Is E-Commerce Neglecting A Vital Part Of The Customer Journey?

Imagine: You’re a thriving e-commerce business. You’ve invested heavily in your user journey. Your web and app design is flawless. You feel you understand your customers better than they understand themselves. Your website is praised for its navigability and ease of use. Customers agree; they’re pouring onto your site and filling their baskets with your products. Your growth hack is finally paying off. And then, when it’s time to complete the transaction, you hand them over to your payments provider and hope for the best. Time to pay becomes time to pray.

All that hard work is now out of your hands. The final mile, the part your customer journey is leading up to, is being handled by a third party. And by handing it over to the payments provider, you risk seeing transactions abandoned due to poor design, lack of innovation and outdated technology. If you want to travel back in time, well, just use a payment portal. They’re often a throwback to how the Internet looked back in the early 2000s.

The most important part of the transaction is, unfortunately, often the one most neglected. Because you’ve handed control of your payment journey to a third party, you’re forfeiting the chance to understand what’s going on and to improve it. This is the situation that many businesses find themselves in: pouring all of their energy into their user journey, only to watch and pray at the critical final phase, the payment page.

On the surface, there are good reasons for this. Most firms are not in the business of payments. They lack the necessary licenses. They lack insights into the process. And so they depend on their payments provider and accept the checkout interface they offer. In handing over responsibility, they divest a lot of the control they’ve had up to that point.

According to an analysis from the Baymard Institute, an independent web research firm, 67.75% of all online shopping carts are abandoned. In a survey conducted by the Institute, 17% of respondents admit to abandoning a cart in the past due to a long or complicated checkout process.

The Last Mile

Most businesses drive a hard bargain with their payment providers, seeking to get the best deal possible: If they can reduce their payment provider’s fee by a cent or two, they feel they’ve got a good deal. But that is just one battle.

The real battle is likely in the user experience that their payment providers are displaying your customers. Usually, it is outdated, obstacle-strewn and demanding—all of which means lost sales, lost reputation, lost loyalty—the ripple effect goes on.

Often the last mile isn’t even happening inside the merchant’s own website. Clients are being sent off to a separate page, a checkout page, putting the whole transaction at the mercy of another site’s loading speeds and design. And since there’s often no room for customization or troubleshooting, you’re relying on the vendor to fix any issues your customers might be having. Even if you get a good deal from your payment provider in terms of fees, you might lose more in revenue due to poor user experience.

Businesses spend so much on marketing, sales and the user journey. They skillfully upsell customers on their way to the checkout. This makes losing them at the checkout doubly painful. Are they really going to add those extras next time round? Are they even going to re-do their order, or will they seek refuge at your competitor?

Businesses don’t exist in isolation. They exist in an ecosystem full of alternatives, competitors and rivals. Brands like Uber and Amazon focus obsessively on reducing the friction for their customers. Not only at the beginning of their journey but all the way through and beyond the last mile. They understand that every field the customer needs to fill out is a hurdle at which they could stumble and threaten the whole experience. The longer the pause between basket and payment, the bigger the attrition rate of customers who drop out. They don’t take chances. They don’t pray. They engage and take as much control over the customer journey as technically possible.

Improving Customer Experience

So what can businesses do to take back control of their customer’s experience?

First, demand more from your payment provider. You don’t have to accept the traditional, old-fashioned card-focused payment page. Arguments about cyber security or data protection are no longer valid. There are plenty of solutions that are safe, secure and fully GDPR compliant in the market and still give you some control.

Second, aim higher and think bigger. The technology is available to provide your customers with bespoke experiences and not only a traditional checkout hurdle. You can start by adding alternative payment methods (APMs) or a buy now, pay later (BNPL) provider. With solutions like open banking, you can go even further, allowing your customers to authorize payments directly from their bank account within an e-commerce site’s user interface. It can be faster, it can be more responsive, and it can be more reflective of your brand.

Choosing A Solutions Provider

There are many providers out there which will have different strengths and weaknesses. Identifying those with a strong track record in your industry is a smart move as they will be more familiar with what you need. However, don’t automatically discount those that haven’t worked in your industry as much—the key thing is what they can do for you, not what they have done for others.

In essence, make sure your customers are safe and happy while they spend time with you. After all, the last thing you want is for them to check out when they should be checking in with you.

Originally published at Forbes.

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