By Roger Hatfield, VP North America for CloudTrade
Earlier this Spring, interesting news came in from across the pond with the publication of the first edition of the UK Government’s new ‘name & shame’ report on late supplier payments.
The good news is that just under half of all the invoices that were reported on were paid within 30 days, but there were serial offenders, who made their suppliers hang on for 31+ days and longer.
While Europe is ahead of the USA with their e-invoicing initiatives, the figures shows that only 25% of the companies, who were reported on, offered e-Invoicing. What happened to the rest? Why aren’t they taking advantage of e-invoicing to manage their supplier payments? And what lessons can we learn for us here in the US?
My view is that while many organisations appreciate the problem of late payments, and the knock-on effects it can have on their supply chain they cannot change their modus operandi: they are hamstrung by their current systems, practices and processes and cannot make any change in the short or medium term due to help erase late payments. This is a global problem.
It’s clear that the UK and US markets are different in their approach to supplier’s payments; with the UK using more traditional ‘direct’ banking methods to pay their suppliers; whilst, in the USA, a lot of organizations still use cheques but there is also a wealth of payment providers who provide a multitude of solutions from invoice receipt/processing, online vendor/supplier payment portals and invoice automation to help manage the payment process.
But I do wonder how many organizations are able to take advantage of the hard earned, and negotiated, early payment discounts (EPDs) from their suppliers? Many of the payment solutions on offer in the US allow organizations to keep their existing bank relationships and pay suppliers by ACH, check, virtual cards and credit cards in a faster time frame than would normally be achieved by processing in-house. Using a payment provider can slash processing costs by up to 50% or more and gives a business’s accounts payment function full visibility into payment status and approvals. But what about those EPDs?
In comparison to the UK, the USA is streets ahead when it comes to paying suppliers – The Paystream Advisors 2016 Data Capture and Mailroom Technology Insight Report stated that nearly 92 percent of invoices received electronically are paid on time, compared to only 45 percent when invoices are received in paper form.
In my view this is where the problem lies – the Federal Reserve states that currently only 25% of US invoices are electronic, so that’s 75% of all US invoices being processed by other means – a huge opportunity for efficiency and EPD gains.
We know that reducing your Days Payment Outstanding (DPO) helps support your supply chain partners, and that shortening your DPO could provide additional margin to your bottom-line and improve your cashflow – so where is the problem?
Well, let’s consider the 75% of invoices that aren’t electronic – these will include, paper, PDF and other electronic forms, outside the traditional EDI or network-based channels. A proportion of these invoices will have been outsourced for processing by an optical character recognition (OCR), mailroom or payments provider, who will provide invoice capture, management and integration services to give users an end-to-end payables solution.
The attraction of this approach is that it gives organizations one solution for all their AP processing needs – no matter what format invoices are received. The service provider will typically process the documents using OCR, which means that every electronic document received is converted into an image for OCR processing.
We know that OCR is normally okay, when every invoice we receive is in the same format, size and the data fields remain in the same places on the image. But, suppliers tend to send complex documents, across multiple pages and with specific line item detail, which you need to process into your back-office systems to manually or automatically perform the 2/3 three-way match. This is where the costs mount up, as it is very likely that every processed invoice will need to be reviewed manually because the suppliers ‘standard’ invoice format changes dynamically with the addition of multiple lines and pages.
An alternative approach that the majority of organisations use is just to capture the header level and totals from the invoice, without the requisite line level detail, but this doesn’t help you understand your spend at a granular level and is exactly the data that you need for financial/supplier reporting purposes and to be able to claim those ‘hard negotiated’ early payment discounts.
Remember that every time your OCR or mailroom provider looks at, and corrects, an invoice, it is likely to cost you money – if the document is already electronic why convert it in the first place?
Could ‘true’ e-invoicing be the answer?
With the latest e-invoicing technology suppliers don’t have to do anything different. It allows them to simply create their invoice, convert it to a PDF and email it to a named email address. The technology uses the original invoice and extracts the data (100%) from the PDF and puts it straight into the buyer’s finance package. Simple.
More importantly, the supplier doesn’t have to pay or log into a portal. All they need to do is ensure their invoice is produced as a PDF (which their own finance package is able to do for them) and then email it over. For the buyer, the time-consuming process of keying and rekeying and matching line level detail in data is removed. There are no more paper invoices to hold on to, or potentially lose. The data is all held electronically.
