The holiday shopping season is here, and thanks to “Christmas Creep,” it’s getting longer. This year, merchants with a strong omnichannel shopping experience have a competitive advantage, with McKinsey’s holiday Consumer Pulse survey finding that:

  • Over 25% of consumers intend to shop online more
  • 85% of consumers intend to buy at least one item in-store
  • 12% of consumers plan to buy online and pickup in-store
  • 60% of consumers expect to do their pre-purchase research on retailer websites

The holidays mean increased volume and the need for streamlined, convenient checkout experiences. With that in mind, here are 14 ways your merchants can improve their in-store and online checkout options to provide customers with the best holiday shopping experience.

Improving the In-Store Checkout Experience

1. Checkout Customers in More Places

One of the biggest problems brick-and-mortar merchants face during holiday sales is checkout congestion. To minimize long lines, merchants can streamline the checkout process by enabling customers to pay in different parts of a store.

For instance, self-serve kiosks make it easy for customers to make purchases independently, while mobile point-of-sale (POS) terminals transform any counter into a checkout. Offering your merchants a variety of mobile payment solutions reduces holiday congestion and frees staff to focus on customers who need extra assistance.

2. Have a Reliable Contactless Option at Every Checkout

Over half of U.S. consumers use contactless payments like tap to pay and mobile wallets. These payment options are quick and convenient, minimizing the need to enter a PIN or hand a card to a store attendant. To meet customer expectations, enable your merchants to accept mobile wallet payments and offer tap-ready Europay, MasterCard and Visa (EMV) terminals wherever customers checkout. 

Because of higher seasonal traffic, terminals should be serviced and tested before each holiday sale. Ideally, backup terminals should also be available in case a central unit goes down. A malfunctioning payment pad can frustrate customers and slow down checkouts. To prevent delays and frustrations, ensure your merchants have the hardware they need ahead of holiday sales events.

3. Maximize the Number of Payment Options Available 

When customers are ready to pay, they should be able to pull out their preferred payment method, use it and move on. Allowing customers to check out in various ways, such as with their mobile phone or smartwatch, will boost sales and enhance the customer experience. 

At a minimum, ensure your merchants offer credit cards, debit cards and digital wallets like Google Pay and Apple Pay. However, the more options you provide, the better—especially for younger, digital-native consumers.

4. Use Scan & Go To Turn Customer Mobile Devices Into Point-of-Sales

Scan & Go technology uses Radio Frequency ID (RFID) or bar codes to enable customers to scan items and checkout with their cellphones, eliminating the need to go to a checkout area. In cases where products don’t carry scannable barcodes, like at the gas pump, merchants can employ QR codes to facilitate the same experience.

Merchants in the U.S. and U.K. increasingly view scan & go as critical to customer satisfaction. This technology is especially beneficial around the holidays when lines are at their longest and cashiers are stretched thin.

5. Offer Buy Now, Pay Later at the POS

Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) payments allow customers to pay for a purchase over time. BNPL purchases are generally divided into four zero-interest payments. The first is made at the counter, with the next three due in two-week intervals. BNPL is hugely popular among younger consumers who want more flexibility and control over their spending. With BNPL, they can manage their budgets and avoid credit card debt, which is especially important in times of economic uncertainty. 

Setting your merchant up with a BNPL provider is a great way to maximize customer satisfaction and enable shoppers to stretch their finances. However, it’s important to remind merchants that BNPL requires a soft credit check at the time of purchase, which can slow down the process.

6. Minimize POS Friction to Keep Things Moving

Some merchants use their point of sale systems to engage customers with additional offers, rewards signups, charity requests, email collection and more. While the POS can be a place to move customers towards additional actions, during the holidays, forcing customers to move through extra screens before payment can slow down lines and cause frustration. 

Regardless of where a customer is checking out, try to minimize the actions they must take to navigate the checkout process. This is especially true at self-serve kiosks since customers typically choose this checkout method for its speed.

