PayNearMe and the Path to Frictionless, Flexible Payments

The payments space is one of the areas within fintech that has benefitted from the acceleration in digital transformation trends over the past year. And within the payments industry, innovation in billpay has been especially vigorous, as a growing number of individuals and businesses turned toward digital channels to make and receive transactions during the COVID-19 crisis.

We caught up with Anne Hay, Head of PayNearMe’s consumer research initiative, to discuss the company’s new collaborations with Green Dot and Walmart, as well as PayNearMe’s findings from a study of consumer payment preferences the company launched earlier this year. Have consumers become more or less interested in digital payment solutions since the pandemic? And what can financial services organizations do to take advantage of these trends? Anne Hay explains.

What problem in the payments space does PayNearMe solve? And for whom does it solve it? 

Anne Hay: Today’s consumers are used to making quick, easy payments when shopping online or sending money to friends, and they now expect that same level of convenience for all their payment interactions.

PayNearMe clients are largely recurring billers, such as consumer lenders, mortgage companies, municipalities, and iGaming operators, and we are helping them bring that frictionless, flexible payment experience to their customers.

With PayNearMe, their customers can choose how, when, and where they want to pay. For instance, they can pay with all major payment methods including cards, ACH, and mobile-first payment methods including Google Pay and Apple Pay, as well as with cash at more than 31,000 retail locations, including 7-Eleven and Walmart.

This focus on the customer payment experience is crucial as it is often the most frequent touchpoint our clients have with their customers. Our modern payment experience platform is also the first to enable our clients to fully own the customer payment experience — from facilitating transactions across payment types and channels, to sending payment reminders, to analyzing data for business insights.

PayNearMe recently announced an expanded partnership with Walmart and Green Dot. Can you tell us more about this collaboration? 

Anne Hay: PayNearMe is rethinking payments with an emphasis on the payment experience, customer satisfaction and, of course, increasing our clients’ ability to get paid reliably. This expanded partnership with Green Dot makes on-time bill payment more convenient by bringing easy cash payments to the same location where customers do their everyday shopping. Now millions of consumers who prefer to — or need to — pay in cash can quickly and easily pay their rent, car payments, and utility bills at Walmart.

Customers simply show their scannable PayNearMe cash barcode on their smartphone to an associate in the Walmart MoneyCenter, pay with cash, and collect a receipt confirming that the payment is complete.

The expanded partnership with Green Dot adds participating Walmart locations across the country to our ever-expanding electronic cash network, and we expect to launch additional retailers in the near future to extend the convenience of our cash pay experience to our clients and their customers.

Enabling cash payers is a strategy that can help retailers, such as Walmart, bring more shoppers into their stores on a regular basis. Each visit to Walmart to pay a bill presents an opportunity for these customers to make additional purchases.

PayNearMe recently took a look at consumer preferences with regard to modern billpay options. What were the top takeaways from that survey?

Anne Hay: With all the innovation going on in e-commerce and peer-to-peer payments, we wanted to better understand consumer expectations around bill payments. There’s already a lot of research and data out there about how consumers are paying bills, but we wanted to ask consumers about what would make their bill payment experience easier.

Overall, the study uncovered a significant disconnect between consumers and businesses regarding how consumers want and expect to pay their bills, and the current bill payment options offered by most businesses today. About 75% wish managing and paying bills were easier, with 38% even preferring to do laundry over paying bills.

We found three big issues that need to be addressed.

  1. Billers are slow to offer bill payment choices consumers have come to expect in other facets of their lives, such as Venmo, PayPal, and Apple Pay.
  2. Consumers are struggling with disorganization, and it’s causing bill payment problems, including late payments.
  3. Accessing bill payment information and paying bills is a cumbersome and difficult process for a good portion of those surveyed.

A couple of interesting and surprising findings were the number of consumers, especially young adults, that call in, likely when they are not able to seamlessly complete their payment transactions on their own, and the number of respondents willing to use QR codes to make bill payments.

Respondents said that the billpay experience itself was a more significant stressor than the fear of not being able to pay the bill. What does that tell you? Where is the experience going wrong? 

Anne Hay: According to the bill pay study, nearly 1 in 3 adults revealed that paying bills causes them stress and anxiety. Surprisingly, for 70% of them, it’s not because of money issues.

Remembering logins, passwords, and account numbers top the list of what makes bill payment cumbersome. Keeping track of payment due dates is challenging for 41% of those surveyed, especially for younger adults. 30% cite having to navigate poorly designed biller websites and 26% report manually entering payment information further add to consumers’ dissatisfaction with their current bill payment experience. This expectation mismatch is not only potentially damaging billers’ relationships with their customers, but it is also hurting their bottom line as these frustrations can lead to late or missed payments. In fact, more than half of the respondents paid at least one bill late during the past 12 months.

This finding shows just how important focusing on the customer experience is and how much that experience is shaped by expectations. Even though consumers have the financial ability to pay their bills, they are still stressed because the bill payment process is not as seamless as making an Amazon purchase or paying a friend with Venmo.

The survey suggested that nearly a third of respondents saw mobile payment options as key to easier billpay. What are the obstacles to broader mobile payment adoption? 

Anne Hay: One of our survey’s key findings was that billers are slow to adopt new technology. Mindsets need to change. They are not just competing against other entities in their industry, but against the consumer experience expectations influenced by Amazon, Apple, and Uber. They are competing against fast, easy, frictionless innovation.

As payments software is not often a core capability for many billers, working with a modern, future-looking enterprise software platform partner like PayNearMe is key to meeting new customer preferences such as mobile. Not only do we offer a choice of mobile payment channel options, including pay by text, digital wallets (including Apple Pay, Google Pay and more to come soon) and QR codes, but we also incorporate the security features needed to protect mobile payments. With 38% of respondents saying they would be likely or very likely to use Apple Pay and Google Pay to pay their bills if they had this option, innovation matters. The right partner can help billers stay ahead of the latest trends and perfect the customer experience.

Given the rise of QR codes, cryptocurrencies, real-time payments, embedded finance, and more, which innovations in payments excite you most?

Anne Hay: More and more we’re seeing that the phone is primarily the way people interact with the web these days. So not only Apple Pay and Google Pay, but digital wallets as well. Apple just broke news that they signed agreements with eight states to embed driver’s licenses and IDs within their wallets; more and more, digital wallets are becoming the de facto way to handle important personal and financial matters.

Consumers are storing everything in their wallets, and this can include their bills. In fact, our survey found that if given the opportunity, 42% of consumers would be likely or very likely to use their digital wallet to store, view, and pay their bills from a single place. By storing bills in their digital wallets, consumers can access all of their billing information, including their history, which solves a key pain point our survey found.

For those living on their phones, digital wallets give them everything they need, including reminder notifications and payment channels. With a thumbprint or face scan, payment is done. It’s about meeting the consumer where they live. It’s more than just payments; it’s about making the experience as easy as possible for the customer and merchant.

Photo by Yuri Yuhara from Pexels