As well as saving money on accounts payable processing costs, this simple approach means the invoice data is presented back to the payments system in real time. Immediately after it has been processed successfully, it will be in the payments systems, typically within 1-5 minutes of receipt, including full line level detail.
The latest e-invoicing technology can also apply validation against key data provided by the users and business rules can be applied against other key data fields on the invoice – such as rejecting invoices that don’t contain a PO number.
There is no doubt that e-invoicing provides the foundations that allow organisations, of all shapes and sizes, to put automation and controls around their invoice to payment function. Increasing their ability to pay on time, understanding what they are spending at a granular level and helping them reap the rewards of those EPDs.
Isn’t it about time you thought about how this could affect your organisation and the bottom line?
Roger Hatfield is VP of Sales for CloudTrade in North America.
How CloudTrade’s solution works
CloudTrade’s patent-protected software uses unique rules-based technology with backward tracking search, to interpret, validate, and extrapolate semantic meaning from complex documents, of any type. So, whether its invoices, sales and purchase orders or advanced shipping notices, CloudTrade processes them automatically and cost effectively.
Although CloudTrade offers organisations several ways to send complex business documents (including direct XML / EDI), by far the most popular approach is for an organisation to simply send an application generated PDF via email. When an application generates a PDF, in almost all instances it will be a text PDF. CloudTrade reads the document text straight from the PDF, without the use of OCR – which guarantees 100% quality. PDF documents are easy to use and out-of-the-box with most ERP and accounting packages. As a result, typically >90% of organisations (irrespective of shape or size!) when asked will send PDF documents – including invoices, sales and purchase orders, advanced shipping notices and other complex, data rich documents.
Why brands harnessing the power of digital are winning in this evolving business landscape
By Justin Pike, Founder and Chairman, MYPINPAD
Delivery of intuitive, secure, personalised, and frictionless user experiences has long been table stakes in digital commerce, well before the era of COVID-19. As businesses harness the revolutionary power of digital technologies, they have pursued large-scale change to adapt to evolving consumer preferences (some more successfully than others, but that’s a blog for another day). Digital transformation is a term we hear repeatedly, and it looks different for each organisation, but essentially, it’s about utilising technology and data to digitise, automate, innovate and improve processes and the customer experience across the entire business.
As I said, this was already well underway but then came 2020 and no industry escaped the disruption of the coronavirus outbreak, which has had an indelible impact on businesses performance, operations, and revenue. Regardless of whether the impact of COVID has been very positive or very challenging, it has forced organisations globally to re-evaluate and re-orient strategies to adapt.
As lockdowns and pandemic-related restrictions continue to change daily life, this raises the question of how we can balance a dramatic shift to digital and the benefits it brings, while ensuring business continuity and innovation both during and post-COVID, and protecting everyone against fraud?
Digital is an essential survival tool, and even more so in a COVID world
No one could have predicted the dramatic digital pivot that has taken place over this year. Indeed, within weeks of the COVID outbreak cash usage in the UK dropped by around 50%. Digital solutions including delivery applications, contactless payments, mobile commerce, online and mobile banking have become essential components of a touchless customer experience in the era of social distancing. It’s no longer just about an enhanced and superior customer experience, it’s also about health, safety and survival.
In store, businesses have benefited from contactless payments enabling faster throughput and reduced need for consumers to touch payment terminals (therefore requiring greater cleaning, which degrades the hardware much faster). Mastercard reported a 40% increase in contactless payments – including tap-to-pay and mobile pay – during the first quarter of the year as the global pandemic worsened. Digital has also become an essential sales channel for many B2C brands. Where brick and mortar stores have been required to close, digital commerce enables continuity of customer relationships and revenue. This channel also provides brands with rich customer data, which can be used to enhance and personalise the customer experience and typically results in greater levels of engagement and uplifts in revenue.
Industry forecasts estimate that worldwide spending on the technologies and services enabling digital transformation will reach GBP 1.8 trillion in 2023 – a clear indication that the process represents a long-term investment and a global commitment to digital-first strategy. The key point here is that digital brings significant benefits, and regardless of COVID, is here to stay.
