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No retailer wants to have to release a statement on the busiest shopping day of the year saying that it’s “taking longer than usual to process some credit and gift cards in our stores.”

Unfortunately, that’s what happened to a mega retailer on Black Friday last year and it’s an outcome awaiting any other merchant that isn’t staying on top of payment processing operations.

In the era of omni channel commerce, merchants need to streamline payments capabilities across every touchpoint: from brick-and-mortar to the web to apps and mobile pay. Today’s customer will not tolerate delays, and in a competitive marketplace, there are 100 retailers ready and waiting to scoop them up.

Not only can you not afford to make payments an afterthought, but it should be your competitive edge. Merchants that offer fast payments along with an outstanding customer experience stand to snag a bigger slice of the pie. Here are some tips to help you master payments as a growth hack.

Market your security. “Hack” and “data breach” are scary words to customers. It threatens their sense of security in shopping and threatens their very identity. Bottom line – no one wants to shop with a retailer perceived to have lax (or no) security measures in place. This is especially true for online merchants that have the added risk of card-not-present transactions. Using multi-factor authentication as well as other prescribed security measures can help demonstrate to consumers that you’re secure and that they’re sensitive data is protected.

Nip cart abandonment in the bud. Online shoppers can start getting anxious about a purchase long before they pull a credit card out of their wallet. Long checkout processes, forms, and other hoops make browsers more likely to abandon their cart and bounce. Shorten the path to purchase by:

  • Eliminating unnecessary form fields
  • Offering explanations of why certain fields are required (a question mark that pops up into an info box is sufficient)
  • Not requiring registration for purchases
  • Placing a progress bar at the top of the screen so users can see where they are in the checkout process

Speed things up. In a post-EMV world, many brick-and-mortar retailers are concerned with transaction time with new chip card readers. The goal is faster card-terminal communication speeds so the cardholder is only required to insert their chip card into the reader for a short time, likening the experience to the old “swipe” method and decreasing the possibility of a cardholder forgetting their card in the reader. There are several ways to achieve this, and merchants should speak to their POS application software vendors.

Consider contactless for loyalty. Contactless transactions using NFC technology offer cardholders a streamlined experience for checkout. When customers can use a smartphone or other contactless-enabled payment device to checkout, there is a perceived (and actual) reduced transaction time. Merchants can also tie in rewards programs to push payment via this method. Customers earn points that can be redeemed for discounts and free products each time they use the contactless payment method, making it even more appealing and improving customer loyalty.

Offer convenience for customers on-the-go. Mobile order and pay has gained momentum, particularly with the food and drink industry. Allowing customers to order and pay ahead and pick-up quickly in-store makes the entire experience faster, easier, and more enjoyable. Starbucks is arguably the best-in-breed when it comes to this capability. Their mobile experience is seamless and built with the end-user in mind.

Optimize your online gateway. Ecommerce merchants have a lot of obstacles to clear in running a successful online shop. The customers should not have to surmount these obstacles, too. Many online merchants are considered high risk, which can make it harder to obtain a merchant account (or one without volume caps). Working with a specialized payment processor can help merchants avoid some barriers to successful card-not-present payment acceptance. A specialized payment processor can help you customize fraud tools, set up multicurrency and alternative payment options, optimize security, and avoid chargebacks.

The bottom line is that you must offer customers a seamless, convenient experience across all channels – and expect that customers will utilize more than one channel throughout the purchasing process. It should be easy for customers to shop online and buy in-store and vice versa.