Online payments have evolved quickly. Just think: Starbucks have discovered a way to allow customers to pay for a coffee on Twitter. Contactless payments have allowed Transport for London to open a touch and pay system that all the public can use to get around. It’s now possible to hover your mobile phone over a point of sale terminal and pay for your shopping through a mobile wallet like Apple Pay. 10 years ago, we would have laughed to hear that these things would be possible. Now that they are, most consumers wouldn’t know how to live without them. They’ve become part of our everyday life and yet another way to make our lives easier and more efficient.
Payment trends are evolving, so merchants need to be on top of what’s happening in the industry to stay ahead of their competition and attract more customers. Here’s a few trends that you can fold into your business to gain that competitive edge.
Heard of Bitcoin? This isn’t the only virtual currency you’ll hear about in the next year or so. There’s virtual cryptocurrencies coming into the market just about every week. Their penetration in the investment market has shown this is a new and exciting field of finance. First and foremost, virtual currencies cap the number in supply. Bitcoin, for example is only ever going to have 21 million coins. This means that as the currency has more demand, it becomes more valuable. At the time of writing this 1 Bitcoin is worth $5,000 dollars.
The power of an online currency like this also comes from its decentralization. If it isn’t controlled by a central bank like our national currencies, it cannot be a victim of inflation and the economy cannot control its value. This is still such a new market that people are still unsure what to do with it but many predictions have been made about Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies eventually becoming a common form of paying for goods and services. There are already some technologies introducing Bitcoin payments and countries like Ukraine offering Bitcoin ATMs.
More people in the world own a smartphone than a computer. It is estimated that there are 2.1 billion smartphone users worldwide and this could reach up to 6.1 billion by 2020. Smartphones are used for just about everything; from a phone, a camera, a computer to a payment wallet. Many merchants are using mobile and app payments to make the payment process easier and more efficient. Just look at the Domino’s app. They have created a way to pick your order, pay for your food and watch as your food is made and the delivery arrives at your door. No more popping out to get cash or waiting at the door with the delivery driver to pay on a slow machine that can’t seem to find a connection.
Domino’s can attribute 77% of UK deliveries through their ecommerce website and 48.6% of online sales made through the Domino’s pizza app. Apps can provide a full payment experience including personalization, tracking, incentives, discounts and special offers.
Merchants can now collect a variety of different data points when a customer makes an online purchase through a website or app. You can create a picture about every customer’s journey from the moment they visited your site to the moment they made a purchase. This increased understanding of how your customers operate, allows merchants to develop stronger and more effective customer retention strategies.
For example, understanding that your male customers between 25-35 seem to prefer a certain type of product around Christmas might lead you to create a personalised experience on their account that allows them to see this product at Christmas time and encourages them to purchase it with a discount code.
Knowing about a customer’s journey is helpful in creating a faster and more efficient path to purchase but you can also use data to learn and understand shopping cart abandonment. Why do your customers decide against purchasing goods? Is it because the payment process is too difficult? Maybe you make it too hard to create an account? Now you have data that can also encourage people to stay in the buyer journey all the way to purchase.
We’ve already mentioned the Starbucks Twitter payment story. Take another social network, Facebook. Facebook have created a way for users to buy and sell items within the Facebook platform. Users can sell used and new items to people who live nearby and you can easily sell your own items completely free. Facebook-owned Instagram allows online sellers to promote the sale of their goods using a visual experience and a selection of; ‘shop now’, ‘install’ and ‘learn more’ buttons encouraging users to go to the seller’s website for more.
Social media is a great tool, not just for brand awareness but for customer retention and customer loyalty. Almost 60% of consumers follow brands on social media to keep up to date with the latest products. It makes sense that social media would evolve to help brands connect those consumers with their products and make it easier for them to purchase.
It is also possible to connect your social media accounts to your website to track consumers who visit your website pages and serve them with personalised content and adverts on social media. This is known as ‘retargeting’ and can help sellers to encourage consumers to buy when they might still be in the decision-making phases of their buying decision.
Traditional ‘pay per product’ companies have started to move away from single payments and opt for subscription based models. Think of what happened to Adobe. Not so long ago, you would purchase Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator, get a product key and install it on your computer. When a new version was released you would have to go out and buy the product again. Adobe one-off purchases were not cheap and so their market was smaller. Many tech savvy consumers would also opt for hacking the software to get it free, creating more problems for the company.
To solve this, Adobe moved over to a cloud-based subscription model whereby their customers would pay a set amount each month to access and install Adobe products in the cloud. This meant that their customers could have as many of their products as they wanted, they could share store and collaborate on projects in the cloud and they could access Adobe on multiple devices anywhere in the world. This also meant that Adobe could gather a load more data on their customers and retain them for even longer.
A subscription economy is about focusing on the customers rather than your product. If customers come first, we can focus on what they want and what their behaviours are to improve our product and transactions. Just look at Apple, they are not focused on how many iPhones they can ship but how many Apple ID’s they can gather. Data is the new currency and if you’re a subscriber, you are more valuable to Apple over time.
Amazon has also joined the subscription model club. They discovered that many of their items are bought multiple times by the same users, often at regular intervals between each other. Think about buying food for your pets, household cleaning items, baby items like food and nappies, cosmetics and more. Now you can buy these on subscription with a guaranteed discount over the single purchase items. Added discounts are included for people who subscribe to multiple items. Now that’s how you keep your customers buying from you.