By Domenica Di Lieto, founder and CEO of Chinese planning and marketing consultancy, Emerging Communications. https://www.emergingcomms.com
To see what the future of consumer payment and CX will look like it is only necessary to look at China now, where cash is a thing of the past, and facial recognition is the most common payment mechanic.
Digital payment has become an essential element in China’s truly omni channel retail culture. There are two main payment platforms used. The WeChat social media financial account WeChat Pay, and app based payment platform Alipay. Both are used commonly to buy with a swipe of mobile phone against a QR code instore, at a vending machine, against print advertisements in magazines, and even outdoor media.
However, facial recognition payment is the most convenient payment method, it is very fast, and is accepted everywhere from taxi drivers, restaurants, shops to outdoor market stall traders. Voice payment has also been developed and is used in some outlets, but it is not widespread.
Credit cards are used rarely in China, and mostly for high value purchases. It is difficult to buy anything with cash. Debit cards are not used by anyone.
However, while China’s advanced payment options are frequently used for simple day to day transactions, they are also used widely as part of enhanced omni channel customer experiences that greatly improve customer service and convenience.
There is a tendency in the West to view Augmented Reality (AR) changing rooms and mirrors, robots for customer service, and other advanced consumer technology used in China, and think – how can we use it? Chinese companies ask, what do customers and prospective customers want now, next week, next month, next year? Only when they have answered these questions do they create customer journeys.
In China, it is also important for CX to be the core function of any company. For all departments to coalesce around it. Too often in the West, the marketing department has little contact with distribution, trade sales or HR. The on and offline departments frequently operate separately. The result is fragmented customer experience. We have all been on the receiving end of the disjoin between brand promise and delivery.
In China companies bring functions together in a single unified purpose. The goal is creation of CX that matches the storyboard consumers have created around their own lives. When technology is used as part of this philosophy the results are impressive.
For example, at the entrance to MAC Cosmetics bricks and mortar stores are screen scanners that allow customers to identify themselves using their ‘phones to display their MAC WeChat account ID. Once verified large screens either side of the entrance doors display a personalised welcome. This has great appeal for Chinese shoppers.
Once inside the shop there are there are augmented reality screens where customers can virtually try cosmetics, make up styles, and see suggestions from leading beauty social media influencers. Payment is made onscreen through WeChat Pay.
Customers can also personalise purchases via the instore 3D printer. This is a major attraction. Personalisation can be a key factor in making buying decisions, particularly for premium purchases. Personalised items can also be ordered and paid for seamlessly through WeChat Pay, and delivered to home.
Another cosmetics company, Marie Dalgar, provides a different customer experience. It has own brand unmanned beauty shops across China. The retail proposition combines self-service vending machines, robot shopping guides, augmented reality virtual mirrors for trying make up, and social media payment. At every customer visit, information is acquired and processed to enable personalised product recommendations instore. That information is also used in tailored marketing messages. Payment is taken through WeChat or Alipay, and purchases can be taken away or delivered to home.
The retail experience perfectly fits Marie Dalgar’s targeting of 18 to 24 year old students, and 25 to 35 year old white colour workers who want advice and quick service from a colour cosmetics brand that understands their lives, and responds to their aspirations and needs.
At KFC in China, Alipay and WeChat Pay allow customer facial recognition purchase, but this combines with KFC’s own face recognition system that automatically calls up customer’s previous choices, and collects and evaluates data to create tailored menus based on customer information. Once selection is made payment is taken in less than a second.
These examples are not unusual in China. Consumers would find nothing surprising about them, and it is not the technology that enables successful CX. Some of it is not particularly new. What makes it work is that everything is based on deep understanding of the customer, and focus is always on what the best journey is that attracts and keeps them as buyers.