[Anthony Pickup] Consumer research sometimes makes me wonder. This piece for example, released by SYNQERA, a Russia-based provider of personalized multi-channel communications, a few months ago, shocked me to the core by revealing that 73% of American consumers found the process of waiting to pay for their shopping their least favourite part of shopping in store. Sadly there was no further information about the remaining 27% who clearly love queuing but perhaps they were too busy re-ordering all their possessions in alphabetical order to answer any more questions. 

I had plenty of time to contemplate this statistic the other day in my local corner shop when I got stuck in a queue behind someone trying to make a UK government Simple Payment. It took so long to authenticate them that they let me queue jump to make a cash payment for a lottery ticket (I didn’t win).

Obviously there are people who enjoy a difficult or boring payments process but technology ought to be making these things faster. Indeed a large part of what we do is about making payments, online or in person-– easier, quicker and less confusing, something that should be a common goal for retailers and payment providers.

As much of the recent misinformed media storm in a tea-cup about contactless shows, there’s a lot that needs to be done by payments providers to show that new payments methods are safe (there’s only so much we can do). A customer who isn’t sure which of their cards made the payment is a customer who’s going to reach for cash next time.

However there is still a lot to do to improve the actual process itself, online and off. Online, cart abandonment rates can reach as high as 80%. There are a multitude of reasons for this, including shock postage rates and intrusive cross selling but hard to navigate payments processes is a big one.  Extra steps in the online payments process, added by 3D Secure for example, can be a step too far when someone is buying on impulse. That’s surely one of the reasons Amazon makes its check out process so straightforward.

This is one area where mobile phones could really make everyone’s life easier. Not just by enabling mobile checkout for online shopping – mobile dropout rates are high too – but by doing things that real life leather wallets can’t. We talk about the “triple A play” – authentication, apps and APIs – that go towards blending the payments experience so seamlessly into the retail experience that it disappears (think Hailo for example). Indeed, I favour the “quadruple A play” in the following order –  apps (what the customer uses), APIs (how the app talks to systems via interfaces), authentication (of the app via the API process and consumer through the API) and authorisation (the decision that the customer is allowed to perform the transaction).

In store, mobile payments can cut down on physical queuing time by bringing the POS to the customer and on the tedium of queuing by offering messages and coupons. Online, adding a mobile channel into the mix can introduce extra security and reassurance into the payments process without the need for additional passwords. For mobile payments themselves, Facebook’s plans to test a new feature to reduce the hassle of online form filling when shopping online sound a step in the right direction. In fact by offering at least an API and a degree of authentication, Facebook could simplify payments for a significant number of customers.


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