If it feels like the world is evolving quicker than a high-speed rocket, you are absolutely right. And it is not likely to slow down any time soon. In fact, 2018 seems to be one of the most interesting years in the online payment and eCommerce world.

With the ever-deepening abilities of AI and a fresh focus on customer experience, this year might just redefine the saying “money makes the world go round”.

Taking the payments industry pulse

Earlier this year, we asked top industry influencers and thought leaders to share their expert opinion on current trends impacting the market. This is what we found.

While all perspectives presented above still have a very strong impact on the current industry state of affairs, let`s turn our attention to other, just as relevant trends and developments for the rest of this year.

So, with the near future in mind: what can we look forward to (until end of 2018 and beyond)?

Alternative ways to pay

 Let’s face it: since PayPal, Alipay and other digital payments are actually the default way to pay in many countries, they can hardly be called “alternative” anymore.

 What exactly do we mean by this curious idea of “alternative”?

Imagine nipping out to the shop and, when it comes to paying, realizing that you’ve left your phone and wallet at home – shock, horror! Then imagine slipping your house keys out of your pocket, tapping them on the card machine and going on your merry way. Or, better yet, imagine renewing your washing machine warranty from the washing machine itself. Sound ludicrous and a little unrealistic? Well, maybe.

But it’s not that far from the truth. Looking ahead, the rest of this year will continue to bring a slew of new devices from which people can pay. We’re not talking about mobile devices, tablets, and the like; we’re talking about “connected” household items that are emerging thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT).

As CISCO reports, the number of connected devices on the Internet will surpass 50 billion by 2020, up from almost 44 billion this year.

The aim will be seamless and frictionless payment processes as non-cash channels come to the forefront.

Less and less people are carrying cash around with them, which means there’s a huge chasm opening up for companies to tap into cash-free ways to pay. This, tied in with the fact that consumers are increasingly demanding fast, simple, and seamless payment methods, means that we’ll probably see a few unique alternative channels popping up over the next months and (why not?) years.

While mobile payment methods remain incredibly important in 2018, we’ll see them taking on a more futuristic landscape, including the use of AI technologies like chatbots and deep machine learning. While this might seem daunting for businesses (how do you choose what methods to use when there is such a wide range?!), it’s also an exciting opportunity to tap into exactly what consumers want and, therefore, increase sales.

The rise of biometrics

To some of us, biometrics sounds like it’s stepped right off the set of Minority Report, right? And with new technologies developing practically by the second, that’s not so far from the truth.

Towards the end of 2017, biometrics began to hit the big time. The iPhone X is swiftly moving away from its signature fingerprint technology and barreling towards facial recognition instead. In the near future, we’ll see this technology continuing to move into the payment world, too, with accounts accessed by eye patterns and facial uniqueness.

This means there will be an increasing shift away from old-fashioned passwords and usernames and a focus instead on individual identity. For consumers, transactions will become safer and easier, while for businesses, payment processes will be securer with less risk of cyber-threats and attacks.

AI is increasingly penetrating every aspect of the online world, and for payment solutions to keep up, it’s vital that they start to dabble, too. As we move into the future, biometrics might become big enough to eliminate plastic and cash-free payment methods. Instead, consumers will simply need their faces to be able to access their accounts and make payments.

AI and its impact

As we have stated before, AI can be leveraged as a powerful tool against competitors. With new eCommerce businesses emerging every single day, it’s easy to feel like the industry is saturated beyond repair. But if you want to stand out and not get sucked into the noise, it’s vital to roll with the times and, today, that means tapping into the power of AI. Without a doubt, this new, high-tech tool is changing the face of sales and eCommerce by intelligently improving the sales process. As a result, customers can delve into a seamless shopping system.

As Tatiana Teplova from yStats mentions in one of our exclusive interviews:

 The “New retail” concept promoted by the Alibaba Group entails using the emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and big data analysis to create a seamless cross-channel experience for customers. Over the past year, Alibaba opened unmanned stores for books and apparel where consumers can check out via their phones. In the near future, we are likely to see more examples of the “New retail” across Asia-Pacific.” The same is valid for other parts of the world, we would add.

According to research by Gartner, 85% of customer interactions will be handled without human intervention by 2020. This doesn’t mean that humans will be completely obsolete in the online world, it simply means that we’ll essentially be able to get more done in a shorter space of time.

Customer-centric focus will pay off

Like every area of business, the payments industry has started to realize the importance of the customer – and rightly so. We will continue to see customer experiences taking center stage. Not only will there be increased security measures to ensure customers are safer than ever, but every new process will have the customer at the front.

So what exactly will this look like?

In a 85-page Digital Banking Report report called Improving the Customer Experience in Banking, it was noted that, in order for payment providers to move from a transactional relationship with their customers to a more personable one, there were five key things that needed to happen:

  1. Challenge the notions of digital engagement and change the focus from cost reduction to experience enhancement
  2. Tap into advanced analytics and machine learning technologies to ensure every experience is highly personalized
  3. Allow consumers to pay with the channels they prefer and use technologies to intuitively provide the preferred options straight away
  4. Shift sales activities from reactive to proactive
  5. Ensure the consumer is engaged every step of the way through the customer journey, right from the shopping stage, to the relationship nurturing stage

As the business world enters into the “Age of the Individual”, the need to analyze big data will become more and more essential. When payment solutions and online banks start unpicking the information they have, they can make a bigger impact on the customer experience which, in turn, leads to profitability.

For businesses, this focus on customer experience will really pay off. Customers are more willing to pay extra for a better experience, so by providing a seamless payment method, you’re tapping into that need.

Stay tuned for the second part of this article, which will discuss further relevant industry topics.

Adriana Screpnic, Content Marketing Specialist, G2A PAY

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