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Holiday Tech: Helping Retailers Help Shoppers

New payment innovations and interactive shopping processes are not only making the hunt for the perfect present more fun; they’re making it fast.

Holiday Tech: Helping Retailers Help Shoppers

MasterCard is a technology company that has a long history of innovation. We pioneered the world’s first contactless and mobile payment solutions, and continue to bring to life safer, richer and more compelling shopping and payments experiences for consumers around the globe.

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This holiday season, shoppers have more options than ever for finding and buying gifts online and in-app quickly and securely. New payment innovations and interactive shopping processes – including those highlighted below — are not only making the hunt for the perfect present more fun; they’re making it fast. And that, says Sarah Quinlan, a MasterCard executive who helps retailers make better business decisions, leaves shoppers with the one thing that’s always in short supply during the holidays: time.

Helping Retailers Help Shoppers

One of the most promising developments for consumers over the past few years is the speed with which retailers can get nearly up-to-the-minute information on shopping trends. Instead of gambling on what they think shoppers might purchase, this helps businesses provide them with more of what they want, when they want it. SpendingPulse, developed by MasterCard Advisors — the company’s professional services arm — is a prime example of this new generation of highly accurate predictors. Far from being a mere forecasting tool, SpendingPulse provides retailers with spending trends across all payment forms ahead of government and industry sources.

That kind of timely feedback can, of course, transform shoppers’ experiences. “It’s important for any retailer to realize what people are actually spending on, so they can better position what they’re selling,” notes Quinlan, senior vice president at MasterCard Advisors. “This year,” she adds, “to a large degree, people are spending not on goods, but on experiences. In November, restaurants were the number-one area of spending. In October, it was lodging. Shoppers are saying, ‘I’m going to spend my money — my hard-earned money — on personal experiences with family and friends.”

One other recent insight from SpendingPulse, meanwhile, might well benefit shoppers even more: SpendingPulse suggests total retail sales could grow more than 5 percent for the entire holiday season. “We expect the holiday shopping season will be lengthened straight through the month, rather than focusing solely on one ‘make or break’ day,” Quinlan says, noting that the final days before Christmas, including “Super Saturday” – the last Saturday before the holiday – will see the most activity. Take that to heart, shoppers: The last week before Christmas might be a bit crazy, but this year, there’s a good chance that retailers will be more prepared than ever for the rush.

Speedy Checkouts

Online and in-app sales have been steadily growing, month over month and year over year, and services like MasterPass™ by MasterCard are likely to ensure that the trend continues. MasterPass, which securely stores consumers’ payment and shipping information — allowing for secure and seamless purchases, often with a single tap on a phone or tablet screen — helps shoppers speed through what has long been the sticking point in e-commerce sales: namely, the tedious checkout process. By some estimates, a full two-thirds of online purchases are abandoned before shoppers complete their payment, so this type of radically simplified, streamlined checkout experience benefits consumers and online vendors, alike.

Sometimes referred to as a “digital wallet,” MasterPass is in fact an indispensable, personal shopping assistant, QR scanner, and budgeting reminder (works with current debit or credit cards that allow shoppers to customize and set spending limits) all in one. Not a bad tool to have in-hand come holiday time.

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‘In-Context’ Shopping

Almost 26 percent of apparel shopping is now done online. Think about that for a moment: more than one in four pieces of clothing and accessories are e-commerce purchases. During the holidays, that percentage jumps even higher — which is exactly why “in-context” shopping is such an asset.

The brightest example of in-context shopping is ShopThis! with MasterPass, which MasterCard recently debuted with the Digital Edition of Allure magazine and allure.com. A shopper reading Allure on any digital platform — mobile or desktop — comes across an article featuring an item that, for example, she knows her sister would love. When she hits the ShopThis! button next to a featured item, a window will appear allowing the shopper to review the product details, choose their preferred color and size and purchase that item quickly and securely, without ever leaving that page. She can immediately purchase that gift for her sister (and other items, if she likes as the ShopThis! cart is persistent), and return, with a click or a tap, to the very article she was reading in the first place.

“No one wakes up in the morning and says, ‘I want to do a transaction today,'” MasterCard’s Quinlan points out. But with an engaging experience like the one ShopThis offers, a transaction is no longer a chore or an errand on a check-off list; instead, it’s cool, intuitive, and immediately gratifying. Isn’t that what shopping’s supposed to feel like?

This Holiday, Apple Pay

If there’s one, simple way to pay for gifts this season, it has to be the recently launched Apple Pay. Now accepted by hundreds of thousands of participating merchants, Apple Pay elegantly fulfills the promise of single-touch shopping.

And because no one wants to have to worry about whether a mobile payment is secure or not, Apple Pay features the sort of breakthrough technology that Apple is rightly famous for. Instead of revealing credit and debit card numbers when shopping, Apple Pay not only assigns a unique “Device Account Number” to process your payment every time you make a purchase, but also includes its Touch ID – a biometric authentication with your fingerprint, meaning Apple Pay is incredibly secure. That’s good news, because while the holidays are a time for sharing, some things are best kept private.

This article was authored by FastCo Works, Fast Company’s Content Studio.

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