Ingenico: checkout optimization, chatbot payments and the future of frictionless

A conversation with Sangeetha Narasimhan, EMEA Marketing Director, SMB, Ingenico ePayments, which took place at IRX18.

Tell me about yourself, and how you came to join Ingenico.

I come from a technology marketing background. I originally started marketing with HP and moved into different technology companies before moving into payments with SagePay. After a brief stint there I moved to Ingenico, where I’ve been for a couple of years now. I’m immensely enjoying my role, particularly learning more about payments, which is continuously evolving.

You’re speaking at IRX about checkout optimization. What’s the Ingenico take on this topic?

Instore has its own problems with checkout – you can have friction when you can’t find the product you want, you go to the checkout and there’s a long queue, and so on. But I think online we’ve got a huge problem at checkout. People are browsing more, they add to the shopping cart, and then they’re abandoning baskets. I’m talking today about what retailers can do to optimize that checkout process from a payments perspective, and the two things I’m going to focus on are how to optimize both the user experience and the payment experience at checkout. Retailers tend to put a lot of effort into bringing the customer to the checkout – into customer acquisition, search campaigns, optimizing web pages – at which point they often drop off. This is where we come in. Once that customer has selected ‘Pay’, we make sure that the customer completes the payment. In terms of user experience, I’m going to talk a bit about how conversational commerce is growing. We have about three billion people using messaging apps like WhatsApp and Messenger. There’s a shift taking place, from eCommerce to conversational commerce. The question is: how do we monetize it? Conversational commerce isn’t about using chatbots to provide customer support, it’s about monetizing the chatbot experience.

How is the chatbot experience monetized?

Different messaging apps are used in different countries. Over here that’s often Skype or Facebook, but if you go to China, for example, it’s WeChat. People worldwide are having a lot of conversations in them, they want to buy products through them and they want product recommendations from them.

Say, for example, you wanted to book an airline ticket. Imagine if you could just start a conversation with whichever airline you chose and tell them you want to book a ticket to this country on this date, then they provide you with the options. You don’t have to dig out your card, leave the chatbot for some fiddly payment page on an external site, but you complete the payment with the chatbot then-and-there.

We do a lot of trend-watching to find out what consumers are doing and how they want to pay. User experience needs to focus on watching what consumers are doing, how they are paying, what devices they are using, then optimizing and monetizing that. We are also looking at putting payments into robots, a bit like Pepper the robot. Say, for example, you’re checking into a hotel. Your check-in experience in future could be that a robot welcomes you and takes the payment from you, then also helps you with your restaurant bookings for the next day, and so on. We do a lot of future-gazing.

What else are retailers missing out on?

The most important thing for retailers to remember today is to start investing in user experience across devices. A lot of retailers are frustrated by customers abandoning their baskets at the mobile checkout. Consumers are searching on multiple devices, and our research shows that consumer who search on multiple devices are 26% more likely to convert than consumers who don’t research products at all.

Instead of thinking about the mobile experience as solely something you must convert at checkout, make sure you capture that experience so that they can continue their journey across another device. 82% of us actually research a product before buying nowadays. It’s important for retailers to ensure they offer a seamless brand experience across devices. Optimizing mobile is essential – making sure that the mobile checkout can identify numbers, for example, or making sure the keyboard function is easy to use when the customer is entering their details. It’s important not to think of this as a lost opportunity but an opportunity to ensure that customers will convert with you in the future.

At the checkout you have other challenges. Even after somebody completes a payment, their card can still be declined. You spend so much bringing the consumer to checkout only for their card to be declined, or your fraud controls are not set up optimally, so purchases are deemed to be fraudulent when they were entirely legitimate. So, how does your payment provider work to improve your authorization rates?

We focus a great deal on post-payment authorization. You can really improve your business by paying more attention to what happens post-checkout. Another important thing to consider is ensuring that prices are displayed in local currency. A lot of retailers think that just offering euros for Europe is enough, but Europe is such a vast area with so many different payment cultures that you must offer local payment options. It’s Carte Bancaires in France, or Bancontact in Belgium, or in the Netherlands it’s iDEAL. So, if you don’t offer iDEAL as a payment option to your customers in the Netherlands, they’re going to add everything to their basket, get to the checkout and not be able to pay. Or, the pricing is in euros, but the customer goes all the way to the end of the journey to discover that their card option isn’t there.

How easy is it for an online retailer to provide bespoke payment options on an international scale?

It’s simply a matter of choosing the best partner to provide that service. We offer 150 payment methods, and we have a global presence across 70 key markets. Crucially, we understand how consumers pay locally – in China, in Europe and all over the world.

As I’m sure you’re aware, Ingenico also makes instore devices. We are the global leader in payment acceptance. We understand how people want to pay, and we maintain a local presence to provide that support as well. We also offer local language support. So, if your business is expanding into France, you can communicate with people in French. Because of our local presence in all the key markets, we’re able to cater to any expansion plans.

Speaking of instore – Amazon have recently established their Amazon store in Silicon Valley, which purports to offer a new kind of frictionless instore experience. I was at an event recently where a member of the audience challenged Amazon on this point, arguing that reducing too much friction from the payment experience might encourage financial irresponsibility. Do you think there should be a limit to ‘frictionless’?

It’s a difficult one. I think it’s about how to current generation is moving. Millennials want instant gratification. If they see something, they want it. They’re used to that. They’re used to texting, they’re not used to thinking “I might want to think about that later.” They’re not going to think about a purchase for a week, then wait another 14 days for the product to be delivered. These kinds of trends are dictated by what the consumer wants.

So far we’ve been using technology and adapting to technology. We have to log in to accounts, go to a laptop and open it to do so. Where technology is headed, however, means it’s going to adapt more to us. AI, IOT and all these concepts are simply that. By making these processes easier, it means we can devote more time to other, more meaningful tasks, than ordering coffee pots or buying dishwasher tablets. I think trends like this frictionless instore experience are dictated by what the current generation want, and what the next generation will want, and they will continue to be dictated by that.

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