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GUEST COMMENT Staying ahead of the game with customer-centric payments

Mobile payment is part of the new paradigm of payments

Customers should be at the centre of everything that businesses do. Focusing on this will keep businesses ahead of the competition, with a loyal customer base and high revenues. Nowhere is this more important than in payments; customers have more choice than ever when it comes to deciding how to pay. And ecommerce businesses must cater to the needs of customers by allowing them to use their preferred payment methods.

With that in mind, let’s look at how consumer demand is changing and how merchants should respond to this. 

Customers are interacting differently with tech

Historically, consumers used keyboards and a mouse (or touch) to shop online. That’s just how the devices were set up. However, as a result of new technology, alternative methods of interaction are growing more popular. For example, conversational commerce – or chatbot technology – is something that people are increasingly comfortable with. Similarly, Alexa-enabled devices have popularized voice commands as a means of making a purchase.

More and more, ecommerce businesses should allow customers to shop and pay through these alternative interactions. This extends even to biometric authentication methods such as fingerprinting or facial recognition to verify transactions. As the collection of biometric data becomes passive rather than active for the consumer (i.e. iris, gait, voice), we could enter a world of continuous authentication, in which the end user can make a purchase with no friction. 

Device agnosticism is key

The consumer device ecosystem has become incredibly diverse and complex. Desktop, laptop, smartphone, tablet, wearable tech – people may use some or all of these in a single day. So, when it comes to designing a payment experience, it must be seamless and consistent regardless of the device being used.

Naturally, this comes with complications and challenges, especially with the influx of Internet of Things (IoT) gadgets. The internet-connected refrigerator that alerts the user when milk is running low could be used to make purchases, but online businesses and payment services providers will have to integrate payment methods in a way that is secure and provides the best consumer experience. 

Everything must happen now

The internet opened up a global marketplace, giving consumers access to just about any product in the world. Besides an abundance of choice, consumers expect everything about the shopping experience – from browsing to checkout to delivery – to be fast and easy. In an age of one-click purchases and next-day delivery, everything must happen immediately, and even the slightest friction will lead to frustration and abandoned carts.

Speed and convenience can come from simple implementations like optimizing mobile UX or using tokenization so customers do not have to keep entering their details. In the future, more advanced use of customer data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) will make powerful predictive recommendations – anticipating what customers want before they even know they want it.

Creating a smooth payment experience

One thing all businesses must remember is that the payment journey should be smooth, easy and enjoyable for the customer, regardless of the method they use. Payments are no longer a functional end point, but a pivotal part of satisfying customers.

This has been made clear with the emergence of invisible payments over the past few years and is something that Amazon, in particular, has managed to achieve with the Amazon Go store. In the store, payments aren’t even noticed by customers, they simply have to pick up a product and walk out of the store while the payment takes place in the background – as does authentication for the transaction. If this level of seamlessness can be integrated into an ecommerce business’ payment strategy, they are likely to stay ahead of the competition and create a solid and loyal customer base.

Stepping up to the challenge

To deliver a truly great payment experience for customer, businesses must first address a number of technical challenges, such as becoming device agnostic and facilitating a multitude of payment methods in a frictionless way. In addition, businesses must remain compliant with regulations when collecting and using customer data in order to create these smooth services. 

The first step towards achieving these goals is to have a solid understanding of your customers’ wants and needs when it comes to payments. From there, merchants can build a solid payment strategy and an enjoyable, frictionless experience that keeps customers returning.

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