Why online retailers must work hard to accommodate Generation Y customers

Merchants may be alienating valuable customers

The advent of internet shopping has made the world of commerce a much smaller place. Consumers can now shop without borders and order goods from all over the globe with minimal restrictions. This offers a huge opportunity for retailers to maximise sales and those that offer international services have the competitive edge over other merchants.

Generation Y in particular relies heavily on the internet and regularly uses it to shop. Older generations may be a bit wary of the risks of shopping online, with concerns such as: what if my money gets stolen? What if the product never arrives? How can I speak to a customer service department? On the other hand, younger people tend to be less cautious and are far more open to searching on multiple, unfamiliar sites for the best price on a new TV, or ordering a new phone case from China because it's so much cheaper.

Missed opportunities

However, retailers are missing out on a huge slab of potential customers from all around the world simply by not considering payments. In fact, research has shown that the payment process can be a major turn-off. Although the younger generation is more comfortable with inter-territory purchases – 67% of 18-24 year olds said they would happily order from an overseas market – a massive 64% of them fail to complete a transaction solely due to the payment process. In contrast to this, only 38% of the over 55s would purchase from overseas.

This shows that international retailers absolutely need to offer a variety of payment methods to young people in order to ensure they don't lose out on such a large portion of their potential overseas customer base.

It's key that Generation Y is being offered trusted and recognised payment methods when shopping online, especially when visiting international merchants. For example, if they are about to purchase a dress from a site in Hong Kong and they don't recognise any of the payment methods, they won't want to complete the transaction. Alternative payment methods resonate with the younger audience who are willing to shop internationally and will ensure the sale is finalised, rather than lost.

Payment technologies are also becoming increasingly sophisticated and as Generation Y is often considered digitally native, they will also be open to many alternative payment options, which older consumers may doubt and feel uncomfortable using. The easier it is for young people to shop, the more money they are likely to spend.

Social payments

Generation Y is also very socially active online. Therefore, additional payment methods through social media, including Facebook and Twitter, are providing new opportunities too, especially considering the huge reach of both sites. A Facebook payment service has enormous potential for success considering the size and spread of the network: 1.39 billion people are active on Facebook every month, including 1.19 billion via the mobile app.

Whether users will put their trust in these services when sending money though, remains to be seen – but it seems that the younger generation are more tech-savvy and will be more likely to trust this technology. Again, the specific payment methods per country will need to be considered here for international merchants.

This just scratches the surface of international payment issues. As you can see there are many factors that need to be considered – age, gender, location and payment preference are all just examples of these. Merchants need to properly consider the best way to make their payment systems accommodate their customer base – otherwise, there will only be a competitor offering the same product, with a more preferred payment method.