The following is a guest post by Jill Bohlken, Director of Enterprise Sales, PayNearMe.
Widespread adoption of mobile payments continued to impact consumer behavior this year, shaping how people handle money – including how they pay their bills.
Consumers increasingly use mobile-first payment types to purchase goods and services or pay their friends, so they want this same convenience with bill payment.
According to a consumer bill pay study, 36% of consumers (and 50% of 18- to 44-year-olds) say if they had the option, they would be likely or very likely to use Apple Pay or Google Pay to pay their bills. More than a quarter (27%) of consumers and 35% of 18- to 44-year-olds say Venmo is essential for bill pay.
Forward-thinking billers and lenders are forging ahead to satisfy those mobile-first preferences. In 2022, for example, cities began offering text-to-park options, where drivers simply text a keyword to a designated short code to locate available parking spaces and make payment on their phone – no app needed. Lenders, utilities, and even toll road companies adopted mobile-equipped payment platforms and saw widespread adoption.
This migration to mobile payment is likely to continue in 2023. Here are three hot bill payment trends we’re watching and what’s required of billers to participate:
Hot Trend #1: Emergence of smarter payment links
Pay by link emerged during the pandemic’s rush to contactless payment because the only thing customers had to touch to complete their transaction was their mobile device. It continued to gain popularity in 2022, however, because the links got even smarter (meaning personalized), offering one of the simplest ways to pay for one-time goods and services and regular bills.
To pay by personalized link, a merchant or biller sends a secure, unique link to a customer via their payments platform to initiate online payment. Customers simply tap the link sent to their mobile device and choose their desired payment method.
Personalized payment links afford customers the independence and flexibility to pay when, where and how they like, but there are also advantages for billers. Pay by link improves speedy, on-time payment and streamlines cash flow since payment is delivered electronically. It also allows billers flexibility in the channels they use to accept payment, such as text messages, email, or an app or digital wallet push notification.
With all these benefits to consider, we anticipate 2023 will be the year many billers roll out pay-by-link options to their customers.
Hot trend #2: Greater demand for real-time disbursements in light of FedNow rollout
The federal government is not known for being a trendsetter, but that will change in 2023 as the new FedNow instant payments platform makes real-time payment mainstream, lighting a fire under billers to do the same with disbursements.
The Federal Reserve Board is ready to roll out its FedNow instant payments platform, which will simplify and expedite money transfers to, from, and within financial institutions. According to the Federal Reserve, three out of four businesses and two out of three consumers think it’s important for their bank or credit union to offer faster payments.
For fintechs, businesses, and lending institutions, FedNow will create a tailwind to offer comparable real-time services, including disbursement, with the help of their payments provider. Consumers increasingly expect their money fast, especially in the case of a refund, loan disbursement, or insurance claim payout. Making customers wait weeks for a check in the mail will no longer be accepted once they’ve experienced real-time money management through modern payment apps and (soon to come) their bank.
In addition to speed, customers want disbursements to track with their payment choices — push-to-card, push-to-Venmo, push-to-PayPal, and even push-to-cash-at-ATM. That’s not the case with FedNow, which works only with tenders connected to bank accounts. When companies deliver that wider convenience through their payments platform, customers can immediately pay bills using that money right from their mobile devices. This increases the likelihood of on-time payment.
With those tools at their disposal, we expect to see more billers work with their payments provider to expedite disbursements, offering customers the same immediacy they will soon experience with their banking transactions. And they’d be wise to do it now, so they are already meeting consumers’ needs before FedNow takes the stage and the spotlight.
Hot trend #3: Payment experience will become increasingly important.
Creating an exceptional customer experience has become the focus of every business leader, regardless of industry. Yet we predict 2023 will bring that attention to bill payment and how to make that regular interaction more seamless and convenient for customers.
There’s no doubt customers are making choices about who they want to do business with based not only on the product provided but also on the totality of the experience: from purchase to payment and everything in between. PwC’s Future of Customer Experience survey found that 30% of customers are willing to take their business elsewhere after one bad experience, and more than 40% will leave after several bad experiences. Even if customers stay, they might share negative views privately and publicly on social media, which could impact a business’s reputation and revenue for years.
Fortunately, customers have been loud and clear about what they expect from their customer experience. In the PwC study, consumers rated efficiency, convenience, and easy payment among their top-five priorities. That makes bill payment a logical place to focus efforts on improving the customer experience.
Billers must first work with their payments platform provider to nail down the basics: making bill payment accessible on any device at any time, offering a wide choice of payment types and channels, and reducing the number of steps needed to complete payment.
Next, billers can add value by sending automated reminders that prompt customers to pay their bills. According to the bill pay study, 45% of consumers said receiving a text message or email reminding them when a bill is due would make it easier to pay on time. Nearly 4 in 10 (38%) said they would appreciate a reminder that contains a link they can use to make an electronic payment.
About 1 in 3 consumers say they tend to procrastinate (37%) or overlook their bill in the mail (34%) or email (26%). That’s where automated reminder messages, sent through SMS, email, or push notification, can vastly improve on-time payment. The messages can be even more helpful by including smart links that take payers directly to their payment screen, with no passwords necessary. The customer can choose a payment type within seconds and complete the payment. It’s the ultimate in efficiency, convenience, and easy bill payment that customers desire.
With so many easy-to-implement strategies for making bill pay less stressful or tedious, we predict that more billers will prioritize customer experience in 2023.
Meeting the moment with the right payments platform
Implementing new bill payment technologies and strategies to address these hot trends, and anticipate what’s coming next, requires dedicated attention and investment. Partner with a forward-thinking bill payments platform provider to ensure you aren’t left behind.
Billers and lenders should find a payments partner that already offers pay-by-link options, real-time disbursement capabilities, and all the components necessary for a positive and frictionless customer experience, including automated bill payment reminders. Even better, the platform should release frequent updates and improvements based on client requests and changing consumer expectations, always anticipating what’s coming next.
Mobile-first bill payment may be a wild frontier, with new technologies and trends emerging nearly weekly. Still, the future of bill payment brings with it exciting opportunities – for billers and their customers. Here’s to an exciting 2023.
Jill Bohlken is the Mortgage Strategic Lead at PayNearMe. She partners with lenders and mortgage servicers to help automate the payments & collections processes and increase self-service and customer payment satisfaction by allowing their borrowers to pay how, when, and where they want. Jill has over 20 years of experience in mortgage servicing.