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The Payments Time Warp That Is Reinventing The Customer Experience

In A Decade of Digital Transformation in 12 Months, 46 C-suite executives spoke with PYMNTS for its Q2 eBook on what the world will look like as recovery rolls on and the next iteration of normal rolls out. In this excerpt, Talbott Roche, president and CEO of Blackhawk Network, explores how the pandemic make the customer experience a top priority for many companies, prompting them to develop deeper and more loyal relationships.

Read the entire eBook here.

The pandemic set off a revolution in retail and payments that no one expected could happen so quickly. While many retailers were quick to adapt, the true drivers of change were the consumers who moved to quick, smart and safe purchasing tools — as a response to the pandemic, and to make shifts for convenience that had long been building, even before COVID.

Last year, we reached a tipping point in digital wallet usage. In 2021, 59 percent of consumers surveyed have either just started using or have been more frequently using digital wallets over the last year. QR code scanning, which didn’t have much traction in the U.S., is suddenly everywhere, from menus at restaurants, to contactless checkout options, to digital payments at the grocery store. Online and mobile purchasing for delivery and curbside pickup have also accelerated; many of us would have been lost without these options for food ordering and groceries.

This digital payment acceleration was critical to creating a customer experience that is convenient and contactless. And retailers that are leaning into this trend will be rewarded. Blackhawk Network surveyed shoppers and found that most will spend more money with retailers that offer more digital payment methods. Along with shopping more frequently (69 percent) and spending more (54 percent) at retailers where they can use digital payments, most shoppers surveyed (85 percent) also reported that digital wallets have made shopping easier.

The pandemic also conditioned consumers to enjoy payments choice — a trend that will undoubtedly be here to stay. We’re all becoming more accustomed to unified commerce: the ability to pay however we want, wherever we want. We know that shoppers value a simple checkout process, but now it also must fit their preferences – yet another example of how payments is squarely at the crux of customer experience.

Looking ahead, I think there are several key payment innovations that can continue improving the customer experience. In fact, 63 percent of respondents to our research are more likely to shop at a retailer if it accepts the digital payments they use1. We also must better connect physical and digital payments to cater to customers who prefer one or the other.

This focus on payment diversity means digitizing purchases for cash customers and better allowing digital payments in-store. Another key evolution, and one that I’m extremely excited about, will be allowing customers to use their rewards and loyalty points as currency in a convenient way. Finally, QR code payments are exploding, but I expect we’ll continue to see more creative ways to connect consumers easily to their stored value — including biometrics.

The pandemic made customer experience (CX) a top priority for many; it has never been more vital to foster relationships and loyalty with customers. As a payments professional, it was exciting to see how payments innovations drove these connections. I believe payments and CX are now inextricably linked. As last year taught us, the payment solutions that will thrive into the future are those that meaningfully improve CX.

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