Tag Archives: e-commerce

The Evolution of Frictionless Payments

Frictionless payments are essential for e-commerce platforms to reduce the barriers between online shopping and completed checkouts. The buying process needs to be easier for both the customer and the seller, because an enjoyable user experience leads to higher conversion rates and fewer abandoned shopping carts.

When done right, frictionless payments improve the checkout process by eliminating waiting times. It’s all about reducing barriers and the steps toward a completed sale. Ultimately, frictionless payments should feel like a natural part of the experience.

Understanding how frictionless payments have developed and reviewing the history of buying processes will help us understand how businesses will be able to continue their growth in the digital age. So, let’s explore the evolution of frictionless payments and predict how businesses will drive conversion rates and create better customer experiences.

1950: Debit and credit cards

The credit card was developed in the mid-twentieth century, but it wasn’t until 1973 that the card payments system was computerized. This frictionless payment reduced transaction times to just one minute and gave rise to the era of electronic consumer payments. Computerized payments would eventually allow for future online transactions, where e-commerce businesses could contact banks to finalize payments with ease. In 1994, Stanford Federal Credit Union in California was the first financial institution to offer online internet banking, leading the way for online transactions to begin in 1995.

1999: 1-Click

Bookseller-turned-global-conglomerate Amazon patented an online transaction process called “1-Click” in 1999. This allowed customers to buy products with just a click of a button. Items could be purchased at the product level, without adding to a shopping cart, meaning that customers could buy a product in a flash. Voila: no shopping cart abandonment. With 1-Click, personal details and your bank account details are stored online, along with your usual delivery address.

The patent has expired, meaning a flurry of businesses can now use this frictionless checkout method. Given the global average rate for shopping cart abandonment is 70%, skipping over the shopping cart means that e-commerce businesses can maximize their conversion rates through this simple process.

2003: Chip, pin and tap

In 2003, the introduction of chip and PIN in the U.K. allowed cards to store data in a small chip on the face of a card. This data could then be accessed using a four-digit PIN, authorizing the payment. The American conversion to chip and PIN was announced in 2012 and completed in 2015.

Not only did this process increase efficiencies for both customers and businesses by automatically authorizing payments rather than making a customer sign a receipt, but it also curated a secure form of payment. Only those with access to the card and the secret PIN could access the account. The advance demonstrates how frictionless transactions can be made easier, and, importantly, more secure at the checkout.

Contactless payments were introduced in 2007, making the checkout process even easier. Today, one in five card payments is contactless.

2011: The mobile revolution

As mobile phones became smaller, they became as much an essential accessory as a wallet or purse. They’re with us all the time. So it’s not surprising that these handheld devices have become ingrained in the checkout culture. Leading mobile manufacturers Google, Apple, Android and Samsung all launched digital wallets between 2011 and 2015, allowing users to complete transactions with them rather than use their debit or credit cards.

These transactions had the added security benefit of authorizing payments through a fingerprint or facial scan. Furthermore, these digital wallets could be used in-store or online, storing personal data to automatically fill in those arduous forms with personal details, delivery addresses and billing addresses. The innovation helps further speed up online sales and transactions.

See also: The B2B Digital Payment Opportunity

Now and the future…

As online transactions become easier and quicker on the customer side, some obstacles for businesses to achieve a completely frictionless payment remain. Businesses must ensure that they balance the risks and rewards that come with streamlining checkout and ensuring protection from fraud and abuse.

As the popularity of omnichannel sales, digital wallets and one-click buying continues to develop, innovative ways to maximize sales without being affected by fraud and abuse have been developed. Commerce protection platforms, such as Signifyd, drive automated decisions on all transactions, approving more good orders and recovering lost revenue from chargebacks. This streamlines the customer experience, limiting the need for authentication forms and processes. Overall, commerce protection platforms feel like a natural part of the checkout process, going unnoticed by customers, and they can increase conversion rates by 4% to 6%.

Frictionless payments will continue to improve, creating better customer experiences and improving business performance. As more sales move online, and transaction speeds and efficiencies increase, it’s important to tackle attempts at fraud and abuse. At every stage of the evolution of frictionless payment, new processes are helping to make every transaction safer and more worthwhile for customers and businesses.

