Authentication: Unlocking seasonal sales


By Marie Austenaa, VP and head of personal data, GSMA

Love it or hate it, Black Friday is now undeniably a key moment in the UK shopping calendar. With some shops slashing prices by up to 50%, Black Friday and its cousin, Cyber Monday, mark the beginning of the Christmas shopping season as people flock to their favourite on and offline shops to seek out the ultimate bargain.

Unfortunately, many retailers are still struggling to convert the immense amount of web traffic, heralded by this weekend of retail therapy, into sales.

Despite their best efforts to remove friction at checkout, many are still falling at the last hurdle; shoppers ditching their baskets just before making a payment. The rate of shopping cart abandonment will reach a shocking 73.4% by the end of this year, according to research by Barilliance. The increase has been driven, in part, by the growth of mobile browsing and shopping. Mobile phones have an even higher rate of shopping cart abandonment at 77%.

Innovation outpacing progress

Retailers are doubling down on their mobile strategy, but innovation is outpacing progress. When Facebook launched Chatbots earlier this year, it provided a fantastic new opportunity for brands to interact directly with consumers. The immediate challenge for retailers was how to turn those conversations into transactions. Enter PayPal, which recently announced it will become one of the first payment options for Facebook Messenger.

These new services will fundamentally change the way we shop on our mobile phones. But the biggest problem for retailers still hasn’t been addressed. Consumers are looking for the simplest possible journey from browsing to purchase; the route that takes them the least amount of time, with the minimal amount of hassle. To combat shopping cart abandonment during the biggest sales period of the year, retailers must ensure they are making every effort to provide that fast, smooth service shoppers crave.

In the UK each person has, on average, 118 online accounts [Dashlane 2015]. Filling in the same long, repetitive forms with personal details is time consuming and frustrating, especially when using a mobile phone. Even when someone has already registered all their details with a website, remembering different username and password combinations presents its own challenges; 25% of British shoppers [Centrify 2014] admit to forgetting their passwords at least once a day. It’s no wonder that so many impulse purchases end up being cancelled at the last minute.

Simple, secure authentication

What customers need is a new way to verify their identity. They need a simple, secure authentication service that makes it easier to log in and faster to check out.

These services exist today. For example, Mobile Connect from the GSMA uses already-verified information that the individual originally provided to their operator when signing up to their mobile phone contract, such as their passport number or proof of address. The service then simply asks the customer to input a PIN or biometric, like a fingerprint, on their registered mobile device. If everything matches, the service can instantly confirm to the retailer that the shopper is who they claim to be. The process takes seconds, and removes the need for customers to fill in lengthy forms, or remember reams of login information.

In the run up to peak shopping periods, retailers must make sure they have the right services in place to cope with demand. Authentication is a key moment in the customer journey that can make or break a potential purchase.

By using a method like mobile authentication, retailers can save themselves from the doom and gloom of abandoned seasonal shopping baskets.

The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, uniting nearly 800 operators with more than 250 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers and Internet companies, as well as organisations in adjacent industry sectors.


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