Last year marked 20 years since what many consider ecommerce’s start. The industry has come an incredibly long way with global sales now well over $1 trillion a year. In the U.S. alone, over 89% of Internet users over 14 years old, or 220 million people, shop online, so it’s clear the days when customers were reluctant to buy online are over.
Increasingly however, ecommerce is no longer just ecommerce. Thanks to mobile technology, we are shopping and buying everywhere in our daily lives, not just when we step into a store or go to an ecommerce site. With companies quickly realizing the advantages of making products more widely available, the number of channels through which products and services are offered is quickly growing. The challenge now is bridging the online and offline worlds to make the customer experience more seamless and user-friendly. With so many channels, eWallets are promising to be a way to bridge transactions with customers who now shop anywhere, anytime and on any device.
Checkout processes have evolved to become more and more streamlined. With mobile devices accounting for 16.3% of all US online sales this Black Friday, it’s clear that consumers are searching for even simpler, quicker payment options. For many, the next step is effectively eliminating the checkout process through the use of digital wallets. While the concept is not new, exactly how to balance the security of payment information and the convenience of getting purchasing down to as few friction points, or clicks, as possible is still being figured out.
The main value of a digital wallet is that it can store credit card information, loyalty cards, coupons, tickets and whatever else you would normally keep in a physical wallet. It therefore eliminates the need to enter payment information for each purchase online. Instead, you can enter all of your information into one place and then use your eWallet to automate the checkout process.
A variety of digital wallets by ecommerce giants, app manufacturers and credit card companies have already brought the concept of eWallets into reality. PayPal, Google and Apple have all brought to market versions of what they think digital wallets should be in addition to smaller players like Square, Softcard, V.me by Visa, Chirpify and many more. It is still a relatively new space though and customers have yet to anoint clear winners on which work best.
While digital wallets may be gaining traction for online purchases, many are trying to go further so that you effectively have one easy-to-use wallet for your purchases regardless of whether its online or in a brick and mortar store. To get a sense of how soon all your cards, cash and wallet itself may be obsolete, take a look at Google’s digital wallet. Customers can “tap and pay” at any MasterCard PayPass merchant locations, as long as their phone is equipped with NFC technology and they have set up their credit or debit card in their Google Wallet account. Apple’s Passbook has a similar feature called Apple Pay that uses biometric finger scanning technology for added security.
Online, we have already seen scenarios where our information is securely stored, making the checkout process much more efficient. Digital wallets promise not only to satisfy the desire of customers for more convenience, but also to provide protection against fraud for merchants. This is because many wallets pay vendors directly so they never have to handle and be responsible for the customer’s payment information.
For customers, while there’s always a risk when using credit cards as a payment, digital wallets are encrypted and, in some cases, protected by a private software code. For added security, services like Softcard and Apple Pay have given users the option to remote freeze their wallets if their phone gets stolen.
With more customers likely to adopt this technology in the future, it is clear that merchants who are not providing a digital wallet option could be losing sales because their customers find their checkout process too long or cumbersome. While there is no way to definitively determine what future payment innovations (including eWallets) will look like, the easiest way to not get left behind is to learn about the technology that consumers are embracing today and get ready for changing expectations.