What role does payment innovation play in the early years sector?
There’s no denying that the pandemic has thrown up a sea of challenges for the early years (EY) sector – and resilience and adaptability have played key roles in helping settings to jump over the hurdles and keep going.
Yet, while there’s been lots of dialogue in the media surrounding how childcare providers physically adapted their settings to help prevent the spread of the virus, little attention has been given to the technological ways they’ve integrated into their daily operations.
Our product marketing manager, Beth-Ann Sher, explores the payment innovation landscape within EY and comments on the latest findings from our customer survey with NMT Magazine. If you missed the original article, you can catch up below…
Digital solutions in early years
Technology in its many guises is a common tool in our daily lives – both professionally and personally – and we rely on it to organise, connect, remind, entertain, and generally assist us in getting through the week’s many to-dos.
In the context of nursery and childminder settings, tech adoption has been a growing trend for a number of years – with management software solutions available to help practitioners streamline operations, and create more time in the day to focus on child learning and development.
And one area of technological interest which arose from a recent survey we conducted was around the topic of payments.
The study of 136 childcare professionals revealed that there has been a 14% increase in the use of contactless payments since the onset of Covid-19 – a mechanism introduced to help reduce the amount of touch-points and make transactions as safe as possible.
In addition to this, 49% of people believe the main benefit that contactless payments offer is a better experience for parents, while 44% feel it’s the reduced admin that is the greatest advantage.
Others also referenced it being time-saving, improving safety for staff, and increasing security against fraud.
While there’s no denying that physical health and safety has been – and continues to be – vitally important in reducing the transmission of the virus, there’s also the mental and emotional toll, from all the additional processes and risk assessments, to take into account too.
Settings naturally want staff, children, and parents to feel at ease within the learning environment, and it’s clear that technology has a seat at the table in assisting them to achieve this.
The benefits of introducing childcare payment tech
Payment evolution has been changing at a rapid rate throughout society over the last 15 years, with contactless cards first being introduced in the UK in 2007 and the number of online transactions soaring every year – saving time and offering greater time-flexibility.
And when this same logic is applied to the EY sector, it’s no surprise that many settings have made the shift to digital to automate admin-intensive invoicing processes. In fact, in the same survey, 61% of nurseries also revealed that without a tech solution in place which automatically reconciles bills with payments, they spend 5-10 hours per month doing this task manually – and a fifth devote between 10-20 hours.
Offering an enriching and fulfilling learning journey for children is at the front and centre of child providers’ agendas, so for many settings this time-intensive task is understandably a big frustration. It quickly adds up to precious minutes in the working day that could be spent on child development or strategic business planning.
But employing a contactless payment solution isn’t only beneficial in terms of recouping time, it also arguably helps to improve relationships with parents by creating a more positive experience for them. For instance, they can do it quickly and conveniently through their phone on the dedicated app, and no relationships are soured by having to regularly chase bills.
But as well as reducing the administrative burden – up to 80% when compared to direct debit (DD) and cash – it also helps to ease the worries of childcare settings, as they’re less anxious about the effect late payments will have on their cashflow.
Barriers to change in early years
While the majority of nurseries (69%) consider contactless payments as the future, not all childcare settings utilise electronic payments or other digital systems. And when surveyed, 21% believe it’s too expensive to implement, while others feel overwhelmed by the choice of solutions, or unconfident using technology.
In reality, this lack of confidence across the sector needs addressing by solution providers themselves, and could offer the opportunity to deliver regular training courses and workshops to help upskill and support users.
Moreover, while some solutions can be costly to set up, there are others which implement competitive transaction fees to help nurseries save their valuable resources. It’s simply a matter of doing some initial investigative work to see what’s available, before reaching out for advice.
Ultimately, any technology – whether it’s management software, payment systems, or even tablets and mobile phones – should exist to complement and support human-led activity. It should enable sector professionals to carry out the more mundane tasks, freeing up their headspace for the areas they want to prioritise on – the children and propelling their business forward.
And for any lack of technological confidence that’s present throughout the industry, this can only be remedied when solutions providers give the time to truly listen, guide, and educate users.