The holiday shopping season is in full swing now. And more and more of it is being done online due to the pandemic. Which means more transactions than ever are being done digitally, and over a growing number of devices. And that also means an increasing important piece of the customer experience is how the transaction is executed. The easier and efficient it is for them to buy something, the more likely they are to buy something … and like the overall experience of buying that something.
Recently, I spoke with Keala Gaines, VP of Global Payment Services for eBay, to learn more about the impact modern payment technology is having on the customer experience, how having the payment tech on certain device types can help increase conversion opportunities, and how using the latest technology can also make things run more efficiently.
Interview with Keala Gaines of eBay
Below is an edited transcript of a portion of our conversation. To hear the full conversation click on the embedded SoundCloud player.
Small Business Trends: Sometimes if I don’t see the right offering for the kind of payment I want to make, I walk away. As we see more and more of our shopping transactions taking place online, how much of the customer experience is that payment portion?
Keala Gaines: What’s interesting is certainly we see an emergence of new ways to pay even in an online transaction. As online and mobile also start to converge and those lines blur increasingly now more than ever, as consumers, we expect that pervasive checkout experience. Whether I was looking for it on my phone and put it in my cart and then went online and completed the transaction, right? That it followed me and that those forms of payment were all of a sudden device relevant. So that the way that I shop when I’m on my laptop might be via whatever is stored in my Chrome browser via Google Pay. It may be that I use an Apple device. And then when I’m shopping on mobile, it’s via Apple Pay or credit card. And again, if you’re a buyer anywhere else in the globe, there’s other forms of payment that might be more relevant for you.
In Germany they use secure direct debits quite a bit. In Asia we’re seeing the emergence, of course, of a lot of the wallets, WeChat Pay and things of that nature, right? So I think it’s really about enabling those buyers to shop however they need and the channels and the modalities are changing. And we’re seeing that at the point of sale now too, of course with the pandemic. Folks are adopting NFC (Near-Field Communications) and contactless certainly at higher rates. And we’re seeing that as well, right? All of us in our everyday lives.
Small Business Trends: And as an example for me personally, I buy a lot of stuff from Panera Bread. Sometimes when I’m sitting at home, I’ll just get on a laptop and I’ll buy it. And I notice the payment options are different on the laptop than if I use phone. How important is it to have the right payment for the right device, particularly from a small business perspective, as you try to cut down friction and try to make sure that you finish that transaction.
Keala Gaines: Well, it’s hugely important. Although I will say mobile browsing has gotten leaps and bounds better than we may all remember it in the early, early days, but trying to enter a 16 digit credit card number into a mobile phone, which at the time it was not mobile optimized as we all remember, was not for the faint of heart, and fat fingering as we call it, was quite common. And so I really think it has been with the emergence of mobile that we have seen the proliferation and the increase in popularity of wallets.
Things like PayPal was very early in its mobile applications and having a way to transact quite easily with a login name and a password, which oddly enough is easier than entering 16 digits. And then Apple Pay and Google Pay come along. And so I think the form factor as it evolves is really quite relevant. At the same time, many of us probably wouldn’t make, I don’t know, a $20,000 purchase via a wire transfer on our cell phones. You might, but it’s a little harder. And so I think also how easy and how frictionless a form of payment will enable something to be also determines the form factors that it gains popularity or adoption in.
Small Business Trends: No, and I was also thinking in terms of when I pay for things with the phone, and you have the biometrics because it does the eye scan. Where does the security aspect from these digital payments, how is that something that provides some kind of an advantage or some kind of another way to make sure that, that transaction goes through?
Keala Gaines: Well, I am not probably the best person to give the technical nuances, but at a high level, I will say that they actually can be more secure in some ways, because the information is actually tokenized, and from probably the CRM systems that you work with. The actual card data itself, so the instrument, the credit card, debit card, whatever you used that was inside of that mobile wallet is not actually what is transmitted and stored with the merchant. What is transmitted and stored is a tokenized representation of that card number that the merchant can still settle and get paid against, but your card number isn’t being put out into the ether or stored anywhere for someone to compromise.
Small Business Trends: And I’m guessing also it just makes it so much easier once that transaction takes place, like you were saying with CRM, you can actually … That transaction gets routed into a system and you don’t have to do all this manually any more.
Keala Gaines: That’s right. We definitely see a lot of users want to store their information for repeat purchase, which I myself do quite a bit. It can make the purchasing experience almost too easy…
Small Business Trends: Yeah, like should I have done that? [laughter]
Keala Gaines: Oh wait, did I want to actually hit buy or add to cart? It can be so easy with those stored instruments. It’s great. But that’s also the thing that makes it super easy at the grocery store now to just pull out your phone and click it and not touch anything. So I think it is all about how do we as merchants adopt the technology that is relevant to the device, the use case, and making sure that we’re giving consumers those options so that if they want to use them, they can.
Small Business Trends: And then they have this whole thing that has accelerated due to the pandemic with cashless. Nobody wants to take the cash. I don’t have a lot of cash on me because I don’t want to be giving it out to people. What about this technology that allows you to just walk in the store and you pick up something and you keep it and then you walk out of the store and it totally has all your stuff added up and charge your account.
Keala Gaines: There’s obviously way more systems at play there than just payments. However, the inventory is tagged and the devices at the door and the cameras and all that stuff, it really is mind boggling. But just as in e-commerce as a whole, enabling the financial part of that transaction at the right time, in the right modality, which is triggering it as you walk out the door, I would assume and not before.
Small Business Trends: Right.
Keala Gaines: And this notion that you may have an instrument on file that is stored to your profile that enables that really frictionless experience to happen. So I think about payments as being a huge enabler for new and emerging technologies. And while we haven’t seen that one as pervasive yet, I think we’ve seen hints that it’s coming and I won’t be surprised when we see more of it.
This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.