Today’s digital consumers are driving trends fueling the changing retail landscape. With smartphones in hand and a laptop screen never far away, shoppers are quick to wield technology when engaging with merchants, forcing small businesses to adapt or risk losing valuable dollars to the competition.
However, adapting can be a challenge, especially when merchants cannot accept payments where their customers engage and streamline processes as consumers transition from channel to channel throughout a shopping experience.
New trends require merchants to find new solutions that help them operate most efficiently and provide the best customer experiences. Consider how technology can help businesses address these five growing trends:
BOPIS and Curbside
It’s hard to pick just a few winners that emerged as consumer behaviors evolved during the COVID-19 pandemic, but buy online, pickup in store (BOPIS), and curbside pickup have undoubtedly cemented their status in the changing retail landscape.
However, to do these operations justice and cash in on BOPIS’ estimated 15.2 percent growth rate from 2020 to 2021, merchants must properly equip their employees with the mobile tools needed for microfulfillment, order-picking efficiency and a seamless purchase handoff. After all, no one wants to deal with headaches and hassles after making a digital order and expecting it to be ready as promised when arriving at the store.
A full-commerce payment platform enables merchants to accept payments online, in-app, or at a self-service kiosk and share that information with sales associates who assist customers when they arrive to pick up their orders. Additionally, if the customer decides to return the item, the platform allows the merchant to easily manage it in-store.
Unattended commerce is one of the hottest trends in today’s changing retail landscape. A whopping 82 percent of surveyed consumers said they’d consider buying “non-traditional items” from a vending machine, underscoring the self-service market’s $47 billion trajectory. Kiosks, too, are an increasingly commonplace feature in businesses across the country, putting consumers in the driver’s seat and firmly in control of their experience. Many people don’t want to talk to an associate just to take care of routine tasks, like paying a bill or ordering a meal. Kiosks save consumers time while potentially also trimming a business’ labor costs.
A payments solution that supports unattended payments, as well as e-commerce and in-person, card-present payments, enables merchants to offer consumers the convenience of choosing their preferred way to make purchases.
Consumers wary of catching COVID-19 helped fuel contactless payments’ blockbuster $1.34 trillion year in 2020. And now that they’ve caught on to the beauty of tap-and-go and similar touchless ways to purchase, people will continue this new habit. That means near-field communication (NFC)-enabled payments and other forms of touchless payments will be permanent fixtures in the changing retail landscape.
Mobile wallets are proving particularly sticky; 45 percent of consumers have used a service like Apple Pay or Google Pay, and 31 percent plan to cling to their mobile wallets and contactless ways in lieu of cash and checks, even when the pandemic ends.
In addition, QR code payment adoption is increasing, enabling consumers to pay with a quick scan of a QR. It’s a good choice for merchants who aren’t ready to upgrade payment devices to accept NFC payments. With QR code payments, merchants simply print the QR code or display it on a screen, and customers scan it with their smartphones – no additional devices required.
Another characteristic of the changing retail landscape is seamless, omnichannel payments. Consumers expect to be able to pay on any channel – and for the merchant to remember them as they engage on different channels. Accenture’s Personalization Pulse Check reports that, even before the pandemic, consumers are more prone to shop with businesses that recognize them and personalize service.
Furthermore, you need to recognize that mobile commerce (m-commerce) exceeds the number of purchases that consumers make from PCs. A smart strategy is to leverage smartphone features, such as Bluetooth, location, camera/scanner, and SMS to enhance experiences for omnichannel shoppers.
Payment data can provide the link to recognizing and remembering customers, learning their behaviors and preferences, and delivering the convenience and personalization they demand.
Although merchants are reimagining their operations to provide consumers with the experiences they demand, they must also prioritize security. With each new tech solution that they implement, merchants must also deploy security to protect payment and customer data, such as point-to-point encryption (P2PE) that encrypts data so that it’s not human-readable – or monetizable if it falls into the wrong hands.
Additionally, some payment solutions are inherently more secure than others. For example, contactless payments, whether via card or mobile wallet, use the same infrastructure as EMV payments and, like EMV, generates a unique code with each transaction, authenticating the payment.
A Changing Retail Landscape (for the Better)
Although small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) might always operate from a brick-and-mortar-first position, they and their larger competitors can’t ignore the reality that many consumers are first discovering them online.
If omnichannel payments were a lifeline through last year’s shutdowns and changing business models, it’s now the bedrock of continued success. In a changing retail landscape, business owners must be ready to pivot along with an ever-evolving consumer, and a full-commerce platform is key to making it happen.