Nothing is worse for a customer — and, let’s face it, for a merchant — than when they get to the end of the checkout process and find they can’t use their payment method of choice.
That means e-commerce merchants who choose to work with only one or two of the largest credit card companies may find themselves at a serious disadvantage when it comes to avoiding cart abandonment and building customer relationships and loyalty.
Customers today want to buy what they want, when they want and however they want — and Visa and MasterCard are no longer the only payment game in town. With alternative payment trends emerging seemingly daily, here are five merchants should keep their eyes on this year.
AI-Powered Personal Assistants
Computer-powered Family Hub refrigerators help ensure families always have milk by surveying the refrigerator’s contents each time the door closes and letting users order and pay for groceries with a single tap on the built-in LCD screen. Don’t feel like taking a trip to the local box store or the mall? Amazon’s Echo, Google Home and other wireless speakers let customers search for and order products with simple voice commands.
Even booking travel becomes a breeze with the Mezi app, which helps users find and book flights, hotels and even restaurant reservations with the help of an artificial intelligence-fueled chatbot.
With these personal assistants, customers get the information they need without wasting time searching websites. E-commerce merchants benefit by capturing data from orders and searches, gaining a comprehensive view of the customer to let the merchant provide customized service in the future.
Peer-to-peer (P2P) payment options make splitting tabs with friends quick and convenient. Individuals use these apps to electronically transfer money to friends and family using their mobile devices and a linked funding source, like a credit or debit card. Many of these P2P payment options charge little to no fees for their use, making them popular among consumers.
Customers also use these payment alternatives — like PayPal, Dwolla, Square and Venmo — to purchase goods and services online. eBay, notably, almost exclusively uses PayPal for its transactions. Customers appreciate the two-layer authentication and transaction protection PayPal offers; merchants enjoy accepting bank and credit card payments without hefty fees.
All the major P2P systems do encrypt sensitive financial information, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still be compromised by scheming fraudsters. They remain, overall, a safe and convenient way to send money to individuals and businesses a customer knows and trusts.
Visa Checkout and MasterPass
Even credit card processors are creating alternative payment options in an effort to keep longtime customers. Visa Checkout and MasterCard’s MasterPass help streamline a customer’s checkout through an integrated digital wallet and by automatically inputting shipping and billing data. A single sign-on makes it faster for customers to complete online transactions, facilitating e-commerce spending and capturing sales that might otherwise be lost to complicated checkout forms and other payment options.
P2P digital currencies like Bitcoin have also increased in popularity, thanks to their low fees and quick processing time. Bitcoin operates without a central authority or through a bank, yet it offers customers a safer alternative to credit cards by using “blocks” of irreversible transaction data to build a blockchain ledger of transactions. While it’s not yet a popular payment option (fewer than 1% of consumers use it), Bitcoin is becoming increasingly popular with merchants, with companies like Overstock.com, Expedia and Microsoft now accepting Bitcoins as payment.
The use of digital (or mobile) wallets to create a fast, secure, frictionless customer experience is also on the increase. These smart apps — like Apple Pay, Android Pay and Google Wallet — store your credit card information electronically on a smart device. Paying for a transaction is simple: Consumers either tap the device to a special reader at the point of sale or click a button on an e-commerce website. And these wallets are now extending beyond smartphones. The new Token ring has Bluetooth and NFC connectivity — plus a fingerprint and optical sensor — that lets customers make payments at more than 15 million stores worldwide.
The platforms driving these apps used the same tokenization and encryption technology that make EMV cards secure, which means consumers don’t need to worry about sensitive information being compromised.
Offer Payment Alternatives to Capture More Sales
Today’s consumers are wholeheartedly embracing the convenience and security of mobile commerce. By 2020, mobile payment volume is expected to rise by a compound annual growth rate of 80%, topping $503 billion.
To take advantage of these soaring numbers, smart merchants should be prepared to implement the payment methods that maximize value, security and convenience. Not only will offering more payment options help merchants widen their customer base and facilitate international transactions, but it will also help ensure a seamless checkout experience for the customer.
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