In an increasingly competitive e-commerce environment, offering a superior customer experience (CX) is vital for merchants looking to stay ahead of the game. Anita Liu Harvey, director of strategy at Barclaycard, writes

Not only can improving online CX give merchants the edge they need on their competitors, but it can also reduce the number of abandoned baskets that occur when customers drop out of the check-out process along the way – an issue that, according to research from Barclaycard, potentially costs UK merchants £18bn ($22.2bn) each year.

However, while many merchants have invested in the online shopping experience, some are still neglecting their payments process – even though payment is the crucial final step in clinching a sale.

Changing expectations

As UK consumers increasingly shop online, they are becoming more and more discerning about their expectations regarding online payments. In fact, Barclaycard research found that the vast majority of consumers (80%) consider a seamless payment journey to be important when choosing where to shop.

Omnichannel offerings are also becoming ubiquitous, meaning connected shoppers have come to expect a frictionless payment experience across any and every brand touchpoint.

Seamless payments

Single-click payments provide the optimal seamless purchase experience, which is especially important when it comes to improving conversion rates of returning customers.

By adding unnecessary steps to the payment process – which is typically caused by a merchant not having a tokenised approach, enabling them to store their customers’ credit or debit card details – merchants risk causing frustration among their shoppers.

In fact, almost a third of consumers (31%) say they find it annoying to have too many steps at the checkout, and the same percentage find it frustrating when they are asked to re-enter all their card details on a site they have shopped previously.

What is more, adding steps to the payment journey creates more opportunities for people to reconsider their purchase – ultimately impacting merchants’ bottom lines.

Merchants left behind

A combination of change in digital behaviour and customer experience expectations has meant that the era of multichannel – referring to siloed channels, such as separate bricks-and-mortar stores and online platforms – has made way for the age of omnichannel: a unified, seamless operation between multiple touchpoints.

The importance of providing a seamless payments journey is recognised by nine out of 10 merchants (89%), and yet more than half of those surveyed by Barclaycard (56%) admit they do not currently have an omnichannel payment strategy in place, while a further 21% do not know if they do or not.

Too many merchants are being left behind when it comes to ensuring that their payment technology matches consumer demand, with a fifth (18%) saying they find it difficult to invest in the right technology to improve customer experience. For large organisations, this figure rises to 25%, but what is holding them back?

The payments landscape

In the increasingly complex online payments landscape, not all payment gateways are designed to keep up with fast-evolving technology and customer demands.

Working with a provider that offers flexibility and support can help merchants to navigate which of the latest innovations and consumer trends to focus their investment on, meaning they can seamlessly integrate payments into the shopper experience.

Offering a payments process that is as simple and straightforward as possible is crucial to a merchant’s CX strategy, and yet the link between payments investment and customer experience is not one that is always recognised by merchants.

Working with a trusted partner can empower businesses to focus on a seamless payment process as a cornerstone of their online offering for shoppers, which in turn can help to drive customer retention and boost sales.