The retail real-time payments revolution is here

Wednesday 15 March 2023 08:16 CET | Editor: Raluca Ochiana | Interview

Basant Singh, EVP and Head of Merchant Segment at ACI Worldwide, explains why merchants and consumers are ready for real-time payments.


What real-time payment (RTP) developments have you noticed in 2022 and what are your hopes for 2023?

RTPs are now at the heart of the global payment landscape. In both developed and underserved markets, they have enabled financial institutions to boost efficiency, liquidity, and act as a catalyst for growth – especially in fast-paced, digital-led economies. Thanks to the work done by governments, regulators, and central banks to create national real-time payment schemes, we’ve seen RTP increasingly supported by BigTech and embedded into non-financial digital apps and services.  

As banking takes RTP mainstream, it’s time to take RTP into the retail domain. In 2023, we want to see merchants as excited about RTP as banks and empower them with the tools they need to realise its full advantages. We can help do that by making it super simple and easy to add RTP to merchant checkouts – online and in-store, desktop, and mobile. And ensure that front and back ends deliver a smooth entry point for RTP services – whether that’s a one-click payment digital or QR code at the POS.

India is a great example of what happens when merchants embrace the RTP revolution. Its UPI (Unified Payments Interface) platform currently processes more than 5.3 billion transactions a month. Adoption has been wildly successful even among street sellers and use cases now extend far beyond sending and receiving funds to loans and credit checking, cardless cash withdrawals, and even regional cross-border interoperability.

What are the main challenges for merchants and how can real-time payments help?

In these hard times, merchants are becoming increasingly frustrated by payments complexity and rising charges. It’s costing them too much and taking too long to access funds. And, in some cases, it’s impacting their growth.  

Meanwhile, customer preferences and payments are changing at a lightning speed, and so is the checkout mix. It’s become a powerful differentiator, turning the checkout into a prime battleground for acquisition and driving new connections and business models – from marketplaces and franchises to BNPL and subscriptions.  

In mature markets, many merchants are struggling to improve long-term sustainability and are focusing on international expansion which comes with its own set of costs and challenges. There is also more pressure than ever on merchants to reduce costs, improve security, and minimise risk.



RTP tackles all these challenges in five key ways:

  • Unlike card transactions, RTP payments are cleared instantly. With better liquidity and immediate cashflows to run their business, merchants can negotiate better rates and discounts from suppliers to restock faster and cheaper.  

  • Because RTP doesn’t involve a card intermediary, there is no interchange fee. This also cuts costs creating an uplift and an opportunity to offset savings to provide cashback and discounts that boost customer acquisition and loyalty.  

  • Taking cards and issuers out of the equation means there’s no card fraud, no chargebacks, and far fewer declines.   

  • Its simple, no-cost, omnichannel payment rails help optimise business sustainability and simplify international expansion. 

  • Providing an instant, seamless, and frictionless payments experience – in-store or online, straight from their bank accounts.


How does ACI help merchants realise these benefits?

While there are many compelling business cases for RTP, the issue for merchants is how to integrate it and get it working seamlessly across channels, for all types of customers. That’s where ACI comes in. With solutions like Instant Pay, we can open up the RTP revolution to retailers, using our peerless heritage in product innovation to bring one-touch, real-time payments to omnichannel checkouts with minimal friction and no disruption. 

Our merchant payments orchestration platform makes RTP super easy to achieve. With a single one-point integration, it puts the merchants in control. ACI customers can be the first to benefit from RTP’s liquidity, economic, and growth advantages with our future-ready payment solutions that help them lock in more profit, accelerate expansion, and stay ahead of the curve.    

By simplifying RTP with ACI, merchants can minimise overhead and reduce costs. They can deploy new customer payment experiences easily and accelerate the time-to-market for RTP in-store and online to get a jump on the competition. We also give them a roadmap for cross-border RTP which will become a real game changer for ecommerce in 2023. 

What RTP incentives are there for consumers?

Customers looking for alternative payments that match their lifestyles will be the first to embrace RTP. With ACI Instant Pay they can experience one-touch retail RTP payments online and via a QR code, virtual ID, or phone number in-store. This paves the way for more inclusive payments, especially for credit-cautious and card-shy Gen Z and Millennials who may want to manage their budgets in real-time. With RTP they can pay directly from their bank or prepaid account at no additional cost, making it easier to shop online. With RTP, there’s no compromise on security. RTP complies with PCI DSS, PSD2 SCA, and 3DS and is subject to KYC, AML, and other fraud checks, so there’s no extra risk for merchants or their customers.  

There’s also a potential financial advantage for consumers seeking bigger rewards and incentives to help them cope with the current cost-of-living crisis. With RTP, merchants can use interchange fee savings (up to 4%) to fund new loyalty and discount programmes that give all or part of this cost-saving back to the user. The more they use RTP, the more retailers and customers can save, making it a win-win situation. Even in the EU, where interchange savings are lower (0.3-0.4%), there is still scope to offset discounts or use the other benefits of RTP to deliver instant rewards that differentiate and boost loyalty.

What can we expect from your company in 2023?

We’re focusing on rolling out our new Instant Pay solution, building RTP momentum by making it simple and easy to integrate, and helping them to build compelling use cases for their customers.  

Our experts will help them get the most out of their investment. For instance, once merchants are RTP-enabled with ACI, they can use the same platform to facilitate RTP B2B payments to their suppliers and vendors, helping to reduce reconciliation costs even further and B2C payments for giving any cashback, rewards etc. This opens the wider scope of use cases on Instant Pay

Looking further ahead, RTP has the potential to simplify and reduce the cost and processing delays often associated with cross-border sales. No interchange fees and easy fiat-to-fiat conversion can help to remove viability barriers to expansion in certain countries. At ACI, we are already working on game-changing solutions for RTP cross-border payments and hybrid/RTP blockchain payments that could create totally seamless, no-cost international payment rails within the next year or so. 


About Basant Singh

Basant Singh is a highly experienced payments industry executive with more than 20 years of experience spanning payments, fintech, and consulting services. He leads ACI Worldwide’s Merchant and Payments Intelligence solutions portfolio, which encompasses a Payment Orchestration Platform to offer ecommerce, omnichannel payments, merchant fraud, and Alternative Payments. He has global business experience with merchant acquiring spanning direct and indirect channels, financial institution alliances, customer segments, and verticals.

About ACI Worldwide

ACI Worldwide delivers the software and solutions that power the global economy. Our mission-critical real-time payment solutions enable corporations to process and manage digital payments, power Omni-commerce payments, present, and process bill payments, and manage fraud and risk.

Check out ACI Instant Pay or contact ACI real-time payment experts today! 

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Keywords: real-time payments, instant payments, merchants, marketplace, payments orchestration, ecommerce
Categories: Payments & Commerce
Companies: ACI Worldwide
Countries: World
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Payments & Commerce

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