The challenges that rapid digital transformation brings to businesses
Regardless of whether businesses are operating in developed or less-developed economies, these times of crisis have levelled the playing field in the sense that all businesses are facing similar issues. Access to products and supplies, maintaining customer relationships, accelerating sales for some and declining sales for others, health and hygiene are just a few of the unique challenges brought about by COVID.
Many businesses in physical environments have had to swiftly implement changes to significantly reduce safety risks for staff and customers, such as contactless payments, mobile ordering and delivery options. But with these changes come a host of other benefits of digitisation, such as faster transactions, and reduced human error at the point-of-sale.
The reliance on technology, however, can also expose organisations and consumers to certain vulnerabilities. In particular, the risks of fraud and cybercrime have dramatically increased since the onset of the pandemic as scammers have taken advantage of digital technologies to target both businesses and individuals.
As a McKinsey report illustrates, new levels of sophistication in the activities of fraudsters have placed more pressure on companies that have been previously slow to go digital, bringing “into sharp relief how vulnerable companies really are”, and damaging the financial health of small and large businesses. In fact, the Bottomline 2020 Business Payments Barometer reveals that only one in 10 small businesses across the UK report recovering more than 50% of losses due to fraud.
But take these stats with a grain of salt. While it is important to be aware of the risks and challenges this new business landscape brings, it’s equally as important to have a lens firmly across your own business, industry and audience, and to identify the changes you can make internally to mitigate risk as well as improve your customer experience. Where can you make some quick wins? Do you have the right skillsets internally to achieve what you need to achieve? What technology is out there that will enable your business goals? There are tech companies like MYPINPAD that are making huge strides in software development, which will transform businesses globally.
A digital world post-COVID
Almost a year in, the line between business success and failure remains fragile. However, an ongoing transition towards greater digitisation will be the difference between survival and the alternative.
There is a wide range of initiatives businesses can implement to weather this storm. If we look at the space MYPINPAD operates within, secure digital consumer authentication is crucial to the ongoing success and security of not only financial products but also identification and verification across a range of different industry verticals. Shifting the authentication of consumers securely onto mobile devices enables businesses to completely reshape their customer experiences. By bringing together a more seamless, frictionless customer experience, accessibility, privacy, security and access to consumer data, businesses are able to drive digital transformation across day-to-day activities.
Against this backdrop, software with stronger security standards continue to play an ever more vital role in supporting society, protecting consumers and businesses from the increase in risks that rapid digitisation brings. Already, merchants can deploy PIN on Mobile technology from companies like MYPINPAD, onto their smart devices to speed up the digitisation process many are now tackling.
Essentially, opening up universal payments and authentication methods that feel familiar, for both online and face-to-face transactions, will be key to opening up a world of possibilities when it comes to redefining how businesses engage with consumers.
Brexit responsible for food supply problems in Northern Ireland, Ireland says
LONDON (Reuters) – Food supply problems in Northern Ireland are due to Brexit because there are now a certain amount of checks on goods going between Britain and Northern Ireland, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said.
British ministers have sought to play down the disruption of Brexit in recent days.
“The supermarket shelves were full before Christmas and there are some issues now in terms of supply chains and so that’s clearly a Brexit issue,” Coveney told ITV.
The Northern Irish protocol means there are “a certain amount of checks on goods coming from GB into Northern Ireland and that involves some disruption,” he said.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Tom Hogue)
2021: a new tipping point for digital commerce
By Damien Perillat, SVP Digital Commerce at Worldline Global
2020 was a year of significant change for all of us, impacting businesses and their customers heavily. While several industries struggled, the demand for digital commerce and alternative ways to pay took off as nation-wide lockdowns meant customers needed to shop from the safety of their homes. This forced many businesses that previously relied on their bricks and mortar stores into the online space. And now, consumers are increasingly comfortable with ecommerce being a crucial part of their shopping experience – even those who were previously reluctant to adopt a digital life. It took ecommerce 20 years to reach about 15% penetration of consumer spending and in just a few months we jumped five to ten years forward. This isn’t likely to change in 2021.
Even in physical stores, customers are looking for safer alternatives to cash and chip-and-PIN payments. UK Finance revealed that contactless spending was up 18% across the UK in September last year when compared to the same time in 2019 – 64 percent of debit card transactions and 46 percent of credit card transactions were contactless. The use of digital and contactless payment methods will be much more widespread in 2021 as we enter this new normal.
