News & Views

Opinion / Start at the end of the customer journey


Is it just me or does time seem to grind to a halt when someone’s trying to find notes and coins, locate coupons in their purse or remember the right PIN for the card they’re using? Rest assured: this behaviour will, in time, become obsolete.

Thanks to the NFC chip, pretty much anything can be a payment device. Barclaycard and MasterCard have already made it possible for us to load money onto a car key fob or a smartphone case and use that to make contactless payments. And, over the last two years, we’ve seen an explosion of accessories and clothing, from suits to smartwatches, make paying for things easier. 

Banking on biometrics
Forget pin numbers, biometric verification will become commonplace. Some 120 million people already use mobile biometrics on a daily basis for their financial transactions and there will be 16 billion mobile biometric payment transactions this year, according to mobile security consultancy Goode Intelligence. By 2020, biometrics will be used to authenticate nearly 65% of all m-commerce transactions, according to corporate finance and business sales specialist Acuity.

If you’ve got an iPhone 6, you’re probably already using TouchID fingerprint authentication for your iTunes account and perhaps also for your Apple Pay digital wallet. Over the last two years, other biometric innovations we’ve seen have included Canadian bank RBC using unique cardiac rhythms to verify payments with Nymi, a wristband, and Chinese retailer Alibaba’s facial recognition service where people can pay by scanning their face with a smartphone (click on 1:19 on the video below to see it in action).

Brand potential
There’s a huge amount of opportunity for brands who want to explore new ways for their customers to pay. And explore they should: improving payments means a better customer journey. I’ve been in clothes shops wanting to buy an item, but have walked out the store when I’ve seen a dispiritingly long queue of people all waiting to pay. The same goes for ecommerce. If I’m buying from a site that doesn’t accept PayPal I will weigh up how much I really want what’s in my shopping cart versus whether I can be bothered to type in my credit card details. I’m not alone. As Dave Birch, the director of secure electronic transactions consultancy, Consult Hyperion, told me when I interviewed him for an upcoming in-focus feature in Contagious magazine on payments. ‘Supreme laziness always triumphs.’

Birch is tipping Buy Buttons on social media platforms as being a key part of how we will pay in the years to come. Pinterest, YouTube and Twitter all have this functionality and it makes perfect commercial sense: naturally, they don’t want their users to see something they want on their sites only go somewhere else to spend their money.

Facebook is seriously investing in this area. In August 2015, it started trialling M, its AI- and human-powered virtual assistant in Messenger. In time, the plan is for M to evolve into a ramped up Siri with access to your digital wallet for Messenger’s 800 million users. So if you’re sending flowers or booking a plane ticket, you can do it all within Messenger. David Marcus, VP of Messaging Products at Facebook, wrote in a blog post at the start of 2016: ‘It’s still very, very early days, but the growing AI capabilities are bringing unparalleled convenience to simple, everyday tasks...we’re thinking about how we can help you interact with businesses or services to buy items (and then buy more again).’

Easier than ever
Buying has never been easier. Why? Because most of the time we don’t even see what we spend. As Uber fans know only too well, payment just happens. Use Amazon Dash buttons to replenish items in your home? Again, payment is invisible. Birch says: ‘Payments are vanishing inside apps. When you take the money out of a transaction and move it into an app, it changes the emotional nature of the transaction. The brand has absorbed it.’

Smartphones are where we’ll see the most innovation over the next five years. According to eMarketer, one in five smartphone owners in the US will use mobile payments in 2016, representing 210% growth in the total value of mobile transactions in 2016, from $8.71bn to $27.05bn. What’s more, smartphone penetration will more than double by 2020, to 6.1 billion people, 70% of the world’s population, according to Ericsson.

‘Mobile will be mission critical,’ predicts Dr Windsor Holden, research director at Juniper Research. Notes and coins won’t disappear altogether, but societies will become more cashless as payments become increasingly invisible or contactless. ‘The transaction marketplace is upending completely and that’s what’s leading to possibilities,’ says Dr Chris Brauer, director of innovation and founder of the Centre for Creative and Social Technologies at the Institute of Management Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London. His advice? Any fashion or lifestyle brand now needs to be able to see itself as something that can complete a transaction.’

So if you’re thinking about how your customers interact with your brand, you’re no doubt paying a lot of attention to the start of the customer journey: getting noticed, entering a consideration set and standing out from the competition. But shouldn’t you also be thinking about the final stages of the journey too?

The next issue of Contagious magazine will be published in early March