Retailers Get Help Pinpointing The ‘Sweet Spot’ For Suggesting Payment Options

  • March 16, 2020 at 7:55 AM EDT
  • By Adam Blair
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Online retailers want to make shopper journeys as friction-free as possible, and with some purchases, that can include offering payment option information even before the customer reaches the checkout page. But figuring out precisely when and how to start conversations about credit cards and payment schedules is a tricky proposition: Diving in too soon may derail a shopper’s journey, but waiting too long can lead to “sticker shock” and cart abandonment.

Finding the precise “sweet spot” that will keep the shopper moving toward a purchase is exactly the type of financial advice that Citi Retail Services excels at providing, according to Leslie McNamara, CMO of Citi Retail Services, which for 30 years has offered private label and co-branded credit cards for retailers along with a number of other financial offerings. “One of the most valuable services we offer is how to make credit relevant to the shopper journey,” said McNamara in an interview with Retail TouchPoints.

“The question of how to introduce the notion of payment is a very different experience online, where the journey is much more customer-directed than it is in the store,” McNamara explained. “With consultative sales, it can be good to offer credit options early in the sales cycle, but retailers are often concerned about interrupting the shopper journey by introducing too many ideas too early. But through heat mapping and examining how people look at web pages and where their eyes go, we’ve improved our understanding of this and reshaped the notion of credit in a retail environment.”

McNamara highlighted the unexpectedly powerful impact of payment estimators, which allow consumers to enter the price of the item they’re considering to get immediate answers about repayment timetable lengths and monthly payment amounts.

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“Customers, particularly online, want to be in control of that information, so payment estimators have completely revolutionized our business,” said McNamara. “Having this as an embedded link to the purchasing process, providing information on what this will cost you and what your payment options are, has turned out to be incredibly valuable.”

Delivering More Accurate Share-Of-Wallet Data

Retailers that offer private label credit cards managed by Citi gain access to other valuable data. Citi can combine SKU-level data from private label card-driven transactions with retailers’ files of how items are paid for to conduct a trend analysis. These analyses give retailers a more complete picture of their actual share of wallet.

“Say a customer is spending $500 per year at a retailer, and that retailer assumes this person is a loyal customer,” said McNamara. “That’s true, if this customer’s total spend in this category is only $600 per year. But for another person, they may be spending a total of $1,000 a year, so the first retailer is only getting a 50% share of wallet. We can identify these customers who aren’t as loyal, and alert retailers that they may need to invest more in those people.”

Citi’s deep data dives also can assist retailers in customer segmentation, acquisition and campaign planning. “With the use of very deep analytics, we can find people with attributes similar to these people, and overlay this data on a retailer’s shopper base,” said McNamara. “That helps the retailer find more potentially loyal customers. We can also help the retailer build a prospect model, so the retailer can look for customers that aren’t yet shopping in their stores at all. The ‘legs’ on this data grow really long.”

Early Warnings From Local And Global Sources

Citi’s role as a global financial institution intersects with Citi Retail Services, providing the company with “early indicators of trends, both positive and negative,” said McNamara. “The retail business is a canary in a coal mine, because it shows when people surge in spending and invest in certain things, as well as shifts in the way they’re approaching their lifestyles and the impact of generational spending changes. This provides us with a bellwether for organizations on how to react to market trends, and serves as a leading indicator for periods of financial stress.”

The benefits flow both ways, McNamara added: Working closely with the retail industry helps the corporate culture at Citi Retail Services. “We’re a bank, a highly regulated institution that will, in many ways, play it safe,” she said. “Retailers will push us to stretch and see things differently, to get a little outside of our comfort zone. By asking us to do more and be more exploratory, that creates a terrific partnership for us as well. The speed of retail is really different from the pace of banking, and attempting to match our pace to theirs makes us a better organization.”

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