Money Matters

Black Friday 2018: How payments technology can boost your profits

Find out how technology can help your business to delight your customers during the Black Friday season by offering a seamless payments experience.

It’s time to make sure your payment processes are running smoothly – the Black Friday 2018 shopping season is upon us. Since Amazon first introduced Black Friday offers to UK customers in 2010, businesses of all sizes and types have enticed bargain hunters with special pricing and offers.

For UK businesses that want to double-down on high-volume sales opportunities, it’s about more than just deep discounts. It’s about understanding shopping behaviour and modern expectations for a dynamic shopping experience.

Businesses need to be prepared to accept a variety of payment methods to win customer spend. Sage predicts a 13% increase in online transaction volumes over the course of the Black Friday 2018 trading period, based on Sage customers’ transaction volume history during the holiday selling seasons from 2016-17 and the volume trajectory in 2018 so far.

Seamus Smith, EVP, Payments and Banking at Sage, says: “Advances in e-commerce have disrupted the way consumers prefer to shop. As a result, business owners need to take advantage of the different technology solutions available to enhance the customer offering and make payments more frictionless.

“So, our message to businesses this year is that this is an exciting time of fast-paced innovation in payments and consumer spending. There’s no reason why all businesses can’t take advantage of the opportunity this popular shopping period presents.

“But they should factor in the changing trends in consumer shopping and optimise systems to make the payment process seamless. This way, sellers can attract more customers, increase spend and make the most of this period.”

As the path to purchase continues to evolve through technology, fintech and payments tech are also evolving in sophisticated ways to help businesses better serve their customers.

This article explains how technology can help small and medium businesses make the most of the biggest selling season of the year with practical advice from some of the payments and marketing industry’s key influencers.

Ecommerce preparations for Black Friday 2018

In 2017, the BBC estimated more than £10bn would be spent over the Black Friday period, with £2.5bn being splurged in a single day. Stats from the National Office for Statistics also show there has been a 15.9% rise in online retail sales for the month of November, compared with an annual growth of 2.4% in-store.

Meanwhile, Argos reported in 2017 that its website had welcomed a record number of shoppers within the first four hours of its Black Friday sale.

If your website isn’t prepared for a surge of visitors, you could experience an online store crash like retailer John Lewis admitted to in 2015.

Sage research shows the busiest window for Black Friday online shopping is from 9am to 3pm, peaking around 10am. Businesses reaping the most during seasonal selling peaks are those that pad their payments processes with extra layers of support to handle elevated traffic at crucial moments.

Test and optimise your online payment pages

Today’s payment technology ensures a great user experience (UX) for online shopping from multiple angles to facilitate increased sales and fewer abandoned carts. Functionality such as customisable payments pages allows you to easily make small tweaks that often make a big difference for the customer. The important thing is to continually test and optimise.

Navigate your website as if you were a customer attempting to make a purchase, or have someone go through the process for you. And take note of anything that gets in the way of the final sale.

Here are a few areas that can help you to improve your conversion rates:

  • Minimise the number of fields customers have to complete
  • Place the label of each field at the top-left of the box for easy readability
  • Choose field types that reduce the number of clicks required to complete the form
  • Don’t divide fields when asking for credit card numbers
  • Ensure your entire form can be navigated using the “tab” key
  • Check your form works on all major web browsers and devices (a responsive layout doesn’t necessarily mean it’s been optimised for mobile).

Create a simple and effective payments process

Functionality for your payments page will vary by provider. Ian Moyse, sales director at telecommunications company Natterbox, advises businesses to use online payment methods such as invoice pay and digital direct debit to their advantage on their payment pages.

He says: “My advice is to make sure the payments page allows as many payments options as possible and remove barriers of the user needing to get their card out and enter details. Make sure you account for any issues in the process.

“Having visited pages where I wanted to buy and the payment was failing and there was no easy way to call the business to place the order – if you make me hunt for it, it’s likely I will go elsewhere. It’s ideal to have live chat and phone options for any help at that critical closing transaction stage.”

James Gurd, owner of ecommerce consultancy Digital Juggler, agrees the focus should be on getting the customer through the checkout stage as quickly and seamlessly as possible.

He says: “When a user is ready to part with their money, your sole focus should be on getting them through the payment process with minimal friction. Too many checkouts slow users down, or even worse, confuses them.”

Your gateway provider should offer additional resources for design and usability best practices.

