Merchant Warehouse Moves up Value Chain From Payments to ‘Engagement’

Payment processors and related companies work with most SMBs and are increasingly seen as a potential sales channel for reaching them with additional services. This week, we talked with one processor, Boston-based Merchant Warehouse, about its efforts to leverage its base of 75,000 business customers beyond terminal sales.

CEO Henry Helgeson told us the 15 year-old, 300 employee company got its start selling terminals, but has seen strong growth in new products such as integrated coupons that anchor its “Genius” customer engagement platform. A horde of companies have introduced coupons, for instance, but many businesses have no idea how to redeem them, given the constraints of their existing POS systems, he says. The rising use of mobile phones for payments and promotions has made it an especially big issue.

The move to integrate promotions such as coupons and a wide range of payment types into payment solutions has also changed how Merchant Warehouse works with its customers, which range from alternative payment companies such as LevelUp to value added resellers. “We are moving from working with tech teams to working with marketing teams,” he says.

What has become increasingly understood is how complex it all is. Many businesses had hoped to have a single point of presence for payments, just as they similarly had hoped to have a single search engine and online point of contact in the 1997-98 time frame, he says.

And as it turned out they had to work with 50 search engines and points of contacts, they’re beginning to see they have got to plan on working with a wide range of payment solutions. “They want one closed loop wallet. But there will be many, many wallets,” says Helgeson. There are 200 entry points in the POS value chain, he notes.

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