Imagine your customers fully focusing on your brand experience. Nothing stands in their way, and certainly not the payment experience.

Consumer expectations for commerce, including payments, are changing. Paradoxically the less obtrusive payments become, the more value they contribute.

That’s the premise behind invisible payments. The idea is to deemphasize the transactional piece of commerce and enhance the quality of the overall experience. Payments embed so well that they fade into the background. As commerce becomes increasingly anytime, anywhere and effectively “on demand," the premise of invisible payments becomes preeminent.

Companies like Amazon have made purchase immediacy the norm for consumers, and all merchants need to be aware of the trend.

Payment providers have traditionally been transaction processors. They must become strategic partners in putting payments to work to help merchants satisfy customers, increase sales, and build brand loyalty.

The concept of invisible payments aligns with the growing consumer desire for instant gratification, particularly within the “on demand” generation (inclusive of the millennials). Merchants are working to shorten the path to purchase for their consumers. The trend towards purchase immediacy has become the norm for services including Amazon Prime Now, which provides two-hour delivery, and Uber Eats Instant Delivery for meal service.

Today a consumer may see something in a store or ad, price compare on a mobile device, and wait for a sale before buying. Consumers are increasingly able to seamlessly complete a transaction with minimal delay, and their expectations for immediacy will heighten their awareness of friction in the process. And this evolution will accelerate as merchants:

Gain unprecedented access to consumers. The digital experience is becoming pervasive as mobile technology weaves into every moment of our lives. A Deloitte study found that Americans collectively check their smart phones 8 billion times per day. That’s 46 times per day on average, although the figure jumps to 74 daily views for those between 18 and 24 years old.

Get close to customers. Consumers perform searches, research via smart devices, use geolocation technology, and interact on social networks throughout the day. This enables merchants to know their interests and locations in the moment and offer goods and services on the spot. Merchants can reach consumers at the optimal time and place to influence their choices and cement purchase decisions. Increasingly merchants are seizing the opportunity to convert mobile moments into commerce moments.

Benefit from word-of-mouth amplification. Global social networks like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Tumblr are accelerating the pace of word-of-mouth marketing and expanding its reach. Friends pin a photo of an item on a social network site that links to a merchant-of-choice online – and their followers may purchase immediately.

All of these trends help to shorten the purchasing cycle. As brands better understand their consumers, and deliver timely & relevant offers with purchase options seamlessly available. The new expectation will become an ability to deliver on demand commerce.

Payments can support the path to purchase immediacy with a new level of seamlessness and simplicity. How are merchants approaching payments to enable this?

Consumers want to shop via their preferred channel. On Demand commerce requires merchant accessibility beyond the store front. Given consumer behavior around mobile, an online presence via browser and in-app is increasingly important for many merchants. Brand consistency and recognizing customers across channels are essential.

Payments are integral to a successful omnichannel strategy. They must embed within each channel and make transacting simple and frictionless. This includes the ability to accept a consumer’s preferred payment method.

According to Deloitte, one reason that people are checking their phones so often is the increased use of mobile for financial transactions. It’s important to start thinking about payment acceptance via mobile wallet. As commerce moves towards instantaneity the ultimate scenario of invisible payment removes any action on the consumer’s part. Some merchants are accepting automatic payment via mobile wallet without even one click.

The number of consumer payment channels and methods continues to grow. From wearables like smart watches and smart rings to social network Pin It/Pay It buttons, merchants should consider carefully how to increase their range of payment acceptance points.

James Ray

James Ray

James Ray is managing director of merchant services for J.P. Morgan.