By Sharon Rosa-Bohrer
Whether it’s the transition from brick-and-mortar stores to online shopping or vice versa, or the in-store transformation to an immersive retail experience, fintech (financial services technology) plays an integral role. Current retail trends show that 51% of Americans prefer online shopping, while e-commerce is growing at 23% each year. This trend will continue as more consumers integrate digital devices into their shopping habits. What is the effect of this real-time retail disruption on the shopping experience?
What Do Consumers Want in Retail Experience?
The consumer shopping journey has evolved from a transaction-based encounter to one based on relationships. What has prompted this change? Fintech or the consumer? This is a “chicken or the egg” question. However, it is clear that with the evolution of global e-commerce and the growth of internet coverage in almost every country, how consumers pay for their goods has also had to evolve. Consumers want to buy anything they like, from anywhere in the world. In addition, they want it to be fast, effective, and simple. Fintech promises to fill this need.
As the Internet and mobile payments have become seamless and easier for consumers, their need to shop online has increased. Online shopping is currently being done by 1.5 billion people worldwide. By 2018 that number will grow to 2 billion digital buyers. This ever-growing marketplace is great news for fintech, as these shoppers need an easy and safe way to pay for their purchases. In addition, consumers will happily patronize companies that make the transaction process painless. As a result, many fintech companies have stepped up to this challenge and are reaping the rewards.
Shift from Storefront to Online…or Not?
According to a survey by comScore and UPS, shoppers are making a record high 51% of their purchases online. Even so, today’s shopper still prefers to shop in a brick-and-mortar store. Euromonitor International projects 83% of goods purchased globally in 2022 will still be bought in store. Nevertheless, the in-store experience consumers expect has changed, and retailers and fintech need to deliver.
Digital transformation in retail stores is projected to change the retail experience by 2020- from smart fitting rooms, Bluetooth devices to manage payments, floor space, and interactive signage. The goal? Engaging and personalized consumer experiences.
At the National Retail Federation’s annual show, NRF 2018: Retail’s Big Show, the industry started to push back on the notion that the end is near for brick-and-mortar outlets. Instead of shifting into a defensive mode, retailers are going on the offense, and using technology to entice consumers to shop both online and in store.
Savvy retailers are merging their brick-and-mortar stores with their online presence, optimizing their use of fintech to drive business in both, and delivering the ultimate in customer experience and satisfaction. Similarly, fintech is evolving to meet consumer needs as well.
Future of Fintech in Retail
Fintech has made far-reaching changes in the financial sector which have, in turn, had a huge impact on the development of the e-commerce sector. Consequently, fintech will be an important player in the future of e-commerce because the success of an e-commerce platform often boils down to flexibility, cost, and ease of use. With that in mind, fintech is driving some key changes including:
- Consumer Convenience
Many of the developments in fintech have been about making the buying process quicker and more convenient. For instance, chip and pin rather than having to sign for something, contactless for faster low-cost transactions, apps to save you from having to carry your cards around, and more.
According to Paul Alfing, Senior Consultant Retail at Payments Advisory Group, “Seamless shopping will also be enhanced with artificial intelligence and machine learning. These and other technological developments will also speed up the fusion between online and offline shopping. For the customer there will no longer be a clear division between the two, and he/she expects the same service level for online and offline (perhaps further accelerated by virtual reality).”
- Consolidation of E-commerce Payments
Alex O’Byrne, founder of Fintechers, believes there will be a move towards less fragmentation. “Technology tends to invisibility. Voice and AI are the latest manifestations of technology that can do more with less of our effort. To become invisible, technology must first become frictionless. As we all know, payments are getting faster, easier and more secure at the same time. This will continue,” he explains.
“At the same time, payments are still very fragmented. A modern e-commerce checkout can include a normal payment gateway, PayPal, ApplePay, Amazon Pay, Klarna and more. I think in the future this will tend to 2 or 3 major payment ‘operating systems’ that are widely accepted online and offline, cheap and simple to adopt for both buyers and sellers.”
Blockchain is regarded as one of the safest and transparent platforms for buyers and sellers. It is becoming a significant player in the e-commerce industry because of its promise of pricing freedom, quicker compensation, clearer transactional terms, and overall online safety.
- Mobile Wallets and Apps
Payments expert Pieter de Wit says that “in order to understand retail payments, it’s good to understand what challenges retailers are facing at the moment. The majority of consumers are using their smartphone in-store, for comparing prices, searching for product information, reading product reviews, etc. I’m convinced that more and more retailers will engage with consumers by launching an app that could enable customers to scan products with their phone for information, stock levels and to add it to a virtual cart, provide seamless access to the retailer’s website, incorporate a loyalty program, and more.”
Read more on Fintech trends in retail here.
Unlimited Potential of Fintech in Retail
As retailers strive to meet customer expectations, incorporating fintech and digital technology is a given… and the future possibilities are exciting!
- Adjusting Price as Needed
New technology will enable retailers to adjust prices on-the-go or mark down weekly specials more efficiently. Retailers could even make adjustments based on supply and demand.
- Enhanced Reality Enhances Experience
Technology is enabling retailers to mix digital with reality to enhance consumer engagement and boost brand loyalty. First used online, retailers are starting to use the technology to create more fun, personalized experiences in-store.
In the Internet of Things era, new computer learning technologies and smarter algorithms used by artificial intelligence have made unmanned cashiers sensible in retail stores where upsell is not a factor.
Who or what is driving the transformation of the retail e-commerce experience – the consumer or fintech – may not be clear. However, what is clear is that the distinction between shopping online and ‘offline’ has blurred. For this reason, the most successful retailers will be those who can capitalize on the use of fintech to meet consumer expectations and build customer relationships and loyalty both in and out of the store.
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