Written by Steve Powell, Director of Sales – EMEA at PCMS

No matter which (or how many) channels consumers shop through, a smooth end-to-end experience is now their expectation. They care little for how difficult retailers find it to serve them consistently and effectively; they simply want what they want, whenever and wherever they want it.

The good news for consumers is that most retailers now have a firm grasp on delivering to this expectation. However, for even the more mature omnichannel organisations, there is often a sticking point: payments.

When it comes to customer service, payments are the ‘last mile’ in conversion, and abandonment rates due to poor performance are still higher than most retailers would like. Online, for example, figures compiled by the Baymard Institute show that 74% of ecommerce carts were abandoned in 2016. This is even more concerning when you consider that the average abandonment rate was 69% five years previous.

Payment pain points are not solely an issue for the web, either. Research conducted by telecoms operator EE revealed that 73% of shoppers will abandon their purchases in stores if forced to queue for more than five minutes. A slow or unreliable payment experience can be a major contributor to waiting times.


Prioritising payments

 Many retailers are investing heavily in the checkout experience both on and offline to enhance the customer experience, and it’s vital that payments are prioritised as part of this initiative.

For example, online, retailers that are choosing to work with a payment gateway provider need to ensure that it integrates seamlessly with the rest of their site. Suddenly redirecting shoppers to an inconsistently branded – or even unbranded – payment page can be jarring, and make them start to question its authenticity, which in turn may cause basket abandonment.

Equally, the ecommerce payment experience needs to work around local customer needs. This means creating a secure experience without making authentication overly burdensome, while also giving shoppers the option to pay in their local currency, through their preferred payment method.

In the store, meanwhile, many organisations are rolling out mobile Point of Sale (mPOS) technology to provide a richer, more personalised customer service in their stores. However, many are focussed on getting shoppers to convert – access to stock availability, product information, product demonstrations and reviews – than what happens when the customer is ready to buy.

The most effective in-store technology solutions embrace the complete customer journey right through to the checkout, and that means integrating payments into device capabilities.

By making payments a key feature, store associates are empowered to enhance customer service in other ways. One example of this is queue busting during peak periods, as mPOS liberates front-line staff from fixed checkouts and allows them to take payments anywhere in the store.


Checking in – not out – with customers

 As I’ve already touched on, mobile store technologies enrich customer experiences by drawing on digital information. Many retailers are already looking at how operational data and knowledge of shoppers’ online behaviours can enhance the shopping experience, but some solutions have the power to take this even further.

For instance, retailers such as Marks & Spencer are exploring ‘mixed basket’ capabilities at the store checkout. When a shopper comes to pay or pick-up their click & collect order, they can also be given the option to pay for items that have been placed in their online shopping basket when they’ve been browsing the web.

This is an effective example of how activities in multiple channels can come together at the point of transaction. A well-integrated payment capability can enable the customer to kill two birds with one stone, and the retailer to increase the value of that customer interaction with relative ease.


Making shopping and transactions indivisible

Undoubtedly, improvements have been made over the past few years in the omnichannel capabilities retailer can offer customers. The next aspect to smooth out the payment experience.

As I said at the start of this article, payments are the last mile in customer service, and therefore one of the biggest influences on customers’ lasting impressions of a retailer. Therefore, the quality of the payment experience is not just about winning or losing a sale; it can have a powerful effect on how shoppers perceive a retail brand.

With this in mind, when it comes to customer retention and loyalty, the most successful retailers will be those who prioritise making shopping and transactions indivisible. Wherever they are, whatever they are buying, the customer should barely notice they are checking out.