Simplicity, Magic in Life Insurance Sales

Apple is known for great design, but it sells consumer electronics — not life insurance. Surely, there is more to user-experience design for complex industries such as insurance, right? The answer is yes. And no.

Yes, digital experiences in life insurance need to be different from the digital experience of buying a pair of shoes or some new AirPods. But not as different as one might think; in many ways, the mechanics are the same.

The main goal of digital commerce conversion is to get the user from point A to B, where B is some level of engagement. For a site devoted to selling shoes, the ultimate engagement is a transaction. We recognize this as e-commerce.

For a platform devoted to life insurance, there is more to the experience than the transaction (e.g. awareness, education, needs assessment, etc.), but the ultimate goal is still commerce — the sale of life insurance policies. While most life insurance carriers do not consider themselves to be engaged in e-commerce, the online experience plays a critical role in getting the user from point A to point B and ultimately to the transaction, even if it takes place offline.

Simply stated, everything we’ve learned about e-commerce experience and conversion also applies to the life insurance consumer — no matter where or how a policy is purchased.

Simplicity and Magic: Not Just for Consumer Products

Anyone who has purchased goods online with a single click — Amazon’s “Buy Now” button comes to mind — understands the power of “simplicity and magic.” All the complexity involved in the transaction is hidden in exchange for billing, shipping and payment information. With one click, a product you want is en route to your doorstep, often within 24 hours.

When you think about buying life insurance, “simple” and “magic” are not words that come to mind. Life insurance policies are serious products, so the buying experience needs to be serious, too. Life insurance marketers often assume that consumers want to see lots of hundred-dollar words and legalese in the fine print (even though it will never get read). They believe every page should have busy images that scream financial security and leave consumers overwhelmed and feeling out of their league.

Of course, this is not the experience any marketer is trying to create, but it’s not uncommon.

Complexity makes it hard to figure out where to start, whereas simplicity makes it easy to figure out what the next step is.

Imagine an insurance adviser who needs to generate qualified leads. She creates a Facebook ad with a needs analysis calculator to help consumers self-educate. Every time a potential client clicks on that calculator, a lead is created, and basic information is automatically captured.

As the prospect moves through the process, pages and forms update dynamically so information is only entered once and the questionnaire automatically updates based on answers previously provided. This may not sound very magical, but don’t you appreciate it when you don’t have to answer the same questions over and over to get the information you are looking for?

See also: Designing a New Employee Experience

More serious magic happens as the lead continues to click though the process. More information is captured, the lead is self-qualifying, and the adviser can access everything in real time through a simple dashboard that lets her know exactly what the next step is for each prospect. Moreover, the carrier is gaining valuable consumer insights and behavioral data to drive future decision-making. And all the adviser did was put a lure in the water; she didn’t need to do anything else – all the complexity happens on the back end, behind the scenes away from the customer and the adviser.

Good News | Bad News

The good news for insurers is that decades of prior design and customer-engagement learnings and best practices are available to us despite our not being in the business of selling consumer electronics. When it comes to moving a user from point A to point B, the best practices are proven, so we don’t have to start from scratch.

The bad news is that most teams don’t have a stable of customer-experience experts to draw from as design decisions are made. In fact, many times decisions affecting the customer experience are made without any concept of design principles, and, over time, this can result in a very messy experience… a button added here and there, opening a window here and there and so on.

Not a pretty picture.

This problem also extends to consumers of enterprise software and platforms. In the age of Netflix and Amazon, software that comes with a thick user manual is doomed before it’s been deployed. Today’s business users have high expectations for modern software based on their own consumer experiences, so you may want to think twice before designing two-days worth of training on your next new system.

Above All Else, Trust

Delivering simplicity and magic is the holy grail of great design, but there is another, equally important design consideration that must remain front and center, especially when designing for more complex industries: building trust.

Trust is built through consistent experiences, so one of the fastest ways to lose trust is to offer a confusing flow with new experiences at every stage. We know this from our own experiences with some e-commerce sites:

You find a product you want to purchase, and you click the “buy” button, only to land on another page that doesn’t look anything like the site you started on. You decide that you want the product enough to overlook the change in experience, until you go to pay and end up on yet another page that doesn’t look anything like the page you were on before that.

