As lockdown measures begin to ease and non-essential retail outlets reopen, we are seeing a surge in sales, reflecting pent up demand among consumers. The pandemic has kept some businesses closed for most of the last year, with the latest restrictions put in place in January. Retail sales for April are up 9.2% on the previous month, with sales of clothing leaping 70% compared to March. Overall sales are above pre-pandemic levels, rising 10%, while online sales have fallen slightly.
Consumers are eager to get back into shops and back to their pre-pandemic routines. But they are now used to the simplicity and convenience of online shopping. If retailers want consumers to keep coming back to their stores, they need to match the online experience as closely as possible.
One way of achieving this is through a thoughtful payments strategy that creates a more positive experience for customers. With this in mind, what should retailers consider when it comes to the retail payment experience?
Deliver a personalised, positive in-store experience
With most people forced to do their shopping online for the last year. Retailers need to consider what they can do to align the best elements of online shopping into their brick and mortar stores. For the last decade, most businesses with a high street presence have also had an online component.
But rather than creating synergy through a unified experience, this has often led to businesses essentially competing with themselves. As frustrating as it is for retail staff to hear customers point out that “it’s cheaper on your website”, you can’t blame your customer for wanting the best value.
For retailers with sufficient profit margins, offering price clarity between their online and offline stores is a simple solution. But there’s no need to devalue the in-store experience in this way. There are legitimate reasons for charging more for the same item in-store than you do online. If you can demonstrate this additional value to customers, many will be willing to pay a slightly higher price.
Modern POS systems supported by robust end-to-end payment infrastructure enables businesses to track customer data and build individual customer profiles. These profiles can be used to personalise their retail experience, offering bespoke promotions alongside traditional loyalty schemes. A modern point of sale system also enables faster checkout times and makes answering customers’ queries easier for staff.
Embrace the latest payment technologies
Most consumers don’t think about the technology that underpins the payment systems they use every day. All they care about is their experience when they go to make a payment. However, if a retailer suffers a major data breach or the security of their payment systems is compromised, your customers will care then.
Using the latest, most secure payment technology available will minimise the risks for retailers and their customers. While the number of people who understand or care about different payment technologies is relatively small, you will foster customer loyalty by making security a priority.
Offer customers choice
There have never been more payment options available for customers to pay. The more ways retailers can take a customer’s payment, the easier it is to convince them to spend.
The pandemic has accelerated the decline of cash and made digital and mobile payment the norm. According to the recent Blackhawk Network Global Digital Payments study, which surveyed 13,000 consumers in nine countries, including the US, Canada, and the UK. 63% of respondents said they were more likely to shop with retailers that accepted the digital payments they preferred to use. And 73% said they wanted to use the same payment methods online and in-store.
Adoption of digital wallets, digital gift cards, QR codes and barcodes accelerated in the past 12 months. In fact, 30% of those surveyed reported friction when using digital wallets in-store that retailers accepted on their websites, which hampers the customer experience. Digital gift cards and even cryptocurrencies are also gaining ground among some demographics.
The rise in these digital payments is a bright spot for retailers that are embracing digital payments. Surveyed shoppers across all nine countries report they will spend more money and have a deeper affinity for retailers that offer more digital payment methods.
So the moral of the story is that the more choice customers have over how they spend their money, the more likely they are to do so.
However, retailers need to minimise friction between their online and offline checkout experiences. If customers have to use different payment methods in-store and online, you lose the convenience factor.
The more retailers can unify their online and in-store channels, the more successful they will be on both fronts. There are advantages and drawbacks to online and in-store shopping; by integrating them as much as possible, retailers encourage their customers to use both options more frequently.
The payment experience is an integral part of the customer’s retail journey. Retailers need to think bigger about their payment infrastructure if they want to capitalise on the anticipated post-pandemic rush back to high street retail stores.