We’ve all been there. You try to pay by credit or debit card, but you’re told it’s cash only. You’re at the checkout page, but there are so many hoops to jump through you just give up and log off. Or, you try to make an in-app purchase, only to be asked to input your card details every time.
Makes you want to pull your hair out, right?
Friction. Friction Everywhere.
For a culture where convenience is king and the customer is always right, friction is alarmingly prevalent in U.S. commerce.
Most people who have a digital wallet still feel they need to carry a physical card. What’s more, even when it comes to card payments, customers find themselves having to insert their card and enter their pin, with the latest push towards chip-and-pin technology.
Customers don’t like friction. And as mobile payments gain more traction and the lines between online and offline commerce continue to blur, this dislike can only grow stronger. Aside from potentially awkward interactions with colleagues and other acquaintances (just picture asking a client to spot you $10 to pay for lunch), friction is time consuming and, consequently, annoying and frustrating.
Of course, convenience — and, therefore, a smooth payment experience — is also about variety and choice. Customers will pay how they want to pay, whether that’s in cash, by card or via some other alternative method.
However, the takeaway here is that customers feel increasingly empowered to walk out if their expectations aren’t met. Merchants can either capitalize on the opportunities this presents or slide into complacency and eventual obsolescence.
The Buyer’s Journey
As it happens, reducing payment friction isn’t necessarily that complicated. Even relatively simple adjustments can make the process smoother. The trick is to understand and embrace changing customer attitudes and expectations, and then offer them the mix of payment options they actually want.
For brick-and-mortar stores, this may involve a point-of-sale (POS) hardware upgrade. While EMV and NFC-compliant terminals’ up-front costs can be significant, the cost of not upgrading — both in lost business and liability costs for fraudulent transactions — can far outstrip the short-term savings.
Aside from enabling faster and more secure mobile payments, a POS upgrade also helps merchants tick two other crucial boxes: those of choice and variety. In particular, it means they can accept digital wallets and other cash alternatives, which ultimately will increase their appeal to a wider range of customers.
Of course, customers don’t necessarily complete their buyer’s journey entirely in-store or online anymore. Buying behavior is increasingly nonlinear, cutting across channels and geographical borders. This makes it all the more important to offer the same mix of payments and overall user experience both online and offline.
The Devil is in the Details
As important as the process itself is, it isn’t the only cause of payment friction. Even fixing seemingly minor issues can make payment smoother and greatly increase conversion rates.
Speeding up website loading times, optimizing for mobile and allowing guest checkout instead of forcing a lengthy registration process are just three nonpayment ways merchants can reduce friction and keep customers on track to complete their purchases.
That said, merchants would also do well to retain as much control over the payment process as they can. This often means opting for white-label solutions instead of leaving it up to a third-party provider. By integrating their shopping cart into the overall website design, merchants won’t just reduce payment friction, but also build trust and, ultimately, enhance their brand image.
Joseph Daly is the COO, North America Payment Processing at Paysafe, a global payments provider.
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