Instead of a straightforward purchase of a product you want, you are now faced with the choice to proceed or not…because an inconsistent experience erased your trust in the process.

As the e-commerce example outlines, first impressions are important, but consistency builds trust — and trust enables engagement/conversion. It’s much harder to get users to move from point A to point B if they don’t trust you. Moreover, if they don’t trust you, they are less likely to buy from you or recommend your products and services to others.

See also: Designing a Digital Insurance Ecosystem

Likewise, with B2B platforms and enterprise software, users are more productive when they know what to expect from an application and its UI. For example, office productivity tools such as Google Suites or Microsoft Office have many design elements that are consistent between tools. Once you understand how to do something in Google Docs, you can typically also do it in Google Sheets, for example. And when users master these tools, those skills are transferable from employer to employer.

This is also a great example of how consistency is often more important than differentiation. When building new user experiences, the urge to differentiate is strong, but consistency is critical. If you know how to search and play video on one streaming service, you can probably do it on a rival service. Imagine if you had to re-train every time you wanted to use a new service. And yet we typically expect enterprise users to do just this when we introduce new software.

Designing for trust is an integral part of my job: It’s top of mind as I make design decisions as a chief product officer developing technology solutions for life insurance. Sometimes, I find it useful to start with the understanding that my decision might be wrong, flawed in some way I haven’t figured out yet. It’s not that I don’t trust my design instincts. I do. But the process of proving that my decision was the right one often results in a better understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish.

Insurance in UAE Ready for Big Leap

The insurance industry in the UAE is relatively young. The oldest insurance company in the country is less than 50 years old. The Insurance Authority, the regulatory body, was established as recently as 2007 to protect the interest of consumers.

The industry is going through rapid change. By the end of this decade, personalized insurance covers will replace the one-size-fits-all products currently available. Most of this change is a result of the consumer shift toward digital channels.

E-commerce in the UAE is booming. It is currently at more than $16 billion a year and is expected to grow 23% annually for the next couple of years. This shift has opened the doors to digital distribution for the insurance companies.

Consequently, sales through the digital channel on web platforms run by brokers, insurers and aggregators are growing by leaps and bounds. In the UAE, about five years ago, online car insurance sales accounted for less that 1% of the total motor insurance. Today, the channel contributes about 5% to 7% of the motor insurance market.

In countries such as the U.S. and India, online platforms have already become a preferred channel for purchasing both life insurance and general insurance products. According to a PWC report, 47% preferred buying insurance through one or another digital mode in India.

The COVID acceleration

The COVID-19 pandemic is an inflection point for the insurance industry in several ways. It has put life and health insurance front and center in the minds of people all over the world. The pandemic has made digitization an almost necessary condition for survival for the insurance industry. With restrictions on travel and the fears associated with even intercity mobility, the online sales channel has become paramount for insurers.

As the UAE marches toward digitization, there are some speed breakers. Despite the adoption of insurtech, there is still the need for some amount of manual paperwork during insurance purchases. For example, medical tests and policy issuance still require offline paperwork. To become truly digital, insurers need to invest more in technology.

Bumps on the road

While internet penetration in UAE is among the highest in the world, the UAE has an insurance penetration of just 1.9%; average global penetration is 6.1%. The insurance industry in the UAE is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 4.2% between 2019 and 2024.

I believe that greater consumer awareness and tailored products could be the game-changers in the long term. In the shorter term, we need to accelerate digitization — in particular, in the post-transaction phase to allow for instant issuance of the policy.

Quickly building and marketing a strong digital infrastructure is a challenge faced by many distributors. As the industry grapples with this challenge, we also need to re-engineer our operations so they can be run remotely, free from the limitations of confined office space.

See also: 4 Post-COVID-19 Trends for Insurers

What the future holds

Once the changes and innovations become widespread among insurers and distributors, consumers will start benefitting immensely. New, improved and custom-made insurance products to suit the various consumer life stages and financial goals would provide optimum protection against the uncertainties of life. The whole process of buying insurance would shift to digital mode — from telemedical or video-based medicals examinations to digital fulfillment processes. Premiums will go down thanks to cost-efficient distribution channels.

