It is sometimes surprising and shocking, to see how beliefs change over time. Not long ago, Time magazine reported that human beings have a shorter attention span than goldfish. Anguished reporting followed from multiple outlets, and then the news just died.
What’s worth observing here is that any trend and any brand can only stay alive as long as it is being talked about. Nike knows this, which is why they bet so big on a polarizing ad that could wipe out a good portion of their revenue. Let’s think about customer experience in this context. Everyone remembers a good interaction with a brand, but when they’ve had multiple good interactions with multiple brands, how many are they likely to remember? In other words, how long is it going to be before exceptional customer experience becomes the new baseline, and brands have no choice but to reinvent themselves to stay relevant?
In scope of things, it is safe to say that the smallest of attributes can influence brand perception. While we often think of advertising language, customer service and the like, it may not immediately strike us that something as basic as offering multiple payment options can also influence buying behavior.
Changing Systems For Changing Times
“Alexa, buy me the dress in my cart from Missguided.”
Does that seem like a strange voice command? Very soon, voice-based shopping is set to take off. This, apart from the many different ways in which people shop today, makes retail payments a slightly more complicated process.
For example, a customer may have registered just one credit card on Alexa, and they’d expect to be able to use that card in the store they’re ordering from. If the store is unable to accept this payment method, the customer may just turn around and never come back. It is very rare for customers to spend too much time trying to figure out how to pay for a product they want. They will, instead, simply look for it elsewhere.
Studies show that Visa and MasterCard still top the charts in preferred payment modes, but PayPal is not far behind. Moreover, Gen Z shoppers may prefer even more sophisticated methods such as electronic wallets and even bitcoin currency. Also, we must consider the fact that people in different demographics would prefer different options. For example, baby boomers would much rather use Amex. Indeed, the idea of using wallets may cause them to rethink their purchase. The exact opposite could be true of millennial shoppers.
A Platter Of Payment Options
Today, a wide assortment of payment options are available to customers. What do these options mean for both retailers and customers? Let’s take a look.
Web Payment Gateways
As the name suggests, a payment gateway is a secure intermediary where cards, internet banking credentials can be used for making a payment. A payment gateway is the first thing an e-commerce retailer sets up as this is also the most common way to accept payments.
Services like Stripe, PayPal,WorldPay and CCAvenue are popular options. Apart from being a gateway, services like PayPal also functions as an electronic wallet, and connected accounts as well. For a retailer, the appeal of a payment gateway lies in just how common they are. Customers trust payment gateways as being safe places for providing their financial data. Thus, they are so much more likely to complete a purchase.
Apple Wallet and Apple Pay are the most commonly used electronic wallets simply by virtue of the market penetration of Apple products, though the Google Wallet is catching up fast.
For fairly new brands, offering wallet payments is a way to show customers that they have options, and to also let them enjoy the relative safety of a wallet transaction. A wallet is often preloaded. So, it has no access to the customer’s account information. In the case of fraud, the only amount lost is the money in the wallet itself. This aspect makes people want to use wallets more on sites they have never shopped from before.
Cryptocurrency For Payments
Last year has shown us that hype or no hype, cryptocurrency is definitely here to stay. While they are in a slump now, people do have a store of bitcoins stashed away because they invested in them in 2018. Today, it might seem like a viable option to use them to make payments.
Stores hosted on Shopify can today accept cryptocurrency payments. Reeds Jewelers, Inc. and Etsy have also begun accepting bitcoin payments. That said, the penetration of this payment method is still quite low in fashion e-commerce.
Collect On Delivery
This option may seem redundant in an economy that has been virtually cashless for at least a decade. However, collect on delivery has quite a few benefits. For one, it eliminates one step in the checkout process which is the actual payment. Research shows that purchases are almost always made on an impulse, even though the consideration may take time. In this context, eliminating payment at checkout entirely can be incentive enough to make a purchase.
Moreover, for newer brands that customers aren’t yet used to, collect on delivery is the safest payment option in their mind. It builds trust in the brand and shows transparency in dealings.
The benefits of collect on delivery are seemingly endless! This payment feature can also extend to omnichannel ‘buy now, pick up in store’ orders. Customers can place the order online, check for size, styling, and customization in the store, make the purchase offline and then take the product home. As we know, a convinced customer is a loyal customer.
It is perhaps no surprise, then, that brands big and small offer this payment option. Selfridges offers a ‘click and collect’ feature in most UK stores, with the added benefit of complimentary parking and styling advice. Likewise, ASOS offers the facility in most UK locations, as does JD Sports. Missguided also offers the service, but for a fee.
Whenever possible, brands need to consider offering the collect on delivery option, preferably at no extra cost. Offering options is a mark of good customer experience and is also excellent for facilitating omnichannel interactions which are the need of the day.
A Credit System That Works: Buy Now Pay Later
On the payments path, brands are outdoing themselves in demonstrating to customers just how much trust there is in the shopping equation. Until now, credit cards have been at the forefront of offering deferred payment options, but today, fashion brands are keen to do it themselves.
“Don’t you just hate the fact you have to pay for your online fashion finds before you’ve even tried them on?”, asks Lyst’s Buy Now, Pay Later webpage. Most shoppers do.
We have all faced the pain of having to order for, and pay for, the same product in two different sizes just because we don’t know which one would fit. Moreover, we’d be holding up all of that free cash until we return the product and get a refund. Buy Now, pay Later, credit system allows customers to defer payments by up to two weeks after delivery. That’s enough time to try on the products and return those that they don’t want.
Even luxury fashion is not left far behind. Vestiaire Collective, a UK online marketplace for luxury goods, allows customers to make deferred payments in installments for the products they buy online. The interest rates on these payments are competitively low, as is the required documentation.
Topshop really does know how to take things up a notch, and they do so in the Buy Now, Pay Later domain as well. With the option of interest-free payments deferred by up to three months, you can shop even when the wallet isn’t feeling so healthy. Argos, H&M and John Lewis are just some of the many retailers betting big on this payment method.
The Business End Of Things
What benefits does Buy Now, Pay Later offer the retailer if it is tying up so much working capital in deferred payments? The only logical answer is customer loyalty as a byproduct of a good experience. Brands today know that they hold the customer’s attention for a very short while. If they don’t find something worth coming back for, they will likely forget all about the brand. A Buy Now, Pay Later option:
- Creates a subconscious contract in the consumer’s mind and improves recall
- Creates a better consumer experience because customers can how have what they want, when they want it
- Opens up an avenue for continuous communication from a brand- to showcase other products available under this method, to send payment reminders, or even to remind customers to return a product within a given time window to avoid paying for it
Brands are surely trying everything they can to singularly hold all of that attention. In this game of positioning, with payment woes trump high intent? Or, will big brands with enough financial muscle finally achieve the utopian dream of truly being the ‘one-stop fashion destination’?