By Brian Green, Director of Commerce, EMEA at Magento

One of the most fascinating phenomena of our time is undoubtedly the shift in focus from products to experiences, and the role technology is playing.

Shopping is no longer about what we buy and how much it costs. It’s about how we buy, how easy it is and how it makes us feel. Each touchpoint can make or break a customer’s perception of a brand. That’s why retailers strive to simplify and enhance every part of the buying journey.

The payment phase is no exception. If paying for a product is simple, we’re likely to go through with the purchase. If the payment is a hassle, it’s a good reason to resist.

As a result, merchants are pulling out all the stops to eliminate barriers to sale – think of contactless payments, cashier-less stores and so on. At the same time, payments have to be secure, in order to prevent any fraudulent activities and to inspire trust in the customer. This leaves retailers to find the perfect balance between experience and security.

It’s all about removing friction

Let’s take a look at how forward-thinking retailers are removing all traces of checkout friction to improve conversion and boost sales.

Buy now – Pay Later 

It turns out the latest payment trend is not paying at all – almost. Some retailerssuch as H&M, Topshop and Ray Ban enable their customers to “buy now and pay later”, delaying the payment by 30 days or splitting it in instalments.

Naturally, try-before-you-buy helps minimise friction at the checkout and reduces cart abandonment. However, not everyone can access this service – most merchants require shoppers to join a brand club, buy regularly and accumulate points. This way, the service serves almost as a loyalty scheme, enticing repeat purchases and improving customer retention. All in all, it’s a great tactic that increases revenue in more than one way.

Checkout-free

If there was ever one off-putting, exhausting barrier to purchase, it’s the queue in a  store. So it is surprising that until just a few years ago there was no practical solution to this known conversion challenge. Yet, stepping into one of Amazon’s US cashierless convenience stores still feels like a futuristic experience.

A combination of sensors, computer vision and machine learning tracks what’s taken from the shelves, allowing shoppers to grab what they need and leave without having to stand in line at the checkout.

The payment does, of course, take place immediately: the items are simply charged to the buyer’s account via their Amazon Go app. UK household names like Sainsbury’s and Tesco are proposing their own alternatives, leveraging artificial intelligence, latest-generation cameras and scanner apps, with a view to automating in-store payments and streamlining the path to purchase.

Mobile-minded

Mobile commerce – or mCommerce – is growing exponentially. Consumers browse webstores whilst commuting and want to order products while on the go.

Yet, while mobile traffic is booming, mobile conversion is not keeping up with this trend. Many retailers’ sites are not mobile-optimised and, especially with very interactive pages such as the checkout, the experience is still clunky – resulting in shoppers abandoning their carts.

It’s time to switch to a mobile mindset when it comes to online payments. Intuitive checkout pages, that are designed for mobile, are a must for retailers who want to amplify conversion and avoid missing out on sales.

Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) can help enhance the mobile experience and enable quick debit and credit card payment set up. Merchants should integrate recognisable tools like Apple Pay or Google Pay, to encourage more shoppers to click the buy button.

PSD2 – what’s in store?

Despite the 18-month delay, PSD2 – or Revised Payment Service Directive – still looms on the horizon and retailers will have no choice but to deal with the new related rules and limitations. We talked about how friction is the sworn enemy of conversion.

Well – the security measures brought about by PSD2 are certainly not going to make online transactions any smoother. With two-factor authentication (2FA) on all transactions above £30, shoppers will have to prove their identity not just once, but twice before finalising the payment.

In order to prevent this additional barrier to prevent shoppers from completing the transaction, merchants must integrate the right technology to make the double authentication process as easy as possible: for mobile, for example, biometric identification such as via fingerprint could be a viable option as many smartphones already enable this to unlock the home screen or access mobile banking.

On the other hand, retailers should consider the importance of making customers feel at ease when processing a payment. Almost four out of ten shoppers abandon their carts because the webstore looks untrustworthy, so a checkout page with more security ‘obstacles’ may actually encourage customers to buy.

Final wrap-up

Keeping up with ever-evolving customer preferences is what makes a retailer’s job so challenging.

Understanding what shoppers seek in terms of payment options, what makes them trust a seller and what ultimately entices them to buy is no easy feat. However, retailers who manage to combine secure procedures and smooth checkout experiences are without a doubt on the path to success.