As the industry moves toward an automated, technology-based marketplace, a plethora of opportunities will arise for progressive insurers and distributors to gain market share. The industry would have more data to assess and analyze individual risk factors, while distributors will have more efficient means to communicate with customers. The insurance industry in general will be able to provide a vastly superior consumer experience.

6 Lessons in Trust From Retailers

When it comes to digital transformation, the insurance industry lags woefully behind other industries, and it is not just a question of technology. Even as the industry advances technologically, developing digital capabilities that rival other industries–from chatbots to IoT–selling insurance direct to consumers (DTC) has proved a difficult code to crack. Even Geico, the darling of online auto insurance sales, still closes the majority of its new policies on the phone, via an agent.

The retail ecommerce industry on the other hand has proven to us that there are very few things consumers are not willing to purchase on the internet. From buying groceries to booking airline tickets, consumers are comfortable conducting all kinds of transactions online, from the very simple to the most complex. Every day, millions of people even do their banking online. So what is the deal with insurance?

At Cake & Arrow, we have conducted hours upon hours of primary research in the insurance industry, talking to hundreds of consumers, carriers, agents and brokers in an effort to help our insurance clients answer this question and, in turn design better products and experiences. Throughout this process, we have learned a lot about how customers think and feel about insurance, perhaps our most lasting insight being a lesson about trust. The main reason consumers don’t want to buy insurance online directly through a carrier? They don’t trust insurance companies. This is why, even in the golden age of digital commerce, consumers continue to opt to purchase insurance through brokers and agents.

On the surface, fixing this problem may seem simple. All carriers need to do is to gain the trust of their customers, right? Easier said than done. While earning trust may seem like a simple enough idea, it is an issue most carriers don’t even know how to begin to tackle.

In my experience, when you want to learn to do something well, the best thing to do is to emulate an expert. In the case of consumer trust, it’s the retail e-commerce industry that has, over the past two decades, mastered the art of consumer trust. Each and every day, millions of transactions happen online, and most consumers don’t think twice about ordering their groceries, electronics, clothing, books and everything in between over the internet. This hasn’t always been the case! Gaining the trust of consumers has been a hard-won battle, and those who have done it well (Amazon) are ruling the industry. If imitation is the highest form of flattery, what lessons can the insurance industry learn from the retail industry that can help them foster trust with consumers and drive a truly digital offering?

1. Establish consistent workflows.

The retail industry has the benefit of a consistent process across products, stores and platforms. For the most part, everyone basically understands the standard steps in a checkout flow. Select your product, fill in your shipping and billing information and purchase. And while there are of course optimizations that can be made to make an experience better, in general, consumers know exactly what to expect when purchasing a product online.

The same cannot be said for insurance. Unlike a book or an item of clothing, insurance is not a static product sitting in a warehouse with a price tag. Insurance products are complex. Coverage and prices are variable based upon any number of risk factors, and complex underwriting rules and changing regulations can make it difficult for consumers to understand what exactly they are buying and how it is priced.

This leads to confusion in the process of quoting and buying insurance and to a lack of standardized practices across the board. From a user experience (UX) and design perspective, one of the first steps the industry can take toward gaining consumer trust is to simplify and standardize the quoting process so that consumers know what to expect when buying insurance online and understand each step of the process.

And while underwriting rules and regulations will need to be streamlined to establish an effective industry standard, insurance companies can start by being more transparent with users about what to expect in the quoting process, including informing users about how their personal information is being used. This will help customers better understand the quoting process, feel more comfortable dispensing with personal information and give them general confidence in the process by establishing clear expectations.

See also: Top 10 Insurtech Trends for 2018  

2. Invest in quality visual design.

Over the past two decades, we’ve seen retail ecommerce design evolve, following a general trend toward customer-centricity. Flash sites, cluttered home pages and flashy fonts have given way to clean, simple designs that streamline the shopping process, communicate the brand and are organized around customer needs, interests and behaviors.