Black Friday 2018: How to win with mobile

What role does mobile shopping play for small businesses prepping for Black Friday 2018? James suggests “keeping mobile lightweight” to streamline the mobile checkout process. He adds: “Smart mobile checkouts use less content [copy, images, etc] to reduce page size, and more retailers are speeding up by taking advantage of device and browser capabilities.”

Also, as mentioned earlier, a responsive layout doesn’t necessarily mean it has been optimised for mobile. Responsive design doesn’t consider the unique behaviours or emotional needs of mobile customers who are usually on the go and multitasking. Here’s what mobile customers usually need to complete the sale:

  • A prominent button to click for phone assistance if they require extra help before making a purchase
  • The option to save for later so they can save their cart and access it again when they’re on a desktop or laptop.

In addition, offering special incentives for shoppers who check out immediately on mobile could see them coming back to spend more money with your business.

How fintech and tokenisation play a role with mobile payments

Fintech for mobile payments has given shoppers the ability to shop whenever they want from wherever they are. It’s also an opportunity for businesses to take advantage of budding trends such as mobile wallets and multiplatform selling on social media.

You can use fintech to delight your mobile customers. Examples include removing the need to manually enter credit card and shipping details each time someone shops at your store by using Google’s auto-fill, and offering one-click shopping for fast purchasing.

Tokenisation is the technology that makes one-click shopping possible. It creates a token for new transactions, protecting sensitive data by replacing it with an algorithmically generated number. This system also allows your customers to register their card on your website.

This way, when an existing customer returns to buy something online, they don’t have to enter their card details again. Many retailers choose to ask for CVC details because it offers better fraud protection.

Ian Moyse reiterates this in his advice to businesses. He says: “People are not always at their PC, nor can they afford to reschedule their Black Friday around being sat at an exact space at the time they need. Adopting mobile payments is a way of providing flexibility to the customer.

“Users on the move have a high expectation to handle their need without hassle, to not have to hunt for payment cards and type details. It’s critical to accommodate a fickle audience who can bounce to another site the second they encounter any barrier in buying from you.”

In-store technology for Black Friday 2018

While most of the action takes place online, bricks-and-mortar businesses have the opportunity to use technology to lure bargain hunters in and delight them with special in-store pricing.

Technology can transform the everyday cash register into a digital customer relationship management tool. You can automatically send personalised updates about your Black Friday loyalty programmes and discounts, and validate specials once customers come into your shop too.

Customer data collected and stored in today’s digitally integrated point-of-sale (POS) systems will allow you to keep up with your customers beyond the Black Friday season and keep them coming back for more benefits due to their loyalty to you.

You may consider using cryptocurrency as a payment method in the future

The future of Black Friday

Looking ahead, social media consultant and Sage Business Expert Lisa Pattenden suggests businesses use technology to their advantage by taking more control of the customer experience.

She says: “Small businesses are becoming players in the customer journey, and banks and credit unions are no longer in control of the customer journey. Customers are increasingly adopting fintech offerings for better services, leaving banks and credit unions no choice but to adapt or get left behind.

“UK companies can optimise on this by offering all the newest forms of payment such as cryptocurrency. They have the chance to take mobile payments to another level by being firsts.

“If they are the first at offering the ability to shop on Black Friday using Bitcoin, they win the game for an audience of customers they may never have gained before. It’s exciting to see the options and the many opportunities that are there for the picking.”

She concludes: “Payment pages should not only offer this new form of payment but also incentivise those who aren’t familiar by making a game of teaching them how to use newer technology like crypto for payment.

“This not only gets interaction with the new-to-crypto customers, it also puts the business ahead of the game to be a forerunner in the use of alternate payment methods.”

Final thoughts on Black Friday 2018 and payments

In summary, as Seamus Smith advises, the key to a successful Black Friday shopping season is to remove all barriers for your customers, who are eager to complete a purchase.

He adds: “Retailers can benefit from this seasonal spike in traffic but it’s those that go the extra mile for customers by offering a range of payment options that are set to attract a wider customer base than in previous years.

“Consumer appetite is growing and with it the range of choice, so there’s a new desire by customers to have greater payment choice.”

Small and medium businesses are pressed enough for time and staff resources during peak seasons. Fintech will continue to bridge the gap, empowering your business to provide the memorable and pleasant shopping experience your consumers have come to expect.