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Check-out Free Shopping from Amazon and Tech-enabled Rent to Buy – Will Consumer Finance Step-up in 2017?

December 13, 2016 | Cheryl Cross

To win and retain customers, retailers and providers of consumer credit compete to offer a hassle-free customer experience. This means efficient checkout processes from retailers and fast and efficient risk decision as part of smooth and simple credit and lending processes from consumer finance providers.

The Big Spend

The festive spending spree is now in full swing and there could be optimistic signs for retailers and lenders. US consumer credit increased at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 7 percent during the third quarter while consumer spending on credit is on the up in the UK. Kicking off the holiday spend, retailers enjoyed a bumper Black Friday with over $3 billion spent in the US and Barclaycard reporting record UK transactions on the day of the annual shopping bonanza.

Tapping into this rich stream of consumer spending confidence is competitive business. To stand out in the crowd, retailers and credit providers strive for ease and simplicity.

Hassle-free Checkout

For some bricks-and-mortar retailers, efficient checkout means  matching the speed and simplicity of the online shopping experience. Amazon recently announced a ground-breaking checkout-free grocery store. With Amazon Go – which is expected to open to the general public early next year – logged-in customers literally take goods off the shelves and then just leave. Amazon identifies the technology it is deploying to achieve this wait-free experience as ‘computer vision and machine learning’ with customers’ accounts being automatically charged after they’ve left the store.

Meanwhile, Swedish payments provider Klarna streamlines the process by paying the merchant at the point of transaction while the in-store shopper can decide whether to settle up immediately with Klarna or pay later. In both cases, the transaction risk is taken by Klarna having weighed up over 200 data variables to assess the consumer’s creditworthiness.

Simple Rent to Buy

For customers preferring to spread the cost of goods such as appliances and electronics, the application and approvals process for finance needs to be efficient and quick. This is especially the case at high-pressure shopping times such as the run up to Christmas. Take the traditional lease purchase agreement, which was a very manual, paper-based affair.  To meet customer expectations while effectively managing risk, rent-to-own companies like Rent-A-Center are investing in technology to help them deliver smooth and simple processes and stay competitive.

Stepping Up in 2017

Keeping up with the demands of impatient customers has challenged retailers and lenders through 2016. There is unlikely to be any let-up in this demand for a hassle-free customer experience next year, meaning more opportunities and challenges to win and retain customers.