Amazon Pay’s Gauthier: No One Can Predict Retail’s Future, So Innovate Around What Won’t Change

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Consumers are living in stressful times, and Patrick Gauthier, vice president at Amazon Pay, told PYMNTS in a recent interview that merchants working to prepare for retail’s new normal should start by addressing that.

Consumers, he noted, are experiencing stress in ways they actually never have before due to the pandemic changes being made to their lives. Gauthier said studies show that consumers have what’s called a “decision-making budget” — how much energy they can put toward making decisions — but COVID-19 is pushing that to the limit.

“We are able to apportion this decision-making budget to the big choices in our life: ‘Should I refinance my house? Should I buy this car?'” he said.

But nowadays, “every decision that we make — ‘Should I go to the grocery store or should I order my groceries online and then pick them up from the curb? Should I send my kids to school or not? Should I leverage the online capabilities?’ — taxes that budget,” Gauthier said. “Lots of everyday decisions are fraught with neurological demand. And that is where a lot of stress is created.”

He said retailers and service providers need to address such anxieties as they sketch out their digital and omnicommerce strategies and think about what new tech to put in place. They need to leverage digital tools and experiences to reduce customers’ stress by removing friction and building trust.

“My encouragement to any retailer is to think of: ‘What are the experiences where digital will create less friction, including omnichannel experiences that can be used throughout the journey of the customer to really reduce the tension and the anxiety and create a safe space?'” Gauthier said.

As long as retailers focus on creating such safe spaces, he said, “the future is bright.”

Building Up The Trust Fund

In the new pandemic-shaped world in which most, if not all, consumer decisions are made with a health-first lens, (which Webster calls “pandenomics”), building a robust, trusted relationship between merchant and customer isn’t an option, but a necessity.

“Trust is the foundation on which commerce is built, because without trust, there’s all sorts of breakdown in the relationship between the merchant and the buyer,” Gauthier said.

He added that trust is a function of the experience customers have had with a given merchant in the past. If goods or services consistently arrive on time and as expected, the customer comes to trust the merchant.

Research can even quantify the value of trust to merchants, Gauthier said, noting Amazon research has found that across consumer demographics, security and trust tend to hold more value than either pricing or selection.

In fact, 85 percent of consumers that Amazon polled rated trust and security as “somewhat” or “very” important in their buying decisions. Additionally, 70 percent said they’d switch away from a seller following an experience that’s disappointing, unpredictable or untrustworthy.

But Gauthier said the tricky part about trust for retailers heading online is how to maintain it when they move beyond a local customer base who may know them, to a new to digital audience, or one that’s national or even international. Along with the tremendous opportunity for sales growth, the challenge is making that first sale happen, he said.

PYMNTS new research on building trust in a digital world says visual and social cues are important. Nearly 70 percent (68 percent) of millennial and bridge millennial consumers and 63 percent of Gen X consumers say reviews, recommendations and familiar checkout options give them confidence that a new-to-them merchant is worth getting their business. Gauthier said Amazon Pay on merchant websites provides that sense of trust and assurance, trust that has been built over the years of checking out on

“The Amazon Pay button means: ‘You are protected against fraud and malfeasance, just like you are on Amazon,'” Gauthier said. “We use the same tools, and we also export the guarantees.”

That frame of reference, and framework, helps the consumer to be more confident in the experience of shopping with any retailer that accepts Amazon Pay, he explained.

“If you solve a customer problem, good things happen to all parties involved,” he said. “In this case, we are solving a customer problem [of]: ‘How do I feel safe in a world that is otherwise feeling very uncertain?'”

Preparing For Change By Building For What’s Constant

Many market watchers believe the digital world has moved forward by about 10 years in the past six months, leaving everyone wondering what the next normal will look like. How many changes are permanent shifts vs. temporary adjustments? What’s going to change next?

Gautier said predicting changes that are still developing is nearly impossible, so Amazon is content to navigate around “things that are true today and will remain true” whenever the pandemic comes to an end.

He said that breaks down into three main ideas:

First, in a world that’s dramatically more digitized, it will be important to find more ways for merchants and shoppers to connect to each other.

Second, multichannel commerce isn’t a niche or temporary feature, it’s here to stay, and the goal is to develop multichannel further to better meet consumers’ needs. “Multichannel did not start at the beginning of the pandemic — the pandemic has just shown customers that there are new ways to do more with new touchpoints,” Gauthier said. “And we anticipate that a multichannel is going to be the lingua franca of retail moving forward.”

Lastly, the only constant in the retail world moving forward will be constant change. More transactions will be touchless and voice-driven, and commerce journeys will hopscotch across channels in ways we’re just starting to see emerge and are advancing in ways we can’t yet predict.

Gauthier said that means the only thing retailers can do is be ready to adapt. “It’s like Darwin said: The ones that die will be the ones that don’t have the ability to adapt,'” he said.

“What businesses are seeing now is the importance of being highly adaptable, and that with the introduction of digital, they have the capacity to access innovation, maybe in ways they hadn’t thought before,” Gauthier said. “And we see it as one of our responsibilities to bring those innovations to our merchants.”

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