HOLIDAY SEASON 2015: WHAT PAYMENT CONCERNS ARE US RETAILERS FACING TODAY?

By Oren Levy  -CEO, Zooz

With the 2015 holiday season just around the corner, US retailers are scrambling to contend with various challenges related to payment issues. Taking into account that the Fintech industry is evolving at a dizzying rate, we take the opportunity in this article to discuss the major issues facing US retailers today.

Multiple Payment Channels – NO GPS Required

By every indication, consumers are ready to shop on their phones, using them not just for browsing or web rooming prior to in-store purchasing, but for making actual purchases. Last year, Christmas sales via smartphones increased significantly over the previous year: almost 40% of all online sales were made directly via a mobile device.

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However, an interesting finding provided by Google reveals that consumers who shopped across multiple channels and devices spent four times more than those who didn’t. And, in fact, based on previous years’ data, a vast majority of US holiday shoppers are expected to shop in physical stores this season – simply to get into the holiday spirit!

The lesson to be learned here is that retailers who strive to maximize revenues must enable easy and secure payments across every shopping channel.

Alternative Payment Methods – Which to Choose?

With the proliferation of smart phones, NFC compatible alternative payment methods and digital wallets are popping up like mushrooms after the rain.

In addition to Apple Pay, competitors include Samsung Pay and Android Pay, which are steadily improving their offerings, and CurrentC, which has yet to launch. Currently, both retailers and consumers appear to be confused by the diversity in the field of mobile wallets. Added to that is the fact that mobile wallets vary in functionality. While some work for in-app payments, others function solely at the POS. Some wallets are linked to the customer’s bank account, while others are based on prepaid arrangements.

While large players currently dominate the industry, their solutions are limited because they are not provider-agnostic. If a newcomer were to develop a mobile wallet compatible with all devices and operating systems, it might see wide scale adoption among consumers and merchants.

On the other hand, closed-loop merchant mobile apps (such as Starbucks) have proven to be highly successful. Savvy large retailers would be wise to set up similar apps because potential benefits include increased sales, customer acquisition and more successful loyalty programs.

Despite limiting factors such as security risks, mobile wallets are poised to forge ahead, and retailers must be equipped with the necessary integrated hardware and software terminals to stay in the running.

EMV Adoption – A Challenge Yet to Be Met

Despite the fact that as of October 1, US merchants are now fully liable for any losses incurred due to credit card fraud, recent data indicates that less than 30% of US merchants are capable of processing chip-enabled cards. From the consumer’s point of view, things aren’t much better; more than six in 10 American card holders do not even possess chip-enabled credit cards. And let’s not forget the banks, which are not holding to their deadline either.

The EMV payment process requires the shopper to enter a PIN code at the POS. For many purchasers the new process may prove to be confusing during the harried pre-holiday shopping period, which may in turn provoke frustration and failure to complete payment transactions.

Additionally, enterprises that do not accept chip-enabled cards may well lose cautious customers to competitors who have already incorporated EMV.  Unfortunately, we can’t expect EMV to see widespread implementation until after the next massive data breach.

To Buy or Not to Buy – Social Media Buy Buttons

Oren Levy
Oren Levy

Some pundits predict that social media buy buttons will be the new frontier of mobile commerce. Facebook and Twitter recently launched shopping functionalities on their platforms. Skilled utilization of social media has the potential to boost revenue and customer loyalty. While this sales channel holds a good deal of promise, retailers must convey compelling social media messages that will inspire the shopper to press the “Buy Now” button and complete the sale. The transition to the purchase point must be kept easy and fast in order to “strike while the iron is hot.”

However, social media platforms do not possess the customer’s payment credentials, and safe storage of these details would necessitate compliance with complex security regulations. Conducting sales and payments through social media platforms would also necessitate integration with the retailer’s inventory and the regular tracking of purchases.

Another issue is the fact that social media platforms do not capture data-driven insights regarding consumers’ shopping preferences, transaction histories and buying habits. So while consumers may actually be reading your social media posts, you could just be targeting the wrong audience for your offering.

Conclusion

The holiday season offers many challenges to the savvy retailer, but they are far outweighed by the opportunities.  As long as you pay attention to your customers’ needs and allow them to pay the way they want to pay – safely, securely and conveniently – the holidays should be cheerful for your business and shoppers alike.

Sources

Deloitte University Press, http://dupress.com/articles/mpayments-mobile-pos-system-in-retail/

A Comparison of Alternative Payment Methods, http://www.3gdirectpay.com/blog/a-comparison-of-alternative-payment-methods-part-1/

Vend University, https://www.vendhq.com/university/retail-trends-and-predictions-2015

 Recode, http://recode.net/2015/07/24/for-impulse-shoppers-a-brave-new-retail-world-on-social-media/

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