The insurance industry needs to follow a similar path, leveraging user-validated design to create trust with customers. A modern, usable, well-designed website is a signal of legitimacy. It tells customers that a real company is behind a product, and this company cares enough about its customers to invest in the experience.

A strong visual design that implements best practices removes that cloud of doubt in the mind of a customer and builds confidence and pride in the end product. In the same way that a strong brand is a promise of quality, a great visual design is an early demonstration that a carrier cares enough about a customer to invest in a quality digital experience that will translate into a quality product.

3. Implement a killer content strategy.

Content strategy is just for news sites, magazines and blogs, right? Wrong. Content is an important piece of the sales process. For our retail clients, we have learned that crafting and executing a killer content strategy is critical to helping customers learn about a product, understand occasions for using products and gain insight into the actual value of a product. Effective education about products and services demonstrates a company’s willingness to keep its customers informed. And the more a customer feels he understands what a company does and what its products are about, the more he will trust it.

While we often see short marketing messages on insurance carriers’ sites, few insurance companies invest in content on their website to help explain to their customers the value of a product or the differences between products, and to educate them on when and where to use the product so they feel empowered when making purchasing decisions. Educational and informative recommendations will help insurance companies establish a rapport with consumers as a trusted adviser. Companies must even be willing to tell customers when a product isn’t right for them and demonstrate that they care about more than a sale, but about helping their customers make informed decisions that benefit them. A killer content strategy will help insurance companies do this effectively.

4. Enable the right level of customization.

The best retail experiences allow for just the right amount of customization. When buying clothing online, for instance, we can choose colors and sizes and have a choice of different delivery options. Subscription services like Trunk Club allow shoppers to input information about personal style preferences, including color and pattern preferences, set price points and decide on frequency to receive a custom selection of clothing recommendations when, where and however often they desire. This kind of customization breeds customer loyalty and, like a good content strategy, can help customers being to think of a company as a trusted adviser with their best interests in mind.

Insurance companies should explore enabling similar types of customization. While easy packages are just that–easy–they don’t drive stickiness with customers. Giving customers the ability to modify and tweak plans according to their unique needs and circumstances will drive a connection between a customer and a product. In the same way that these types of customizations breed loyalty in retail e-commerce customers, giving customers more control over choosing the kind of coverage they need at a price they can afford is a powerful way of building loyalty and competing with other carriers on something other than price.

And while enabling customization is important, it is really critical that companies don’t take things too far, allowing customers too much customization and, in the process, sacrificing the experience. In speaking recently with a carrier, I learned of a story of customization gone wrong. The carrier’s data showed that customers who were able to customize a package were more likely to purchase a policy. Emboldened by this piece of data, they created a new quoting page that allowed customers to customize every aspect of their policy. Lacking the qualitative info on how and why people were more likely to convert when customization was enabled and without user testing on the new custom design, they missed some essential information. Allowing their customers to customize everything about their policy made the experience overwhelming, and conversions ended up falling off significantly.

I tell this story as a reminder to companies that testing and validating every design decision with users is critical–and one of the reasons the e-commerce industry has been so successful at digital.

5. Play around with promotions.

Promotions are one of the most reliable and time-honored means of staying competitive for retailers. Promotions can make or break a business. Free shipping on big orders, Black Friday sales and BOGO (buy-one-get-one) offers are all commonplace in the retail e-commerce industry, and are incredibly effective at creating consumer loyalty and trust.

While, in the insurance industry, it is nearly impossible to offer dynamic pricing or let customers actually play with coverages to get a fully custom price due to regulations, discounting isn’t something to be overlooked. Bundling is a real thing, and customers are more likely to purchase a policy if they see a real deal–and understand its benefits.

For example, I’ve seen many insurers combine rental insurance with auto insurance at a discounted price. When customers see deals like this, they oftentimes don’t understand the full benefits of the deal. For example, they may not know that rental insurance protects not only their property but also against liability and, considering the coverage, is incredibly affordable. Developing a robust content strategy to better inform customers about deals and the benefits of coverage will not only increase sales and stickiness, but help customers begin to truly appreciate the value their insurance company is bringing to their lives.

