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Complacency has no place at the table for companies crossing the 50-year mark. But how do corporations best encourage innovation? For Mastercard, it starts with their staff.
“From our team in St. Louis to our global headquarters in Purchase, New York to offices around the world, employees are encouraged to take thoughtful risks and be creative in the way we solve customer pain points,” says Debbie Barta, who served as senior business leader and incubation executive officer of Mastercard Labs before becoming the global platform lead of Simplify Commerce.
That freedom allows Mastercard employees to explore and imagine through Mastercard Labs—its innovation department—and Innovation Express: a 48-hour contest and networking opportunity where teams of designers, developers and business leaders brainstorm solutions, write business plans, build a prototypes and pitch their products. An Innovation Express in St. Louis in 2014 posed the challenge of creating a simple and intuitive payments platform that small businesses could easily use. During those 48 hours, Simplify Commerce, a “virtual startup” within Mastercard, was conceived.
Simplify Commerce allows businesses large and small to accept payments online, in person and through mobile and social channels. What makes the payments system stand out is that integration is designed to be incredibly simple—hence the name. Business owners can integrate Simplify without needing to go through any tech support. After all, as any entrepreneur knows, time is money.
There’s never been a better time for innovation in the payments industry, either: With the advancement of mobile and social platforms and the shift of commerce to the online space, there are more ways than ever to connect vendors and consumers.
“We’re at a very exciting time in the payments industry,” says Barta. “Technology, connectivity and consumer demand are all converging and people want to be able to pay and be paid anytime, anywhere and on any device.”
This means, she says, that both consumers and businesses want easy-to-use, intuitive payment platforms—especially ones that are geared to mobile-first usage with top-notch security.
Considering the Platform
Why mobile-first? “Mobile is absolutely redefining how a customer shops,” says Barta. “I personally can’t imagine shopping without my phone in hand to check prices, find new products, search for deals and pay at the point of sale.”
In many cases, small business owners don’t have antiquated infrastructure built up from years past, allowing them to start fresh and leapfrog to new technology. “Small businesses and startups shouldn’t be afraid of mobile,” she says. “You can create a great mobile shopping experience with an eye on both budget and time.”
Keeping Simple Safe
As global cybersecurity becomes an increasingly important issue, fraud prevention is top of mind for Simply Commerce.
There’s no arguing that online and mobile shopping are taking off: According to stats from Simplify Commerce, online shopping sales will total $480 billion by 2019. And even right now, 89 percent of small- and mid-sized business owners surveyed saw a 40 percent increase in sales once they started selling online. With trends like these, it’s obvious why business owners would turn to the internet to sell.
“However, the growth in e-commerce, coupled with an increase in in-store security measures like [chip-outfitted cards], means that online fraud is on the rise,” says Barta. “We want to help small businesses get both a piece of the digital sales pie as well as peace of mind.”
That peace of mind comes in the form of Simplify Controls, a digital fraud-prevention platform launched in May 2016 that (affordably) manages and monitors transactions. The platform effectively keeps fraudsters out while letting legitimate transactions in. “It’s an exciting product to offer to our small business customers who haven’t had this type of customizable enterprise technology before,” says Barta.
Like traditional startups, Simplify Commerce’s agility drives success—in this case, for its local customers like 4Hands Brewery, who needed to launch an online store, and the Saint Louis Fashion Fund, who needed a simple way to collect donations online–as well as global clients like Huy Fong Foods, the manufacturer of sriracha sauce, who manages a large online storefront.
The company sidesteps traditional technologies to make payments work in a truly 21st-century fashion in three unique ways: First, businesses can quickly develop a mobile app for payments, which then syncs up with Simplify’s technology to accept payments.
Second, there’s the social payments feature, where businesses can transform social profiles into sales platforms. “For small business owners, this means they can move beyond amassing fans, friends and followers online to turning those ‘likes’ into ‘buys,”’ says Barta.
Third, Simplify created an e-invoicing feature for service-based businesses. Companies can create and send invoices right from their phones using an in-app dashboard to manage their invoices—and businesses—on the go.
The bevy of options has allowed Simplify Commerce to grow both in the US and abroad—and fast, aided by having both Mastercard’s global footprint as well as local support.
“Through Simplify’s versatile platform, we’re able to offer merchants the technology their target market wants,” says Barta.
The flexibility Simplify Commerce offers is part of the international draw for international markets: Each country, after all, has its own needs when it comes to commerce.
“Working with startups and small businesses is incredibly rewarding,” says Barta. “In a way, we get a front row seat to seeing these businesses and organizations grow, succeed and accomplish their dreams.”