Customers expect their entire purchase journey to be seamless, smooth and feel part of a coherent, cohesive whole. Payments professionals are increasingly stepping up to the broader challenge, expanding their vision beyond a narrow focus on payment to include aspects of the customer journey that might otherwise fall through the cracks.

The result is great for customer experience, brand loyalty and revenue uplift. In this article, we’ll look at examples of how payments’ expanded horizon impacts customers online.

The power of payments goes beyond checkout

The traditional focus of payments professionals was always around the point of payment, which made sense given both the intricacy of the world of online payments and the amount of thought and effort required for businesses to navigate it confidently, and the importance of the moment of payment to the customer.

Recently, payments departments have started building off their hard work optimising payments within their organisation to branch out into the areas of customer experience that are closely and intimately connected to payments. In digital commerce, no part of a customer’s journey happens in a silo. Recognising complexity and interconnectedness empowers payments professionals to show the value of their expertise throughout the customer lifecycle.

Much of the meaningful change that payments teams can drive in their organisations’ centres around increasing customer personalisation. The more a customer feels that the journey has been tailored to them, their needs, and their preferences, the more likely they are not just to convert but to return as a loyal customer.

Avoid false declines

Payments teams used to think of transactions as events. The aim was to ensure that this specific payment for this transaction was as smooth as possible. Increasingly, transactions are being seen as an event in an ongoing process — all the steps of which can be used to improve and streamline the instance playing out right now and increase the chances of a return visit by the customer.

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This is especially clear in the case of avoiding false declines. A customer might be shopping from a new IP address and aiming to ship to an address that has recently been associated with chargebacks.

Suppose you expand your view from this seemingly risky transaction to the customer’s identity and context. In that case, you can see that this person is using their usual device, reflecting all their normal behaviours, to ship to a hotel where they appear to be staying. Their IP address is different because they’re travelling, and the chargebacks connected to the hotel have nothing to do with this customer.

Payments teams who take an identity-based view of their customers can increase approval rates and improve customer experience by tailoring their understanding of transactions to their knowledge of the identities behind them.

Create loyal customers

Brand loyalty can be built in many ways, and payments teams are beginning to look at all of them. Some even involve expanding a payments perspective beyond a pure focus on the online world.

For instance, a customer who’s always previously visited your physical stores but is now shopping on your site or app for the first time might particularly appreciate the offer of free shipping to encourage them to take the online step.

Payments teams who can connect the dots to understand the whole picture of a customer’s interactions with their brand can get creative about using this knowledge to give customers the benefits, nudges and appreciation that make a shopping experience feel genuinely personalised.

Tailor each customer’s experience

Using every aspect of what you know about a customer can ensure that you’re providing the payment experience tailored to them — even when that might not fit the standard best practices in every case. That sounds counter-intuitive, but best practices are broad brushstrokes; they’re not always a reliable guide for every customer.

For example, say you have a customer who’s in Europe making a $100 purchase. Standard best practice says that you should request an exemption from SCA. Right?

Not necessarily. Say this customer is from Sweden and is using a card issued in France, and you know that the exemption acceptance rate with this issuer is low. Moreover, this customer is well known either to you or to a trusted provider that tracks customer preferences around 3DS, and you know that this customer always successfully completes 3DS challenges and is very used to doing so.

In this scenario, you’re better off tailoring the journey to include the minor friction of 3DS, which you know doesn’t faze this specific customer, rather than risking a probable unfair decline from the issuing bank.

Pick the perfect payment method

Similarly, applying a blanket best practice approach to payment methods is often tempting. In effect, Personalisation is more powerful.

Many geographies have strong preferences when it comes to online payments. In the Netherlands, for instance, there’s iDeal. In Germany, there’s SOFORT. And so on. Payments teams also have their data on which payment methods are particularly popular with customers from different countries.

On that basis, it might seem natural to streamline the customer journey by offering the most common payment method in the relevant geographical location as the default. But we’re all individuals with individual preferences.

If a customer who lives in the Netherlands comes to your site, but you know, or a trusted provider knows, that this customer always uses Klarna and has never opted for iDeal before in their life — then the default you offer them should be Klarna.

Avoid enabling abusive behaviour

The other examples we’ve given have all been around improving customer experience and facilitating the most streamlined customer journey possible. It’s worth mentioning one counterexample because it’s important to note that payment professionals can also play an essential role in helping to protect the business against loss from customers who habitually abuse the system.

In their expanded role of impacting the broader customer journey, payments teams frequently advise on customer experience elements connected to payments, such as the refund process. Many such processes aim to make refunds as pleasant as possible for the customer, to turn a potentially disappointing shopping experience into a positive one.

However, personalisation comes into play to prevent situations where customers take advantage of generous policies. For instance, company policy may be to respond to complaints from customers who claim to have received an empty box by sending them a second item for free or offering a refund.

If your team knows, either directly via your site or via a trusted provider, that the customer calling up about an empty box now has received free packages four times in the past two months using different names and email addresses, then you can make sure that that customer receives a different response and is not able to exploit your company policies for their unreasonable benefit.

In today’s world, payments optimisation means personalisation

Tremendous effort goes into helping customers reach the point of checkout. Payments teams can use their knowledge and expertise to personalise customer experience as much as possible in diverse and creative ways. This removes hurdles and provides a delightful experience before, during and after checkout so that every possible transaction moves from checkout to confirmed order for increased revenue and better customer experience.

Galit Shani-Michel is VP of Payments, Forter