7 Checkout Trends: How Consumers Are Paying Now and in the Future

By: Alexandra Sheehan

Although online commerce is going nowhere, in-person customer experiences still prevail. Time and time again, consumers are proving that prefer the experience of shopping. And brands get to make authentic connections — that lead to lifelong customer loyalty.

But the in-person experience isn’t always great. In fact, the biggest pain point for more than 70% of consumers? The checkout experience.

One way to make sure you provide an awesome checkout experience for your customers is to accommodate various payment methods. We’re no longer a cash-based society, and the way consumers pay for products and services is constantly evolving.

That’s why we’re looking ahead. What unique payment methods are consumers using today? And how will they pay for products and services in the future?

Below, we round up a few technologies and innovations you can start to think about for your brick-and-mortar business.

Virtual wallet

Virtual wallets aren’t just from the future — they’re here now. When we talk about “virtual” wallet, this could mean a few things:

Almost 40% of American consumers were using mobile wallets by 2017. And it’s expected to climb to 56% in 2020, a year that Business Insider forecasts $503 billion in sales to happen via mobile payment.

Many banks and even some big box brands have their own versions of mobile pay, and you can also consider these universal virtual wallets for your business:

Nathan Grant, financial industry analyst at Credit Card Insider, talks about how many credit card companies offer virtual versions of the cards. These can typically only be used online or over the phone.

Here’s how it works: The virtual card number is a single-use string of digits that the customer enters online or shares over the phone, or you could type in manually with your POS. The charges are applied to the same account as the main physical card.

This is especially helpful when a cardholder is waiting on a replacement, so they can still pay for things while the card’s in transit. Plus, it adds an extra layer of security, Grant points out. “You can simply cancel the virtual card number and don’t have to have a new card mailed to you,” he says.

“It’ll be interesting to see how these cards may be incorporated into POS purchases at the retail level as an added layer of security for businesses to curtail credit card skimmers and wireless RFID skimming of financial information,” Grant says.

Related: 5 Types of Retail Fraud and How to Prevent Them >

Recurring payments

The subscription model hit the ecommerce world with the arrival of brands like Birchbox and Blue Apron. From 2013 to 2016, traffic to subscription box websites increased 3,000%. And since 2017, food subscription site traffic went up 800%.

Amazon also jumped on the subscription bandwagon. “You may have noticed you have an option to order a recurring shipment on Amazon of many beauty and health products, at a lower cost to you, and at a huge benefit to the Amazon sellers of your future loyalty and payments,” says Stacy Caprio, founder of Accelerated Growth Marketing. The ecommerce giant generated more than $1.4 billion in revenue from subscriptions in just one quarter.

“Recurring memberships that lock a customer in at a good deal have a large advantage for service based products such as salons, spas and gyms as well as the physical health and beauty products you see on Amazon,” she says.

The subscription model is making its way to brick-and-mortar businesses too, and it’s helping businesses generate revenue before even making a single sale. “Getting customers to commit to a multiple payment schedule in advance benefits the customer and the provider,” says Caprio.

Prepay

You don’t need to do subscriptions to accommodate prepayment options for customers, another great way to generate income early on in your business. Retailers can use the traditional pre-order approach to generate business, and businesses like gyms or spas might require customers prepay for services.

But there are also ways to use prepayment more strategically. Holly Glowaty, co-founder of Flourish: The Branded Currency Conference, says prepay allows merchants to re-imagine membership offerings.

“Offer a discount when members load an account with money,” says Glowaty. “This locks the money in, like it would be with a membership, but offers additional consumer control as the member gets to choose when it’s taken out.”

She says that this can feed into your marketing campaigns as well. Set up automations that remind customers when their balance is low, or when their balance is the same amount as a product or service they might be interested in. “This creates an additional, organic upsell moment that feels more authentic and creates trust,” she says.

Biometrics

Glowaty also says that biometrics are going to be more common as we move into the future. We already see this in our daily lives, she says, pointing to facial and fingerprint recognition on mobile devices as an example.

The way this works really depends on the specific implementation. Keyo is one example that Glowaty references; it’s a biometric technology that allows consumers to pay with the palm of their hand, matching veins to a verified identity and linked account.

“Buildings in Chicago are already using [Keyo] for access over a keycard, and coffee shops in the area are using it as their response to the Starbucks app,” she says. “You don’t have to remember your wallet OR phone, and you can still get your coffee and scone.”

Mindless pay

“Mindless pay” refers to payment methods that don’t really require any action from the customer. “Paying without thinking about paying will be huge,” says Glowaty. She notes how Uber and Lyft have mastered this: You enter your payment information once and never have to think about it again. It makes using the service, and paying for it, seamless — and passive.

“The whole experience frictionless without being over engineered,” says Glowaty. “Consumers will quickly adapt to these frictionless payments and expect them to be the norm rather than the exception.”

In the retail setting, Amazon Go has mastered this. Shoppers walk in the store and leave with products in hand without ever visiting a point-of-sale or payment terminal.

With mindless pay, there’s no sticker shock at the register, and customers don’t have to wait in lines. “By making it easier for the consumer to say yes to the purchase, companies can capture additional sales while fostering positive brand affinity,” says Glowaty.

Buy online, pick up in-store

The buy online, pick-up in store (BOPIS) trend — also referred to as click-and-collect — is also on the rise. From 2015 to 2017 alone, BOPIS grew by 43%. It’s a checkout option that two-thirds of consumers use. And according to one survey, 29% of businesses said that BOPIS accounted for 21–30% of total online revenue.

Service providers can also incorporate this model. When booking a service at Dosha’s Massage and Wellness, customers must enter payment information. The card isn’t immediately charged, but with the customer’s permission, the merchant will do so after the services have been provided.

Buy now, pay later

Buy now, pay later is a flexible payment option that allows customers to enjoy services or take products home with a promise to pay for it later. This especially appeals to younger shoppers — those who work hourly jobs and need to wait for payday to have some extra spending money.

It’s also similar to how merchants who sell expensive items offer payment plans to customers.

These interest-free payment options are more appealing that purchasing something on their credit card. And it gives customers instant gratification.

To implement this payment option, check out Afterpay or Sezzle.

Conclusion: Are you prepared for payments of the future?

The in-person customer experience is still so important, and it’s not going anywhere. Staying on top of technologies and trends that are changing the way customers interact with brands and pay for goods and services is the key to capturing as many sales as possible.

What ways are you preparing your business for the future? Which unique payment methods do your customers use the most?