7. Offer Robust Rewards (But Make it Quick)

The holidays are a great time to generate extra goodwill by offering rewards to loyal customers. Rewards bonuses and promotions encourage shoppers to spend more and incentivize return business long after the holidays. 

However, it’s essential to integrate customer loyalty programs into the checkout process as seamlessly as possible. This will ensure they don’t slow down the line or create friction for the customer. At-the-counter sign-ups for new customers should be fast and efficient while collecting points should be as quick as scanning a card or using a digital wallet.

Improving the Online Checkout Experience

1. Enable One-Click Checkout

eCommerce customers know and love the Amazon shopping experience, and one-click checkout is part of what makes it so great. If your merchants aren’t already offering one-click checkout, this holiday season is the time to start.

To adopt one-click checkout, your merchants must securely store card data so return customers do not have to re-enter payment information each time they shop. However, holding sensitive information requires merchants and their payment providers to meet strict security compliance. Thankfully, systems like NMI’s Customer Vault enable merchants to offer one-click checkout without the risks of storing card data themselves.

2. Ensure Guest Checkout Is Available

One-click checkout generally requires customers to log in — an extra step not everyone likes. Unfortunately, forcing a shopper to create an account often leads to frustration and churn. Instead, offering guest checkouts will minimize cart abandonment and maximize revenue from customers who prefer to make quick, one-time purchases.

3. Stress Test Systems Before the Holidays

Big holiday sales mean more traffic. While great for business, increased traffic can negatively impact a merchant’s site performance. Slow page loads frustrate shoppers and can hurt a seller’s perception of trustworthiness. Because of this, merchants must stress test their ecommerce systems to ensure they can handle an increased load. As a provider, the best thing you can do for your merchants on this front is to educate them on the impact of heavy traffic and help them prepare.

4. Optimize Checkouts for Mobile Transactions

60% of online shopping is done on mobile devices. Because of this, it’s crucial for your merchants to optimize their ecommerce checkouts for smartphones and tablets. That requires a responsive page design, a mobile-optimized payment gateway and support for digital wallets like Google Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. 

5. Emphasize Security

Security is crucial for everyone. Since increased sales volumes naturally lead to a greater risk of fraud, it’s essential to emphasize security during busy shopping months. To help mitigate threats, educate your merchants on cybersecurity best practices and offer advanced AI fraud detection tools like Kount

In addition to strengthening your security stack with AI-powered tools, encourage merchants to prominently display security badges and communicate safeguards to customers. This will help minimize cart abandonment and give shoppers peace of mind.

6. Take Advantage of Advanced Customer Data

eCommerce transactions generate an enormous amount of data. Advanced customer data, if used correctly, is the perfect tool to improve the checkout experience. Merchants can use data from past purchases to retarget customers. They can offer new products or deals to return customers based on past purchases or target first-time customers with cross-sells based on aggregate data. 

Amazon’s “For You” and “Customers Also Bought” features are great examples. These sections use sales records and behavioral data to offer personalized product suggestions. A shocking 35% of Amazon’s sales come from its recommendation engine, making it a multi-billion dollar asset.

7. Employ Automatic Data-Entry for Customer Validation

One simple but highly effective way to speed up online checkouts is to allow customers to auto-fill their personal and payment information to validate purchases. Validation tools suggest information based on what a customer starts to type. The customer can then simply click to complete the entire form. 

These tools also alert customers when the information they’ve entered doesn’t match what the system expects and offer a corrected version. This functionality mitigates potential shipping and payment errors and minimizes the chances a transaction will be red-flagged during verification on the processing side.

Partner With NMI To Offer Your Merchants One-Stop Omni-Channel Payments

With the holiday shopping season in full swing, you need a robust payment partner to power your merchants’ in-store and online checkouts. NMI’s modular payment platform allows your merchants to accept frictionless omnichannel payments and provide elevated shopping and checkout experiences. From an industry-best gateway and a marketplace of value-added services to hardware and beyond, NMI enables you to power all your merchants’ in-store, online, mobile and unattended sales.

To find out more, click here to contact a member of our team.

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