By Teri Llach, Blackhawk Network
Today’s consumers live more connected lifestyles than ever. A study by the Pew Research Center found that nearly 70 percent of U.S. consumers own smartphones and millions rely on them to work, socialize and shop. When it comes to shopping, Global Web Index discovered almost all (91 percent) of consumers use a PC or laptop, 80 percent use smartphones and 47 percent use tablets to seek deals, compare prices, make purchases and more. Every step of the buying process is now connected and payments are no longer just a functional step in that process. Instead, payment experiences now influence where consumers shop, what they buy and when. And savvy retailers are taking note.
Acting on this intelligence, forward-thinking companies are generating greater loyalty and engagement with their customers through their own payment systems and use of branded value, like gift cards, rebates and offers, and loyalty points. It’s an elegant move, as the act of paying cannot be removed or circumvented by the consumer during the shopping process, but it can be elevated. The key is going beyond just offering a branded payment solution to creating one that actually makes life easier or adds real value for customers.
Think about brands like Starbucks and Amazon–both have found a way to win the hearts and minds of consumers by offering seamless and personalized shopping experiences. In this instance, both brands have loyal shoppers that have adopted each brand’s unique payment solution—Starbucks’ mobile app and the Amazon Dash Button, respectively—because it generates incremental value in their lives.
Considering consumers’ 24/7 connectivity and their demand for better and personalized experiences, here are a few steps retailers should take to leverage branded value and digital payments systems—like Starbucks and Amazon have—to influence preference and loyalty:
- Create omnichannel engagement: Shoppers want to move among retail channels quickly and effortlessly, and if they become impatient or don’t have the experience they expected, they will go elsewhere—likely to your competitors—to get what they want. The more avenues a shopper can use to engage with your brand, the better, and drawing them to your site or app can successfully forge these deeper relationships. You can help seal the deal with a connected buying process that unifies the rest of the experience with your brand, and consider offering forms of branded value—like e-gifts, discounts and loyalty points—to help convert causal shopping into purchases. Consumers will abandon their cart without a second thought if actually buying the items is too much of a hassle, but if the entire process is worry-free and includes added value just for them, shoppers will be more inclined to click to purchase, and possibly return to your brand for future shopping.
- Increase loyalty: Loyalty programs and payments are converging before our eyes. Many brands now allow shoppers to use loyalty points to make purchases or incentivize additional spending through gift cards, store price-match guarantees or special promotions. And consumers love it. For instance, Starbucks Rewards members can accumulate points through spending that can be used to buy Starbucks products online or in-store, toward free refills in-store, or to earn free food. As part of their larger branded value, Starbucks also provides their loyal customers with convenient ways to order ahead and pay in-store with little hassle–all the while cementing the loyalty of their customers.
- Offer options for incremental spending: Incentives can drive additional spending during the shopping process via rebates, in-store price match guarantees, and “buy online, pickup in store” options. These elements of the larger payments process have emerged as ways to create branded value from the start to the finish of the buying process while also driving customers to brick-and-mortar businesses for additional shopping. Rebates give retailers an opportunity to drive store and site traffic with the promise of best-in-market prices and protect margins because only those very interested redeem. In-store price-match guarantees allow shoppers to purchase products in-store for prices they found online and “buy online pickup in store” options marry online shopping with same-day access to their purchases.
Smart retailers are connecting their branded value with multiple facets of the shopping experience. Tools like gift cards, egifts and digital rewards can help create more loyal, engaged customers and a simplistic payments process can further leverage these tools. Providing consistent, comprehensive branded value is paramount to making consumers love, and stick with, your brand.
Teri Llach is chief marketing officer and co-founder of Blackhawk Network, which develops new ways to give, receive and use branded value—like gift cards, digital payments and loyalty points. She leads all aspects of marketing including product marketing, advertising and promotions, business intelligence, consumer research, PR and corporate communication, and branding. She is also the marketing lead for corporate acquisition communications.
In Viewpoints, payments professionals share their perspectives on the industry. Paybefore presents many points of view to offer readers new insights and information. The opinions expressed in Viewpoints are not necessarily those of Paybefore.
 Technology Device Ownership: 2015 is a study conducted by Pew Research Center. The smartphone data comes from a study conducted in June 2015The sample size included 2,001 American respondents.
 “GWI Device” was published by Global Web Index in Q1 of 2016.