For Merchants, As World Shrinks, Top Lines Can Get A Boost

Innumerable are the stories that say retail is dead. But scratch below the surface of the headlines, and the industry may not be moribund — but instead may be evolving.

Ours is increasingly a global world, connected, where communications and commerce cross borders.

Why should retail be any different? Projections from the United Nations show that the total number of online shoppers, as measured globally, should grow by 50 percent between 2013 to 2018 to as many as 1.62 billion.

For companies plying their wares online, the onus is on them to offer multiple language options and payment methods. But with more options, of course, come greater operating costs, and companies must always be wary about the impact to their bottom lines.

At the same time, there’s a real need to find a good mix of payment types to boost the top line. Consider the fact that as many as one in 10 transactions at small to mid-sized businesses are abandoned due to the fact that preferred payment methods are not on offer.

The latest quarterly edition of the X-Border Payments Optimization Index took the pulse of online shopping friction cross-border shoppers experience when transacting on an international basis. The survey spanned 212 merchants across 10 countries, ranging from Canada to the U.K. to the United States. Payment methods included credit cards, digital wallets and domestic payment options.

Among the findings….


The general trend is a positive one. The latest report found that by and large, merchants are making strides when becoming global operations. As measured by the Index, the average site posted a score of 58.1 in the latest quarter (that would be 3Q of 2017, of course). That’s better than the 56.8 points seen at the beginning of the year. As PYMNTS has observed, the Index has been getting a three-point boost annually.

Easier … is better. Perhaps not surprisingly, the higher scores just mentioned are predicated, at least in part, on ease of navigation through the eCommerce sites themselves. Navigation attributes — such as time spent on a purchase, number of pages required to “click through” to get to the ultimate goal of checkout and number of clicks — helped roughly 48 percent of companies see their scores increase an average of 4.4 points.

Food for thought should a merchant not have easily surfed websites: 37.7 percent of companies surveyed saw an average decrease of 4.3 points due to relatively tougher navigation experiences.

But more is NOT necessarily better: When it comes to payments — that is, payment options — is there such a thing as too much … being too much?

We found that merchants should not strive to offer all payment types in a region or country. As PYMNTS noted, after evaluating 100 payment methods, there’s a point of diminishing returns, so to speak, even though a positive score tended to correlate with the number of payment options offered. Any boost to Index scores started to drop off once merchants began to offer more than 10 payment types (even those that were determined to be the “right” ones). And though very few merchants accepted all payments types, bank transfers were embraced by 41 percent of businesses, while country-specific methods were accepted by 25.7 percent. The average number of payments types accepted by merchants stood at 6.4 at the end of the latest quarter.

There’s some streamlining going on: It might seem that retailers are getting the hint when it comes to speeding transactions. The latest survey found that there were an average of 7.1 pages to checkout, down from 8.1 pages seen for the fourth quarter of 2015. At the same time, there were an average number of 20.3 clicks to checkout, which is down 11 clicks over the same timeframe.

Mobile matters: Online means mobile, of course, and as business gets ever more far-flung, companies have to be able to let consumers transact over phones and other devices. In the latest tally, 88 percent of merchants offered mobile sites, up from the 76 percent seen in the fourth quarter of 2015. And in tandem with recognizing the importance of mobile payments, 72 percent offered mobile-optimized sites, up from 36 percent in that same timeframe.


To see all the data collected in the Index, download the report.



The September 2020 Leveraging The Digital Banking Shift Study, PYMNTS examines consumers’ growing use of online and mobile tools to open and manage accounts as well as the factors that are paramount in building and maintaining trust in the current economic environment. The report is based on a survey of nearly 2,200 account-holding U.S. consumers.