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Creating customer convenience – Credit cards and buy-now-pay-later schemes

Creating customer convenience – Credit cards and buy-now-pay-later schemes 1

By Kosuke Koga, President, JCB International (France) S.A.S.

Finance is ever evolving, whether in new ways to pay with biometrics or even new forms of currency. Top of consumers’ minds when it comes to their finances and payments is convenience, and the industry has, by and large, stepped up to deliver this. 

Today, this ease is taking a step further in the form of ‘buy now, pay later’ (BNPL) schemes. So, could this mark the end of payment with credit cards as we know it? Unlikely. 

If there is anything the finance industry has learned during the last few years, it is that consumers want more than just a payments provider; they want customer experience, convenience, reward, and security to complement the service. All these aspects are what credit card networks have been doing for many years. 

For new finance entrants, like BNPL schemes, there is a lot to be learned from traditional players in the payments’ ecosystem – and in many instances, opportunities to collaborate. In February 2021, for example, JCB invested in Net Protections Holdings, a pioneer in Japan’s post payment processing space, to explore a business partnership in the BNPL sector within Japan and abroad.

So how can we better work together to create an improved payment experience for consumers? 

CONVENIENCE ONLINE: THE NEW PLAYGROUND

The events of 2020 accelerated the ecommerce journey and normalised the concept of digital shopping for many who had never explored the online universe. And with ecommerce continuing to grow as connectivity improves and consumers feel more secure shopping online, it has become the new playground for payments providers and their retail partners to create attractive consumer purchasing experiences. 

BNPL schemes certainly deliver on the convenience front. Consumers can purchase and receive items without having to pay the full amount upfront; instead, they can pay off the total in weekly or monthly instalments. For many consumers, this payment arrangement is favourable – whether that’s because it helps them get through to payday or to avoid large payments being deducted all at once. And while these schemes may serve instant gratification, which has become an integral part of digital experiences, it cannot be its only differentiator as other players are quickly catching up. 

Credit remains key to convenience, with credit cards offering a seamless way to pay online. Thanks to more merchants accepting a wider range of cards, like JCB Cards, the option for shoppers to spend online with their credit card is easier than ever. 

But the payment experience doesn’t only start and end with a purchase. There are many other areas that BNPL schemes can look to traditional players for inspiration, especially if they want longevity.

SERVICE BEYOND PAYMENT: THE CORNERSTONE OF LOYALTY

Customer loyalty in finance is challenging, especially when new players compete on convenience. But this doesn’t necessarily build long-term loyalty, which can be hugely valuable for financial brands. Long-standing customers are more likely to forgive a brand or accept an apology if something goes amiss, for instance. The foundations of loyalty are the brand experience – and this is made up of the multitude of interactions a person has with a business and how they feel about those interactions. 

Credit card providers have had a long history of providing services beyond payment and looking holistically at the experience of its cardmembers and how to improve it. Whether this is 24-hour customer service support, offering rewards or exclusive access to partner events, or upgrades for travel. 

At JCB, every cardmember can expect exceptional customer service while premium JCB Cards offer a differentiated level of service to enable cardmembers’ lifestyles. In Japan, the most prestigious card is JCB The Class, and its invitation-only status maintains its exclusivity. It bestows special status and exclusive services and support to a select group of cardmembers. 

Reward programmes are also tailored on a region-by-region basis, so cardmembers receive the benefits considered most relevant to them. It’s important for new payments providers to look for other ways they can provide value to customers, beyond just offering them credit. 

SECURITY 

As ecommerce has grown, so has (and must) the security when making transactions. And credit cards and other legacy payment providers have a long history of robust security and fraud protection. 

As the speed and scope of payments increase, JCB constantly monitors the changes and challenges that we face in keeping our customers up to date. JCB’s J/Secure™ authentication programme for card not present transactions has been protecting JCB cardmembers from identity theft since 2004. J/Secure™ makes online commerce more secure by adding an important identification step which enables cardmembers to directly authenticate their card with the issuer.

Credit and payments are about more than just the products we buy; they are about going above and beyond to protect the consumer and to make their purchase journey better. BNPL is innovative; but if the finance industry can work together to improve the overall ecosystem, then everyone wins.

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