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ARTICLE PaymentsJuly 21, 2014

The future of e-commerce payments

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Virtual currencies are making the headlines, but what does the future of payments really look like? SecurePay’s General Manager Nathan Brown shares his view of payment trends in Australia.

The number of payment options available to Australians is growing rapidly. In May this year, Bitcoin opened its first Bitcoin ATM in Melbourne’s new Emporium shopping centre. This came after Bitcoin rolled out two ATMs in Sydney. Bitcoin is a virtual currency, which are types of unregulated digital money that are issued and controlled by developers.

I think this means it’s a good time to look at what the growth in virtual currencies and new payment options mean for online retailers and their customers.

Performing a payments balancing act

I believe that anyone selling online needs to strike the delicate balance between allowing your customers to choose between a variety of payment methods and not overwhelming them with too many choices.

Research shows that more than 70 per cent of online shopping carts globally are abandoned. The reasons for cart abandonment vary widely, but with cart abandonment rates already being so high, you do not want to give your customer any reason to abandon their purchase at the last minute – either because you aren’t offering them their preferred payment option; the checkout process is not user-friendly; or because they simply feel swamped by the number of options being presented to them.

The top three payment options

In Australia, the minimum payment options that e-commerce businesses are recommended to offer their customers are MasterCard, Visa and PayPal. These are the three most established, widely used and trusted payment types. By not offering these, you run the risk of ignoring a huge portion of your market.

Expanding the choices

One payment option that we expect to see grow in Australia is China Union Pay. This is the preferred and most widely accepted payment card in China."

Nathan Brown, SecurePay

Once you have Visa, MasterCard and PayPal in place, you need to look at your particular industry and your own market. Do your customers also use other payment types? These could include American Express, Diners, JCB or direct debit. These are all widely accepted payment options, and some of them might be favoured by customers because, for instance, of the potential to earn loyalty points.

Introducing one or more of these options might allow you to expand and grow your market, which could be a real boost for your business.

Then again, your particular customers might not use any of these payment methods. So, you need to carefully asses your customer base and their payment needs and tailor your website accordingly.

China Union Pay

One payment option that we expect to see grow in Australia is China Union Pay. This is the preferred and most widely accepted payment card in China.

While you would be hard pressed to find a retailer in Australia who doesn’t accept Visa or MasterCard, or both, this is not the case in China, where if you venture outside of the major international hotels, it’s not uncommon to find these two cards aren’t the preferred payment option or not even among the payment options.

Tourism from China to Australia is tipped to continue to grow and more and more Chinese students are also opting to study in Australia.

This means we will be welcoming an increasing number of Chinese visitors to our shores, and it is likely that there will be more demand from them for China Union Pay. SecurePay’s parent, Australia Post, has an existing relationship with China Union Pay, and we are looking forward to broadening that relationship in the future.

E-wallets

E-wallets are another area of growth internationally. E-wallets allow online users to load value onto a virtual account and use this to make purchases online.

Major international technology companies are offering e-wallets, such as Amazon Payments and Google Wallet, to their users in selected countries.

The benefits of offering e-wallets are significant for these merchants – – not least of all because money is pre-loaded onto the e-wallet. For users, though, we are yet to see the real benefits of an e-wallet over a payment card.

In Australia, there isn’t any clear leader in this space, so we must wait to see how this plays out.

Virtual currencies

Virtual currencies are attracting a lot of attention, and Bitcoin, in particular, is experiencing a strong uptake internationally.

I absolutely see a time when Australians will be able to pay for many services and products using a virtual currency, but, like e-wallets, the question is who is going to be the leading domestic provider? It might be Bitcoin, or it might be another up-and-coming virtual currency.

I believe that there is a maximum number of payment options e-commerce merchants can reasonably offer their customers before they run the increased risk of cart abandonment. Most online retailers will say that the current demand from customers to pay with virtual currencies is very low and, where it does exist, it will only be in niche sectors.

SecurePay is, however, watching this space closely, and we will provide a variety of payment options so that our customers are able to offer the payment choices that best suit their needs.

Did you know?

SecurePay allows you to receive credit and debit card payments from a wide range of Australian banks, as well as Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club, JCB and direct debit. It also integrates with PayPal.

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