K-shaped economic recovery will continue
With that said, economic recovery won’t take place at the same rate for everyone. Different industries have been impacted in their own unique ways by the pandemic. Leisure and travel continue are ranked as the most one missed activities by consumers and the first signs of recovery will be in the form of an increase in domestic and regional travel.
At the same time, the way consumers are interacting with different industries has changed. For example, millennials are looking for more experiential holidays with strong social aspects, where they can make a positive impact on the destination and people they are visiting. And, younger generations are displaying more conscious buying behaviour, focusing on sustainability.
Other industries have faced difficulties throughout the pandemic. Challenged with economic uncertainty, customers have cut back on spending on non-essential, luxury items, instead favouring spending that has enabled low-touch and home-based activities, such as food delivery, electronics, home entertainment and online marketplaces.
A shift in payment preferences
What has been uniform across many industries though, is that consumers now have high expectations surrounding not only the user experience (UX) but also the payment process itself. They anticipate an easy shopping experience where payments are almost invisible. Having the right payments mix will therefore be the key ingredient for success this year for many. Companies will need to ensure that their payment processes are fast, simple and frictionless as online checkout experiences have been raised to the next level.
At the same time, demand for digital goods and services surged last year as people were stuck indoors during lockdowns so purely digital players benefitted. By the end of Q3 2020, Netflix had a huge 195 million subscribers registered, while from February to June, Zoom saw a 677% increase in usage – attributed to increased remote working.
Clearly the digital transformation boosted the subscription economy, and that didn’t stop at just digital goods. People took to subscription services that regularly delivered anything from food to supplies to their doorsteps. This has been a much safer and convenient way to purchase goods during the pandemic.
So, with subscription services establishing a foothold last year, 2021 will be the time for businesses to invest in understanding the dynamics of what a truly optimised subscription payment customer acquisition looks like.
More online payments means more online fraud
Last year it wasn’t all plain sailing for everyone operating in the digital space. The increase in online payments presented more opportunity for fraud to take place and that’s exactly what happened. Between May and July 2020, when certain lockdown measures were eased and customers became more willing to spend, fraud volumes rose 61%, according to figures published by Barclays Bank.
Similarly, chargebacks became more prevalent. When shops are more reliant on deliveries than ever before, there is more opportunity for things to go wrong with orders and customers to be dissatisfied with what has been purchased. Fraudulent chargebacks have also become much easier to commit as it is increasingly difficult to prove when deliveries arrive safely.
Therefore, in 2021, not only will it be important to have a frictionless UX, but security measures must be effective without impeding on checkout processes and refund management will remain critical.
Greater risk of fraud didn’t stop businesses from embracing their new-found digital capacities while physical stores were closed though. Many have ventured into international territory with the aim sharing their services with other countries around the world.
This year, focusing on high-growth markets such as India, Brazil, Russia, and China will be hugely beneficial for companies looking to operate internationally and we could see cross-border sales continuing to take off in these regions. South-East Asia and Latin America have some of the greatest potential for digital commerce growth and I would urge those operating across borders to consider offering services there.
Key to achieving this is the ability to provide payments services that meet the needs of customers in different localities. Worldline research has found up to 42% of customers are likely to drop off and search for an alternative website if their preferred payment method is not offered at the checkout. Therefore, businesses must integrate with payment networks in different regions to provide locally relevant payment methods.
Yet, the web of complexity is increasing for online merchants, especially for those that want to expand internationally. As such, next year we can expect to see the growing popularity of payment solutions that seamlessly support the international reach of consumers and that enable businesses to integrate with local payment networks, while minimizing the need for local establishments and resources.
In a similar fashion, supply and logistics is becoming more localized. Lockdown measures hugely impacted supply chains around the globe and businesses resorted to new sourcing strategies and business models which will continue to be used this year.
Facing up to the change
2021 will be another extraordinary year for many businesses, as the world begins to find its feet again following COVID-19. Businesses must assess their position in the market and ability to meet the changing needs of customers’ when it comes to preferred commerce and payment methods.
Not only will this be critical when operating in the bustling online space, but it gives them scope to diversify, bringing in new revenue streams as we face the current economic downturn. When used to their full potential, payments will also ensure that companies can continue expanding online and abroad, even if the economy is going through a long K-shaped recovery period.
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