Lily Varón, Principal Analyst

Show Notes:

From scanning your palm to pay for groceries to buying cappuccinos using rewards points, payment options have become more convenient and creative. And while it may be tempting to look for the next hot payment method to offer customers, brands and retailers should instead think about what customers really want when they make payments, Principal Analyst Lily Varón advises. This week on What It Means, Varón describes how payments have evolved and offers advice for building a payments strategy.

The episode starts with a quick overview of the payments landscape. The COVID-19 pandemic gave a boost to contactless payment methods — use of Apple Pay, for instance, has doubled since before the pandemic) — and gave rise to new payment methods, such as “buy now, pay later.” Meanwhile, rewards apps that enable customers to pay for products, place orders, and earn loyalty points (Varón highlights the Starbucks app as a good example) continue to gain traction. “We’re starting to see merchants and retailers and brands relying on payments experiences to build their digital strategy … and build a really sticky kind of customer relationship,” she says.

Of course, the success of these payment vehicles depends on trust in the form of a preloaded credit or debit card attached to a payment service (like Apple Pay) or app (like Starbucks or Uber). Many buyers are willing to grant that trust for convenience, Varón notes. In the future, she predicts, the act of paying will become even more convenient and less visible as biometric forms of payment, such as palm recognition, become more commonplace.

Later in the episode, the discussion turns to generational differences and similarities in payment preferences. Varón discusses Forrester data showing that while younger buyers (ages 18 to 25) are more inclined to trust a wider range of companies to provide payment services and to experiment with emerging commerce experiences (such as chat-based commerce) compared to older buyers, their reasons for using digital payments are similar.

“We assume that consumers are more passionate about their payment methods than they really are,” Varón says. “Their goal is to have that product or that experience, it’s not to pay for it. Check out [is just a] means to an end.”

The episode closes with Varón offering advice for retailers and brands in setting and evolving their payments strategy, so stay tuned for that.