For retailers, nothing really ever comes easy — and things aren’t getting any easier, at least when it involves gaining and retaining customers.
But as a new webinar from PYMNTS showed, retail success is not exactly some mysterious process; it simply requires close attention to changing consumer trends and new technologies, including those centered around payments.
The webinar featured Karen Webster from PYMNTS and Amy Parsons, senior vice president of global acceptance at Discover Financial Services and its payments brand, Discover Global Network. Titled “Why the Future of Merchant Payments Requires a Digital-First Approach,” the webinar generally revolved around questions related to the development and ongoing rise of omnichannel commerce — already a major topic in the payments and commerce world in these first weeks of the new year.
Indeed, as the recently completed National Retail Federation (NRF) retail show in New York City demonstrated, commerce keeps moving to what Webster called in the webinar a “customer-centric approach.” Among the keys to that approach, according to Parsons, are significant advances in data collection and analysis, along with new retail technologies (voice, augmented reality) that both fuel the new omnichannel push and spark consumer interest in those newer retail experiences.
Of course, as PYMNTS data, coverage and research has indicated, the tendency of consumers to own multiple connected devices also forces retailers to offer fresh omnichannel offerings that can be done on all those machines.
“Over the last years, that shift [has intensified],” Parsons said, noting that about two generations ago, the first payment card was not even plastic, but paper — something most consumers today are unable to recall or likely believe.
That’s because the largest combined consumer group today — probably one of the largest combined consumer groups in history — consists of millennials and Generation Z. And what they want and expect are what’s going to drive so much of retail and payments in the coming years and decades.
“They were born into a world with this technology and access,” Parsons said. “They expect to be able to transact wherever and whenever they want to. It’s an amazing amount of people and an amazing amount of spend.”
That’s not to say that all those relatively young consumers provide consistent feedback to retailers. Desires sometimes contradict each other — or, at the least, serve to make a retailer’s job harder. That comes through in some of the data shared during this PYMNTS webinar.
For instance, 24 percent of Gen Z, 41 percent of millennials and 22 percent of Generation X consumers practice the often-maddening craft (at least from some merchant points of view) of buying online from a different store. Of course, that also means, as Parsons pointed out, that when such consumers are ready to buy something, they are ready to buy it, no matter where they are. By comparison, 32 percent of Gen Z, 35 percent of millennials and 22 percent of Gen X consumers buy online from the same store.
Trust, too, is another issue where things might not be so clear or easy for merchants. Sure, trust generally revolves around concepts of security, privacy and fraud prevention — of trusting a merchant or payment services provider to not allow the theft of one’s personal data. But trust is so much more in this new age of omnichannel experience, according to what Parsons told Webster during the PYMNTS webinar.
“There are different degrees of trust around the different types of things we do around commerce and social media,” she said.
For instance, if a consumer encounters unexpected and unwanted friction during the shopping or buying process, the merchant responsible for that — or considered responsible for that — is likely to lose some credibility and trust.
“Trust has a lot to do with experience,” Parsons said.
The challenge with trust comes from providing speedy experiences for consumers, especially those relatively younger ones. Data provided during the webinar show that 43 percent of Gen Z, 28 percent of millennials and 18 percent of Gen X consumers believe the faster you can purchase something, the better the company or product is. That might not be totally fair, but that’s the reality of this new omnichannel world of payments and commerce.
“They do expect things to be instant, and also very seamless,” Parsons told Webster.
You can expect such trends to deepen, intensify and evolve in the coming years. Judging by all available and reliable evidence, there seems no chance of reversal on these major points made during the webinar. But have no fear — there are at least a few general goals and ideals that can help merchants and payments services providers navigate past all the apparent and real confusion.
“You have to make sure you have the customer front and center,” Parsons said. “You have to think of it as a complete experience, which lends itself to multiple channels.”