few key issues have come to light that hamper the effectiveness of BNPL. If we can improve these three key areas, we can improve the experience while creating a more responsible option for consumers.

 

Removing the added friction at checkout

The high friction inherent in legacy BNPL delivers sub-optimal performance for both the consumer and the merchant. The friction is clear at three critical parts of the checkout process: payment choice, application or registration, and purchase approval. However, much of this friction can either be removed or significantly reduced.

The first friction consumers will face is navigating the growing myriad of payment options at checkout, from choosing between debit or credit card, a digital wallet or choosing between BNPL providers. Too many options create a choice overload that has negative consequences on sales. Studies have shown people become paralyzed by the possibilities and avoid choosing one altogether or deal with regrets once they’ve made a choice.

The next key point of friction is the lengthy application process. An application can create up to seven extra steps at checkout that can take the consumer away from the merchant’s website, collate personal details, or even submit customers to a credit check to see if they’re approved.

 

Improve the conversion funnel to optimize performance

One of the core benefits of BNPL is increasing checkout conversion rates – and it does. BNPL can increase conversion rates 20-30% and lift average ticket sales 30-50%. Yet, there are ways we can improve the BNPL conversion funnel.

The biggest area for improvement is in the approval process. Legacy BNPL providers have mediocre approval rates at best. The industry average for approval rates is around 40-50% and as low as 30% depending on the vertical and demographic. Nothing is more disheartening to the shopper than being declined at checkout. The negative impact can not only lead to a lost sale but can damage the shopper’s relationship with the merchant.

Improving approval rates will lead to a better customer experience and enhance the efficacy of BNPL. Several technological advancements are helping in this area. Artificial intelligence (AI) is one example which looks at several factors to make a better lending decision. AI decisioning engines can make faster, less risky approval decisions.

Another option is to unlock existing and approved credit lines. Consumers tend to shy away from using credit cards because of high interest rates. But at the same time, 45% of consumers pay off their credit card balance each month. Credit cards have a unique advantage over BNPL – there is no need for an application because the credit is already issued and available at any time.

Splitit is making it easier to unlock the credit the consumer already has on their current cards. Splitit breaks up larger purchases into smaller, interest-free monthly installment payments. This solution combats the declining conversion funnel, removes the tedious registration process giving customers a clear, simple way to pay over time.

 

Close the chasm between consumers, merchants and the payments ecosystem

BNPL has unintentionally created a chasm between consumers and merchants as well as the rest of the payments ecosystem. Closing these chasms will go a long way in delivering a better experience for the entire payments ecosystem.

Merchants are starting to feel disenfranchised from their customers by legacy BNPL and rightly so. Businesses focus significant expenses and resources to attract and turn prospects into customers. With BNPL, consumers are now working with an entirely different brand at the most critical part of the checkout process where consumers value trust and security the most.

When consumers use a legacy BNPL service or download their app, they receive emails, alerts and notifications from the BNPL service letting them know of upcoming deals and events and encouraging them to visit the app. For the consumer, it makes sense to follow the lead for the best deal. But for the original business, it can lead to a lost sale and a lost customer.

Merchants should look for a partner that can incorporate BNPL as seamlessly as possible in their existing checkout flow, ideally with a merchant-branded experience to help alleviate brand confusion and provide a more elegant experience for the consumer. They should seek a solution without a lengthy application process and with high approval rates for their target customer, adding zero friction to the checkout.

The rapid growth of BNPL is also creating a strain on other relationships in the payments ecosystem, most notably with financial institutions, card networks, card issuers and acquirers. The shift in transactions from credit or debit to a BNPL has trickle-down impacts across the entire ecosystem.

Why does this matter? Several recent surveys show consumers prefer and trust their relationships with their financial institutions or credit cards more than with third-party services and providers. One survey notes more than half (53%) of consumers would consider a BNPL service offered by a bank extremely appealing than 35% that prefer a pure-play BNPL. Another survey shows nearly 50% would prefer to use BNPL that uses their existing credit card.