6. Leverage user-generated content.

When shopping online and in store, we have come to rely on ratings and reviews to help us evaluate products and make purchasing decisions. User-generated content, such as Instagram posts of real customers wearing clothing or jewelry, can help us see how a dress might fit a certain body type or how a piece of jewelry looks in context. This level of transparency sends customers a clear message that as a company you have nothing to hide–further inspiring trust.

See also: Sharing Economy: The Concept of Trust  

Just like in retail, user-generated content can be integrated into your content strategy and can do the work of educating customers about your products–explaining the difference between certain coverage offers, for example, or why as a carrier you stand out from other companies offering similar products.

Real content generated by other customers helps customers understand how a certain policy works–what the service is like, what the claims process is like, what kinds of scenarios are covered. It can be scary to leave your company and offering open to negative user feedback, but, if you are doing your job, it will end up being more useful than it is harmful.

Insurance companies still face many hurdles to getting consumers to trust them and to earning the kind of rapport with customers that the retail industry has established over the years. Anything short of a truly standardized process across all carriers and products will continue to cause confusion and suspicion among customers. But there is nothing stopping insurance carriers from taking strategic steps toward customer-centricity, emulating more mature industries like retail e-commerce that have done it well.

This article first appeared on the Cake & Arrow website, here.

‘Smart’ Is Everywhere, but…

The connected world is here. Everything is “smart.” And for insurers, the implications are huge. Whatever you insure can now be connected, monitored and analyzed. People, places and things, moving or stationary, living or non-living—are all becoming smart. Think that is an exaggeration? Consider the following products announced or displayed at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2016, just a few of the thousands of smart products:

  • Smart air vents to monitor and adjust temperature in each room, detect for early signs of mold, etc.
  • Smart drinking glasses to monitor hydration and caffeine intake
  • Neuro-stimulation devices to block chronic pain or alter moods
  • Smart appliances that manage energy efficiency, anticipate failures, conduct e-commerce, etc.
  • Wearable patches to monitor UV rays, toxic exposure and biometrics
  • In-car cameras that monitor a driver’s pupils for signs of stress

Add to that list smart belts, umbrellas and smoke alarms among many other things, and it’s difficult to find anything that doesn’t have a “smart version” today. And it’s all pretty exciting stuff. But here’s the rub—in many cases, the technology is way ahead of the desire and ability of consumers and businesses to use it. A few important considerations emerged as central themes at CES:

  1. Value propositions need more work. Many of the products at CES were narrow-use, high-priced items that work in isolation.
  2. Customer experience is still king. Products must be easy to install, easy to use and engaging. Progress is certainly being made here, especially among wearables, but some of the smart home and car products need to take the experience to the next level to get beyond the early adopters.
  3. Platforms and standards progress are required. Competing platforms for smart home hubs, connected car capabilities, intelligent infrastructure and other areas may impede adoption. The competitive environment is healthy, but widespread adoption will require more interoperability standards and a shakeout of players.
  4. New ecosystems and partnerships are rapidly evolving. Industry boundaries are disappearing, and new industries are emerging. Success in the connected world will require active involvement in various ecosystems as well as a flexible partnering strategy.
  5. Analytics and cognitive computing will be the differentiators. Embedding chips, sensors and devices into everything is creating vast oceans of data. The value will increasingly be based, not on owning proprietary data, but on the ability to gain actionable insights. Cognitive computing goes even further by automating real-time learning, reasoning and recommendations.

These five considerations along with other factors will affect adoption rates and opportunities for businesses and consumers. But it would be a mistake to conclude that there are too many complications or barriers to progress. In fact, the opposite is true. Advances are being made at breakneck speed, and barriers are being knocked down on a regular basis. If anything, this means that insurers need to be even more diligent and aggressive in shaping the future.

So, innovate to create new value propositions. Seize opportunities to transform the customer experience. Weigh in at relevant standards and platform discussions. Join new ecosystems and seek partnerships with unconventional allies. And build up your enterprise analytics expertise and capabilities.

The digital, connected world is here. If you want your company to thrive in this new era, you must jump in with both feet. The possibilities are endless, but you must play a role in shaping and capitalizing on them.