In the digital era, payments providers are getting close to frictionless payments. But are frictionless payment transactions always a win for consumers?

The evolution to invisibility

While traditional payments will not disappear any time soon, respondents to our Accenture 2015 North America Digital Payments Survey expect to use them less and digital payments more in 2020. Consumers want digital payments solutions that are simple, personal and seamless—the less friction, the better.

Payments transactions are becoming less visible. Compare the physical act of exchanging cash, writing a check or swiping a card to automatic drafts, stored payments and device-initiated payments where the transaction happens out of sight, and for many consumers, out of mind too.

The downside of frictionless payments

Invisible payments transactions introduce convenience that consumers tell us they want. Yet there are also risks to consider.

First, invisible payments can make it difficult for consumers to spend responsibly or have a accurate sense of their true financial picture. Small purchases can add up fast when spending is unseen and silent.

There is also the issue of payments security. When transactions occur out of sight or without explicit authorization, fraud could become as invisible as the payments themselves are.

Striking the right balance

These issues have me wondering if payments providers should add some friction back in the process. Doing this well will depend on consumer data insight—and how banks use it.

As my colleagues at Fjord—the design and innovation unit within Accenture Interactive—remind us, earning consumers’ digital trust is critical. As organizations leverage invisible payments data, they must be mindful of handling it with care, offering services with manners.

Fjord Trends 2016: Services with Manners from Fjord.

Consider how payments players can design more “visible” invisible payments, and create better customer experiences in the process:

  • Spend tracking

Automated alerts pushed to mobile phones before purchases are made can help consumers stay in control of spending. However, if alerts are unwelcome or occur too often, they could become annoying. Aligning alerts with spending thresholds, as some providers are already doing, can provide useful insight without being overbearing.

  • Built-in security

Invisible payments can benefit from the same kind of fraud protections that consumers expect when they use their credit cards. This could be the requirement for quick, tap-and-go authorization for large payments. Or freezing payments until consumers verify that anomalies in spending habits come from their actions, not those of a fraudster.

  • Next-level personalization

By analyzing consumer data, payments players can offer personalized services. Insight into recurring payments, categories of spending and other trends could generate special offers from partners. Providers could also offer tools for consumers to drill into their own invisible payments data in the model of online personal money management services.

Learn more

There is no denying that we’ve entered the exciting but complex age of payments invisibility, and I’ll be watching how the evolution unfolds. For more insight, take a look at the following:

Fjord Trends 2016

Accenture 2015 North America Digital Payments Survey

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