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GUEST OPINION Are you satisfying the omni-shopper and reclaiming the High Street?

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The High Street is beleaguered, but not because shoppers don’t want to go there, just it doesn’t quite offer the experience they are used to online. So what can you do about it? Here Andrea Scerch, President, Payment Gateway Services, Mastercard suggests some ways retailers can reclaim the streets.

The retail industry has come a long way since bricks and mortar high street stores. What was once seen as a huge disruption – the internet – is now an intrinsic part of the trade. In fact, the value of mobile and online sales has already exceeded $1.4 trillion, according to Juniper Research. Yet this has not stopped consumers from demanding physical retail stores too, as well as a seamless shopping experience across multiple channels: in-store, online, via their mobile, and now even through social media.

As a result, many retailers have adopted a hybrid approach to targeting their consumers so they can cater for today’s ‘omni-shopper’. In other words, they are engaging with their customers through an ever increasing variety of channels. This, in turn, has created a much tougher business environment that’s forced the retail industry to take advantage of the digital age to enhance and optimise their business.

But taking advantage of digital and adopting a genuine ‘omni-commerce’ approach must be done in the right way if retailers are to remain competitive. Today’s consumers have high standards, and especially when it comes to payments. They expect a speedy, frictionless transaction on every channel, including mobile, and above all, they want the peace of mind that their payments are safe and secure. A complicated payment process, laborious registration procedure or restrictive payment options can all lead to shoppers losing interest and moving on to the next outlet.

We’ve already seen evidence of this with more than 90% of consumers still abandoning online shopping baskets when attempting to buy something on a mobile device, according to the Centre for Retail Research, compared to about 68% shopping via desktop or tablet, which in itself is a number worth paying attention to.

So how can retailers achieve omni-channel commerce success?

To implement omni-channel commerce successfully, the customer journey is crucial and must be mapped out carefully in the most intuitive, convenient way possible to enable quick, direct payments. Working with a payment gateway expert, retailers can better understand customers’ behaviour and the trends that drive their spending patterns.

These trends include the move to smartphones, which have now overtaken laptops as Internet users’ number one device for web browsing, and over half of online sales are now being made through this channel too.

For this reason, integration across channels is even more critical if retailers want to make the most of an individual’s ‘omni-channel’ shopping habits. What’s more, from a purely online perspective, retailers need to ensure their customers don’t feel constrained by differing device functionalities and are allowed to choose their own path to purchase, rather than have it effectively mandated by channel limitations.

Finally, with recent research finding that almost a third of consumers are concerned about security when it comes to mobile payments, retailers must prove to their customers that the necessary security solutions are in place, giving them the peace of mind to take the final step to purchase.

By working with a payment gateway provider, retailers can better understand and cater to all these trends to ensure a seamless and integrated experience across any channel. At the same time, they can also have the confidence that their security and PCI compliance requirements are taken care of, further building and maintaining the trust of their customers.

The gateway to success

If done right, the payment gateway function can go far beyond just authorising payments – it can provide necessary innovation on the retailer’s behalf, helping them to deliver new and innovative ways for customers to shop and pay across channels, with technologically advanced solutions that go beyond the boundaries of a traditional gateway. This, in turn, enables retailers to expand into new channels and geographies, attract new customers, drive loyalty, change the way customers interact with the brand, ensure safety and security and crucially, increase sales.

But while the payment process should enable omni-channel success, it often represents the final hurdle. To crack this, retailers must ensure their payment gateway meets the needs of the omni-channel customer – providing convenience, immediacy, safety and security – whatever the channel.

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