Closing the chasm and creating more symbiotic relationships in the payments ecosystem delivers a better front-end and back-end experience, especially for merchants. This can be accomplished by providing a more agile and contemporary orchestration technology layer that brings all the constituents closer rather than driving them apart.

The fact is that BNPL is here to stay. Its rapid growth is a testament to the need and desire for the service. Installment payments allow customers to pay for products or services in a way that works for them. Whilst, businesses can give their customers greater financial control, which cannot be undervalued. By working on improving these three key areas, we can create a more robust and future-proof BNPL option that benefits the entire payments ecosystem.

 

 

 

 

 

Business

Innovate UK £25 million up for grabs: July deadline approaching

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By Emma Lewis, Myriad Associates

 

The latest instalment of Innovate UK’s SMART grant competition was launched in April and the deadline of the 27th July is fast approaching. Another £25 million in grant funding is up for grabs, aimed at game-changing and commercially viable innovative or disruptive ideas that can significantly impact the UK economy.

All innovative research and development (R&D) projects across a variety of technologies, markets and research categories can qualify. It is open to any enterprise and must include at least one SME.

 

Emma Lewis

What funding is available?

Innovate UK forms part of UK Research and Innovation. In this round of funding, it is looking to invest up to £25 million in the most disruptive, cutting-edge technologies that can swiftly and successfully be brought to market. Projects must be extremely novel and genuinely new as game changers not just in their sector but in the market as a whole.

Proposals must also be business focused, with realistic, adequately resourced, deliverable plans that bring real growth in market share and return on investment once the project is complete.

Certain updates have been made to this round of funding to reflect the importance of obtaining economic benefits from public funding, and the potential for successful commercialisation, exports and growth.

Applications can come from any area of technology and be applied to any part of the economy, including (but not limited to) media, design, net zero and the arts.

 

Project criteria

To be eligible for this particular innovation grant, projects must:

  • Be carried out in the UK
  • Follow specific rules dependent on duration (as set out further down)
  • Include at least one micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) as the lead or a collaborative grant claiming partner
  • Intend to maximise the results from or in the UK

Only eligible project costs can be included in your grant application so it’s important you understand what is relevant and what isn’t. The current competition will also not be funding any business development, procurement, supply chain or commercial activity with Russian entities. This is to include any goods or services that originate from a Russian source.

 

What are the project deadlines?

Your project must have:

  • Started by the 1st January 2023
  • Ended by the 31st December 2025

This competition is set to close on the 27th July 2022 at 11am UK time.

The 31st December 2025 is the final date by which your contracted project must have ended and there will be no extensions.

If the duration of your project is 6 to 18 months, it:

  • Can be individual or collaborative
  • Must have total project costs between £100,000 and £500,000

If the duration of your project is 19 to 36 months, it must:

  • Be collaborative
  • Have total project costs between £100,000 and £2 million

 

What should proposals include?

Innovate UK has been clear it will look most favourably on projects that demonstrate realistic, significant growth potential for global markets. Innovative, ambitious small businesses and start-ups with substantial growth potential are welcome.

Proposals must also demonstrate:

  • An idea that can be rapidly commercialised and is significantly ahead of competitors in the field
  • A clear, disruptive, innovative and ambitious project that leads to new products, services or processes
  • Clear, considerable potential to significantly and positively impact UK productivity as well as the wider economy
  • An evidence-based plan to deliver significant return on investment (ROI) and growth through commercialisation, very soon after the project has completed
  • A deliverable, robust business plan that addresses (and documents) the market scope, needs and potential
  • A team, working structure or business arrangement where the right skills and experience are present to carry out and complete the project successfully and on time
  • Awareness of where the challenges and risks lie within the project and how they will be addressed and mitigated
  • Sound, practical financial plans and timelines that offer excellent value for money. This is always something Innovate UK are particularly interested in when making funding decisions.

