Consumers Demand Retail Payments Service And Simplicity

As technology becomes smarter and is more widely adopted by consumers around the world, it is driving a new commercial landscape where businesses must now operate. This transition is disrupting traditional patterns of interaction in the marketplace: the consumer is in greater control than ever before. Increasingly, consumers expect businesses to take advantage of advances in technology to create a better experience.

Early this year, First Data conducted global research to collect market intelligence on our customers’ customers: the consumer. This research sought to identify insights into evolving consumer awareness, usage, and behaviors in the areas of shopping, payments, banking and financial management. The latest study expands on two waves of research that First Data conducted across the United States in 2012.

The resulting First Data Global Universal Commerce Consumer Tracker provides a snapshot of consumers’ attitudes toward payments technology and shopping. Collecting and analyzing this information over time is crucial to gaining a better understanding of the ongoing behavioral shifts that are transforming commerce by upending relationships and ways of doing business.


As revealed by the study, evolving consumer expectations are essentially a demand for higher levels of service combined with an increased desire for simplicity.

Smartphone Adoption Is A Significant Factor

Much of the change in expectations has been set in motion by the proliferation of smartphones, which have fundamentally altered how consumers around the world go about their daily lives. Adoption of smart phones continues to increase in the U.S. — now up to 68%, according to the study.  Adoption among the 55+ population is growing fastest — up to 51% from 34% one year ago.

Once they have the phones in their hands, consumers are increasingly taking advantage of the tools they provide to make shopping and money management tasks easier. Globally, 65% of consumers have retailer apps on their phone, and 52% have downloaded their bank’s mobile app.

On average, 45% of consumers globally use their phone to comparison shop while in a store. In the U.S., frequently using a phone to compare prices while in a store has risen from 30% to 40% in one year.

Online And Data-Driven Experiences Become Commonplace

From personalized recommendations to targeted coupons, consumers increasingly expect experiences and communications to be customized for them based on their purchase histories: they demand for businesses to “know them” and provide better service based on this knowledge.

Nearly half of the survey respondents globally indicated that they want businesses to get better at tailoring ads and offers: they know businesses already possess the data to do this. They expect it to be used to their advantage.

At the same time, social media and user-generated online content have substantially increased consumers’ span of influence. If a consumer has a good experience–or especially, a bad experience—he or she tells people. More and more, they are telling not just their families, close friends or work colleagues, but spreading their influence across their entire range of acquaintances and beyond through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, review websites, retailer websites, forums, blogs and more.

On average, one-half of global study respondents reported that they post reviews online. And more than 50% of global respondents, including an astonishing 80% of Chinese and Indian respondents, refer to social media prior to making a purchase.

As consumers make this transition to a social environment online, they expect businesses to be there as well. Nearly half of the respondents indicated they prefer companies that are smart about using social media and technology.

Universal Commerce Resonates With Consumers

Clearly, technology is allowing consumers to do things they would previously never have thought possible. As they become accustomed to that reality, they’re becoming increasingly comfortable with bridging their online and offline experiences.

Today, most activities are fragmented, forcing consumers to piece together processes to get what they want. With technology, however, a series of related actions and transactions have the potential to merge into a seamless whole. First Data’s research revealed that consumers are looking for businesses to reduce complexity by eliminating the need to cobble together different individual actions.

They want to start shopping on their computer in the morning and finish on their phone later on—without repeating steps or re-entering information. They also expect to collect, manage and redeem loyalty points and discount offers without fumbling around for punch cards and paper coupons. Because they can now do things like use their smartphone to scan a barcode on a medication bottle and automatically receive a text message when the prescription refill is ready, they expect the same enhanced level of convenience and integration to pervade all of their retail activities.

The concept of Universal Commerce refers to this type of commerce — commerce that happens anytime, anywhere, and on any type of device (computer, tablet, or smartphone).  It is commerce in which many aspects of both online and in-store shopping (shopping, payment, offers/coupons, loyalty/rewards points, access to social networks, money management, etc.) are seamlessly integrated into a single experience.

Over half of respondents globally (53%) reported that they want that seamless experience, with seamlessness especially appealing to consumers in China. More than half of respondents in most countries rated the concept of Universal Commerce very appealing.

Implications For The Customer Experience

The implications of this global transition for retailers are clear – as expectations increase, we have to evolve to meet those expectations, removing obstacles and meeting consumers where they are. So knowing that this global transition is happening, how should retailers respond?

Mobile needs a seat at the table when you’re developing your business strategy. First and foremost, if you don’t have a mobile strategy, consider developing one. And if you already have one, expect to revisit and refine it as consumer needs and expectations evolve.

Develop methods to ‘listen’ to your customers and to the market. Pay attention to what consumers are saying about you to others through social media, review sites and other means. Then go even deeper, using technology and/or in-person contacts to better understand your customers as individuals.

Rethink the way you do segmentation. The information you gain from your listening efforts will help you here. As you look at how you segment your customers, avoid looking at it from your perspective – for example, low and high-value consumers. Instead, look at segmentation from the consumer perspective. Consider whether your customers are high-tech vs. low-tech. Or are they rewards hunters or concierge consumers? Understanding your customers from their perspective helps you respond to their needs more effectively, demonstrating that you value them and earning their loyalty.

Make it easy for them to love you. Review your processes, end-to-end, to determine how you can reduce complexity and points of frustration for your customers. Stand in their shoes: how easy is it to do business with you? Do they have to go through unnecessary steps, creating an artificial barrier? The most successful companies in this technology-driven environment have removed those barriers completely.  

Dom Morea is SVP, Advanced Solutions and Innovation at First Data Corporation where he is responsible for leading the company’s efforts in transformational initiatives such as Mobile Commerce and Personalized Marketing.  He is a 20-year+ veteran of the financial services industry. He has been with First Data since 2004; when he rejoined the company as SVP, Product and Business Development to lead product management for the company’s merchant acquiring division. Before joining First Data, Morea was SVP of Strategy & Business Development at Encorus, a mobile payments company with operations in the U.S. and Europe.  Prior to that, he spent six years with First Data where he served in several key innovation roles including the start-up of First Data’s Internet Commerce Group, charged with development of enterprise-wide eCommerce strategy, and the successful development and management of major acquiring joint ventures with partners such as JP Morgan Chase. Morea has also previously held management positions at Credit Suisse and Citibank.

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