You’ve probably heard the terms “omnicommerce” or “omnichannel,” but these are more than just buzzwords; they’re terms that represent a shift in customer behavior and expectations. If you remember a time when most of your shopping was done in a single all-day trip around town, you’re probably relieved those days are behind you. Today’s customers expect to shop and pay any time, anywhere — not just in stores, but also online, over the phone, through mobile devices, and even with electronic invoices.
In a study published by Harvard Business Review, a team looked at more than 46,000 customers who made a purchase during the observation period. Of the participants, 7 percent shopped exclusively online, while 20 percent shopped only in brick-and-mortar stores. The remaining 73 percent made use of numerous channels along the way to purchases, and the omnichannel experience had additional effects: These customers were 26 percent more likely to return to retailer locations, and they were also more willing to reach out to their immediate social circles to recommend the brand.
So if you’re new to this concept, where do you begin? How can this newfound omnichannel experience benefit businesses and consumers, and what are some simple ways to pull it off?
Solutions for the Payment Process
Because omnichannel payment processing is still a fairly new platform, it certainly still has its obstacles. Still, the benefits to businesses and their customers are well worth the initial headaches. For customers, the buying process is rarely linear. They might interact with a business on multiple platforms before purchasing, and making it easy for customers to pay whenever and wherever they want — especially on their mobile devices — is essentially the core benefit of offering an omnichannel payment solution. If a customer finally decides on a purchase she’s been researching for weeks and the retail store is closed, it’s important that the business is capable of accepting payments on its website.
By incorporating a number of different payment options, businesses stand to increase sales — in addition to not missing out on them — and improve the overall customer experience. Customers who have a convenient checkout experience on their own terms are more likely to share it with others (who will themselves become customers), thus adding to the steady growth in e-commerce. In spite of a total retail growth of only 2 percent in the first half of 2016, e-commerce grew by 16 percent. Further, continued growth of about 9 percent each year for the next few years is expected. The number of online shoppers is growing, as is the amount they’re spending and the frequency of transactions.
If you’re looking to incorporate omnichannel payment capabilities into your business, you’re off to a good start. Here are a few considerations to minimize headaches and make the process as seamless as possible:
- Buy buttons are easily added to websites to sell products without having to build in checkout flows or deal with sensitive card data. You can also add buy buttons to your website or embed them in emails to allow customers to pay invoices.
Google and YouTube, along with social media sites like Pinterest, include buy buttons for many merchants who advertise with them. These buttons allow customers to make purchases without leaving the platform where the button is located, and they also offer an opportunity for the sites to get a piece of the e-commerce market they’re missing out on.
- Shopping carts are a critical component of an online store. If your checkout process is prone to errors, customers will most likely take their money and run, making it far more difficult to achieve a sustainable conversion rate.
Various cart solutions offer different capabilities. If you only carry a single product, your cart can be more straightforward than one that integrates with your POS system to manage your physical and virtual inventories in tandem. Offering options like international shipping will require a cart that takes into account complicated tax laws and currency exchanges in addition to support for a variety of languages.
- Storing credit information on hand makes it easier for repeat customers to make additional purchases. But here’s the downside: Storing credit card data will not only subject your business to more stringent PCI standards, but it will also make you a much more attractive target for hackers.
Tokenization will allow you to store payment information securely with a third-party vendor so you can retain a nonsensitive token instead. Tokenization will even allow in-store customers to charge credit cards on file, and by 2022, the method is expected to have a market worth more than $2.25 billion.
When you’re not properly set up for it, omnichannel payment capabilities can seem so far off that they’re not even worth striving for. However, the bottom line is that if your competitors haven’t already put a flexible payment solution in place, they’re working on it right now. Doing diligent research on your specific needs and the process that can meet them will put you on the road to doing business 24/7 — whether your retail store is open or not.
Dan Geraty is founder and CEO of Clearent, a full-service payment processor that built its proprietary platform from the ground up. Dan founded Clearent in 2005 in his hometown of St. Louis. Since then, it has earned a spot on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies for five straight years and continues to climb the Nilson Report’s list of Top Merchant Acquirers in the U.S.