In this guest post, Colin McSkeane, Head of Gateway Products, Barclaycard, talks about the offline/online commerce and the opportunity for retailers to create a seamless experience that mixes and matches the best of both worlds.
In today’s retail environment, omnichannel is the buzzword on everyone’s lips. Even as online shopping continues to see exponential growth – Barclaycard data shows a 15% rise year-on-year in this channel – the in-store experience still remains relevant as consumers choose to carry out certain parts of their purchase journey in the physical world.
The challenge for retailers is to accommodate the growing convergence of the online and offline worlds, and to create a seamless experience that mixes and matches the best of both. Thought it may initially seem daunting, merchants have many weapons in their arsenal to do this – from optimising their mobile sites to driving in-store conversion. The key is listening to the customer and providing ways to shop and pay, anytime, anywhere.
Enable seamless payments
Shopping has come a long way to enable quick and convenient payments. Popular merchants such as Amazon, with its ‘one-click’ checkout, have introduced consumers to seamless payments and left them wanting more. Indeed, over half (58%) of UK mobile shoppers say they are more inclined to buy from stores that save their payment details. As such, retailers should invest in streamlining their online purchase journey, balancing speed and security to help them capture more sales, more quickly.
Another way to increase conversion is to ensure your site is suited for international shoppers. The global market value for cross-border e-commerce now exceeds $1 trillion, with no signs of slowing down, and some of the most active shoppers are in the US, China and Latin America.
To reduce cart abandonment amongst these consumers, create a mobile optimised site as a minimum. Then, build out the nice-to-haves that both match customer demands and increase the bottom line. One example is accepting any of the multitudes of different currencies that can be used for online payment, which is especially important as online shoppers often tend to prefer to have the option of paying in their own currency. Geo-locating shoppers via their mobile, and then dynamically serving up the local currency, gives the shopper not only the confidence to pay, but also a better customer experience as they speed through a faster checkout.
Leverage the in-store experience
Retailers can also provide speed and ease in their bricks-and-mortar stores by embracing new payment innovations. For example, Barclaycard’s Contactless Index shows ‘touch and go’ payments have taken off, with overall spending rising by 123% in the last 12 months.
With a contactless transaction – whether completed with a card, mobile device or payment wearable – seven seconds faster than one with Chip and PIN, it’s easy to see why today’s time-poor consumers prefer retailers that allow them to pay with a tap of their card or a flick of their wrist. Again, seek customer feedback to understand what they like from the online shopping experience, and then find ways to replicate that in your physical store.
That said, some consumers choose bricks-and-mortar stores over their digital equivalents at certain points in the purchase journey. For instance, web-rooming, where consumers research a product online and later buy it in store, is a key trend. A Barclaycard study found that more than half of shoppers (53.6%) now web-room, up from one in three (32.9%) who did so in 2013 – so what looks like cart abandonment in the virtual world may actually be a bit of researching online before purchasing in the real world. Given that consumers shop online and in store in a complementary way, getting these platforms to share information is key to presenting the consumer with the right information at the right time, and gaining their custom.
Browsing isn’t the only thing that crosses from the digital into the physical world. Today, a third (32%) of consumers who purchased items online later chose to return them in-store because they are able to exchange their purchase on the spot or try something new.
Coupled with the popularity of click and collect, which accounted for a fifth (22%) of online sales during the first quarter of this year, it’s clear that retailers have the opportunity to increase footfall even if other stages of the purchase journey are completed online. However, once consumers are in the door, merchants need to invest in a good in-store experience, including accepting the latest payment innovations, to drive conversion.
Keep your finger on the pulse
The growth in omnichannel is transforming the way we shop. Allowing consumers to browse and buy goods quickly and efficiently in a way that suits their personal needs – whether online or in-store – is vital to surviving in today’s retail environment. As we look ahead, the challenge will be for merchants to continue to innovate. The businesses that will win in the retail landscape of the future are the ones that can fulfil the needs of their consumers, wherever they are and however they want to shop.
Colin McSkeane is head of Gateway Products at Barclaycard.
 Barclaycard research of 2,002 nationally representative respondents conducted by Longitude, September 2015
 Barclaycard research of 2,003 UK nationally representative respondents, plus 2,016 UK adults who have returned or intended to return an item in the last 12 months. Conducted by Opinium, April 2016
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