Integrating payment solutions into digital channels: the crucial role of User-Centred Design (UCD) within online retailers

By Andy Ireland, Head of Design


Times have changed, and consumer behaviour and expectations around online retail have evolved. Consumers now expect immediate, real-time purchases to take place, and more and more new technology is appearing each day to enable this to happen.

So, what do consumers really want? It seems pretty straightforward; they want convenience. It's all around us, and people are willing to pay for it. But how do we create convenience?

In this article, I explore why User Centred Design is key in integrating payment solutions to create services and experiences that are seamless and convenient.

A user-centric approach to online retail

Amazon is a prime example of how you can reap the benefits of embracing a user-centric approach. Amazon exploded into the online retail space by applying a user-centric approach, offering a large selection of products with efficient fulfilment and logistics. But the key part is that they- were user and data-driven, making evidence-based decisions and combining innovative technology and continuous improvement to their ways of working.

Amazon didn't just focus on the customer experience, or what we call the 'front-stage'; they also focused on the 'back-stage,' exploring their processes and investing in people.

So, let's bring the concept of 'front-stage' and 'back-stage' to life from a consumer point of view. Consumers now expect convenience and personalisation (front-stage) in their digital shopping experiences. Businesses need to ensure that security and a seamless experience, such as using a single ID across various platforms or devices (back-stage), wraps around this theme of convenience to enable safe, reliable services. This keeps them ahead of the competition and meets their customer needs.

The digital payments landscape

To understand the complexities businesses, need to navigate in the digital payments arena, we need to understand the landscape. There is a diverse range of online digital payment solutions that retailers use, such as debit/credit cards, digital wallets, bank transfers, cryptocurrency, prepaid cards, pay-by-phone services, in-app payments, QR code payments, subscription billing, digital cards, contactless payments; the list goes on. This diversity is great for consumers, but it needs to be improved for businesses. It means that nowadays, there's an option for almost everyone to pay for their goods and services how they want to. But from a business point of view, this variety becomes complex and challenging to maintain, as each method can have its own security requirements, unique interfaces, and user expectations. Many payment methods have strict rules and regulations, such as PCI DSS compliance and PSD2 authentication for card payments, that are becoming increasingly complex. Third-party suppliers now carry out most payments within a digital journey, so you must hand the customer over and bring them back seamlessly once the payment has been completed. This can present a real challenge and will feel disjointed (and, at worst, untrustworthy) if your UCD teams don't work through it properly. Retailers often stick to three or four payment methods because of the complexities involved in serving, processing, and reconciling these payments.

What to consider when integrating multiple payment solutions

Integrating digital payment solutions into a consumer-facing site often comes across as a technical task, but it's equally a user-centric challenge that needs to consider the following:

User experience consistency to ensure that the different payment methods (which each have their own unique interfaces and journeys) are integrated into the main user journey and avoid disjointed experiences. Consistency is key to maintaining user trust and reducing friction along the checkout process.

Security & compliance varies depending on the payment solution, as security protocols and compliance requirements differ. Ensuring that all methods meet required standards without overwhelming users is a delicate balance.

User choice and flexibility create the freedom to use a preferred payment method. Presenting these choices in a clear and user-friendly manner is key to ensuring that your customers return repeatedly and that you can attract additional customers.

An efficient checkout process is critical to avoiding cart abandonment. A simple and clutter-free checkout designed and built around User Centred Design principles is key to creating a streamlined payment process.

When something goes wrong, what happens? Are your customers able to understand what to do if a payment fails? Thinking through all the eventualities and being prepared for them allows customers to navigate their way out of what could have been a tricky situation. This could lead to frustration, cart abandonment, and losing a potential customer.

Have confidence it was right, but how will you know? Implementing measurements of success before a release that relate to the customer and business goals is crucial when launching a new payment solution on a consumer website. They provide a clear and objective assessment of the solution's effectiveness, user satisfaction along their journey, and the efficiency of the implemented solution.

Personalisation in any process, journey, or experience enhances user engagement and satisfaction. Payment is no exception, but it can be tricky if your payment solution is with a third party. User Centred Design principles will help provide consistency around any constraints you have.

Back-stage processes and teams ensure that the service is running and performing to the required state, and operation teams ensure that validation occurs. Teams that may be reconciling payments (etc.) need information, access, and systems to meet their needs.

What about recurring payments?

Convenience isn't just a one-time transaction. Many goods and services are now offered on a subscription basis. This isn't new to mobile phone providers or car finance companies, but it might be innovative to those selling coffee or software. Consumers demand as much convenience and personalisation with recurring payments as single transactions. They are as much a part of their journey as the initial transaction, and in some cases, might be your only opportunity to interact with them for months or even years. 

And again, there are strict rules and regulations. Customers might buy your service with a debit card but pay for their subscription via Direct Debit. You need to ensure that the experience is consistent, the customer's needs are met across all journeys, and they can get help when needed.

What's the role of UCD in all this?

UCD is one cog in a more comprehensive digital/technical challenge. However, it is (if I do say so myself) the guiding light that navigates consumers through a journey to reach their goals by:

  • Understanding the users of a service and their needs
  • Ensuring consistency is built into journeys, steps, and experiences.
  • Simplifying user choices around making a payment
  • Ensuring accessibility & inclusivity are baked into all payment choices and journeys.
  • Testing and iterating upon existing journeys to keep updated with customer needs, available tech, and design.
  • Connect the dots within the business and across the service to ensure that people, processes, and products work together seamlessly to deliver, maintain, and improve on the service(s)

Some Case Studies (that I totally stole from the web, not even sorry)

  1. Amazon: Amazon's checkout process is a prime (great pun...) example. It seamlessly integrates multiple payment methods while maintaining a consistent and user-friendly interface. Users can easily switch between cards, digital wallets, and Amazon-specific payment options.
  2. eBay: eBay's UCD-driven approach offers various payment methods for buyers and sellers. The platform presents payment options clearly, reducing friction in the buying and selling processes.

So what does this all mean?

Integrating multiple digital payment solutions into consumer sites needs to be considered from the 'front-stage' (what consumers see and interact with) as well as the 'back-stage' (the technical back-end functionality and processes), and including UCD teams in this is key to creating seamless journeys that surprise and delight customers.

When customer needs are fully understood, the business needs can be strategically aligned and work together to ensure a seamless and secure experience is designed, built, and iterated upon. Being innovative and user-centric ensures that businesses position themselves as leaders in the dynamic world of digital payments.

Have you integrated payment solutions into online channels? What was the most important part of 'getting it right' for you? What caused you more work than you initially thought?

If you are interested in a discovery, call to discuss your strategy further, get in touch.

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