Payments get a bigger role in mobile e-commerce design

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The task at hand for retail app developers is increasingly clear: Make it as easy as possible for consumers to pay through a mobile device.

Generally this has meant making payments invisible and frictionless — with Uber being the go-to example of how to do this — but there still has to be some hand-holding so that consumers know that the app is capable of handling their payment. Otherwise, consumers may feel like they are being pushed to a desktop website or some other interface that is not built with mobile shopping in mind.

"Not all providers do native checkout on the app, but we have for the past six years," said Marc Biel, CEO of mobile app builder Shopgate. "It is better for us to do the payment transaction through the app, rather the more tedious process of moving from an app to the mobile website."

Native checkout comes in many flavors that don't require a retailer to build the technology from scratch. Options include Pay with Amazon, PayPal's One Touch, Visa Checkout and Mastercard's Masterpass. Apple Pay and Android Pay can also be used for in-app purchases.

But these aren't the only choices. Retailers can choose to work with a third party such as Stripe to build a checkout process into their apps that doesn't invoke the branding of another company's mobile wallet.

Employees at Austin, Texas-based Shopgate have essentially become e-commerce consultants, urging retailers to customize their experience for mobile devices through streamlined checkout and push notifications.

"Typically, we have to push back sometimes because the merchants don't totally understand the mobile environment," Biel said. "They expect the mobile app to look and feel exactly like their website, and that doesn't make sense."

The same conversations take place when merchants want to use a mobile-optimized website instead of an app to reach their customers via mobile devices. "Merchants don't request specific payment services because they don't know much about them," Biel said.

Dallas-based Kibo, which provides platforms for omnichannel experiences, will steer clients to the payment gateways that fit their needs. In that regard, Kibo provides a marketplace of vetted payments partners, including PayPal, Vantiv, Chase Paymentech, Visa Checkout, CardConnect, WorldPay and others.

"The plumbing is all there in our application interface, and payment gateway providers can join our marketplace," said Tushar Patel, chief marketing officer for Kibo.

Generally, Kibo is helping merchants who want first to enhance their digital offerings "because they are worried about Amazon," Patel said. "But we are finding more and more that customers like the end-to-end process, though they may start with just pieces of it."

Kibo, which launched in early 2016 following the acquisition/merger of five different companies, serves 800 clients. The company takes the approach that e-commerce and brick-and-mortar experiences need to complement each other.

And certain principles can apply to both settings.

"A manufacturer might have a great website with tons of traffic, but they are losing on direct consumer sales because of 15 warehouses and inventory all over the place," Patel said. "We can help that manufacturer establish faster distribution, or ignite more foot traffic in a store to their products."

Ultimately, Shopgate, Kibo and other providers are focusing on seamless integration to e-commerce platforms that can steer customers into a purchase, most often guided with a seamless payment feature.

"The closer you can get to a one-stop shop with these types of providers, the better it is for the retailer," said Richard Crone, chief executive of San Carlos, Calif.-based payments consulting firm Crone Consulting LLC. "An e-commerce developer is usually a couple steps removed from the native checkout feature, so the closer they can get to the payment offerings, the more valuable they will be."

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