Project dates

  • Competition opened on the 25th April 2022
  • An online briefing event was held on the 3rd May 2022 which can be seen again here
  • Competition closes on the 27th July 2022 at 11am
  • Applicants will be notified on the
  • 30th September 2022

Interested in applying for an R&D grant?

To give your organisation the very best chance of R&D grant success, the recommended way forward is to enlist the services of an experienced R&D grant writing service.

Whilst it’s perfectly possible to go it alone and make an application online yourself, it’s often very difficult to decipher the eligibility criteria accurately. Understanding how to showcase your project effectively and be persuasive in your application is also something of an art form, and with potentially large grants at stake it’s well worth doing properly.

External R&D grant writing consultancies also have the ability to look critically at your project and can often point you in the direction of further grants and R&D support. This can drastically reduce the guess work, whilst also saving you time and money on an application that may not be successful.

Further information about this and other government competitions can be found on Gov.uk’s innovation competitions page.

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Is telephone Hot Desking really needed anymore?

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By Simon Horton, VP of International Sales at Sangoma

 

The world of work has totally transformed as we all know, shining a light on every practice workforces used to undertake, and assessing whether they are indeed necessary or outdated now. Of course, arguably the biggest spotlight has been on the office itself – do staff need to be present and working in an office five days a week? Clearly the answer is no, but then what happens to the phone system we rely on daily when at the office? Many companies rely on phone hot desking, seeing employees travel from space to space armed with their personal phone number to use from phone to phone. But in the world of hot-desking, is this still required? Or has the evolution of unified communications seen this become yesterday’s news, along with the notion that every employee needs to work five days in an office.

But before I answer that question, and why I even asked it in the first place, we need to define what hot desking is. Hot desking is going to the office and sitting where you want. Maybe your company doesn’t have assigned offices or set seating spaces, so freedom of choice is total. And remember, hot desking is only going to become more ingrained in the world of work as the hybrid model of working from home continues to become the norm. Gone are the days of employees competing for seats in the morning, and having to clear their workspaces every evening, when hot desking first entered the corporate scene.

A company can now occupy a smaller footprint at the physical location since everyone isn’t there every day, leading to lower overheads and real estate costs. However, employees need their office phone number regardless of where they are sat, so when they receive calls on the phone or direct line at the physical location they sit at, they are phone calls specifically for them.

And when that comes to unified communications, which is the stance from which I write this, it means staff members taking their phone number to wherever they sit to work. And if there is already a physical phone at the place they choose to sit from day to day, that means they need to log in and tell the phone system that they are at that place – and that the physical phone at that desk should be accessing and connecting their individual company phone extension

However installing this feature into a unified communication system is not the simplest thing. Some unified communication systems support hot desking, but many do not. This needs to change, and the industry needs to keep up with the rapidly changing world of work and employee expectations.

But is hot desking of a physical phone an obsolete concept with Unified Communications? Does it even need to be in Request For Proposals (RFPs) from businesses anymore? Because with unified communication systems, a worker can make and take phone calls with their work extension from their computer, or smartphone, via their unified communications platform. And with working from home well established, and indeed work from anywhere models too as long as an internet connection is available, this needs to become the norm.

A unified communications system must truly unite every device and space that someone wishes to have at their disposal – this equates to a seamless communications experience, boosting not only productivity and efficiency, but also customer experience too. No matter where one may be working – whether from the office, from a hotel room, in their garden or while watching the big match, they can take and make calls easily.

So, the answer to the question posed is that with a robust and thorough unified communications system in place, telephone hot desking will continue to exist, but in a different guise. Every platform an employee uses will allow for individual calls to be placed and taken, and communication with colleagues and staff is seamless. However, that’s not to say that physical phones are no longer required or wanted by some – and if that’s the case, then a solid unified communications system will dial into the desk phone too and allow for that to become another part of the overall communications platform used by a company. Telephone hot desking still exists, but just like the world of work itself, it has evolved into something far more streamlined and integrated.

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