By Tobias Schreyer, co-founder at the PPRO Group
There are many reasons why online merchants may lose sales. Difficult to navigate web pages, poor choice of products and asking customers for too much personal data are all valid reasons. However, one element which is regularly overlooked comes at the very end of the customer’s shopping journey and is in fact one of the main reasons for basket abandonment.
The payment process.
It may seem like a technical after-thought, of little relevance to customers after they have filled their virtual baskets with desired products, but in fact, a poor payment process is enough to make the majority of customers ditch their saved items and go elsewhere – most likely to competitors.
According to our recent research, 68 per cent of UK consumers  have abandoned an online retail site simply due to the payment process. Over half of these (57 per cent) left because the process was too complicated, while 46 per cent didn’t complete the transaction as the merchant didn’t offer them their payment option of choice. This demonstrates that to succeed online, merchants must consider an omni-payment strategy to keep customers happy and maximise sales. The front-end of a retail website may be beautifully designed, with a vast selection of merchandise, but if customers cannot pay how they want to, products will stay unsold, resulting in low profits.
Improving payment processes need not be complicated and time consuming. There are a few simple steps that retailers need to consider to increase sales and improve loyalty from customers:
Variety is essential
Payments have come a long way since the advent of online shopping. Customers expect variety in payment methods, to match the variety of goods online. In fact, 88 per cent of UK consumers expect to have the option to pay by a number of means when they shop via the internet.
It’s no longer adequate to offer customers one single way of paying – in-store or online. Not everyone has a credit or debit card, so if this is all that’s on offer, merchants automatically lose out on sales from those who prefer to pay by an alternative method.
The internet has introduced card-free methods, such as Pay Pal, which are in-keeping with the quick and easy style of online shopping itself. There’s also an increase in the use of online bank transfers and direct debits. Customers no longer need to carry cash or card around with them to make a quick payment – they simply need to log in, enter their online banking password and submit and approve with a transaction authorisation number (TAN).
Imagine if a customer has an online basket with hundreds of pounds worth of product in it but doesn’t have their credit card on them at that exact moment, if they are unable to pay through an online payment method, that sale has just been lost without second thought.
It’s key to remember that if payment options are limited, so are sales opportunities.
Language is not the only barrier
Globally, credit cards are the preferred payment method, however this is not the case in every country. Payment preferences vary just as languages do and the last thing merchants want is the payment process to be the barrier between customers and sales.
Imagine this – a UK merchant has a visit from a customer in Germany who wishes to make a purchase. They get through the perfectly translated front-end but when they finally reach the payment page they do not recognise any of the methods offered to them. The result here is clear – again, they will abandon their basket and go elsewhere. Limiting payment options reduces your global reach, all the while extending your competitor’s reach.
Cultural differences play a key part in the transaction process. Consumers shopping in the UK prefer paying with PayPal (45 per cent), followed by credit cards (22 per cent). In the Netherlands however, almost two-thirds (65 per cent)[i] of all transactions are carried out using the iDEAL online banking system and in Germany and Austria most digital buyers prefer payment on account and via direct debit. Merchants need to know exactly who is shopping on their site and accommodate their preferences.
The only way for a business to really go global is to break down not only the language barriers, but also the payment barriers.
Safe and secure
In addition to offering variety, consumers want to know their money is in safe hands. If a payment page doesn’t show that you are taking customer’s security seriously, this is likely to scare people off. The trouble is, with the increase of digitised cash on the internet, comes an increase in fraud opportunities. Consumers are becoming more and more aware of these cyber threats and need to be sure their precious cash is protected. By meeting the relevant regulations, for example PCI compliancy and displaying this at point of sale, consumers minds are automatically at ease.
International payments are great and open up a lot of doors for a business – however, they also open up opportunities for fraudsters. Merchants have to walk that very careful line of protecting both the customer and businesses, without infringing on consumer rights.
By offering a variety of payments, meeting international preferences and maintaining customers trust by keeping them secure, online businesses have the chance to flourish both domestically and internationally. If payment issues on online retail sites are not addressed, the implications could be disastrous and ultimately affect sales and revenue.
One Poll surveyed 1000 UK adults who shop online between 24th July – 28th July 2014