How ISVs Can Create Effective, User-Friendly Unattended Payment Experiences That Convert

Blog 2022

Unattended payments have changed drastically in a short amount of time.

Ten or 15 years ago, vending machines were still the preeminent source of unattended experiences. But today, you can buy your meal at a cafeteria, high-end headphones and other tech at an airport, or even a new vehicle via unattended payments. That ubiquity isn’t going anywhere, either.

The unattended payments industry amounted to some $40 billion in 2021. By 2025, that will more than double to $100 billion, according to American Express. That means ISVs have to place priority on cultivating the best possible version of these buying experiences.

At Payroc, we know how to do exactly that. Here are the most important things ISVs should focus on.

Reduce Friction and Make the Unattended Experience Seamless

In this day and age of omnicommerce, consumers demand online, mobile, and unattended retail experiences that are just as familiar and painless to them as traditional offerings. The expectation is for a seamless transition from one to the other, and if a consumer’s experience isn’t good, odds are insurmountably high that they won’t be bringing their business back to that retailer.

John Clarke, Chief Experience Officer at Payroc, said the key is to prioritize user-friendliness.

“Consumers expect to be comfortable with unattended experiences,” he said. “They expect the experience they’ve come to know shopping online to be replicated in the physical, unattended environment.

“What you need to do is give them a frictionless experience. If you can do that, you succeed.”

Pay Attention to the More ‘Hostile’ Environment

Unattended payments come with more considerations, specifically because the environment lends itself to more challenges. Clarke characterized it as a more “hostile” setting in three main ways.

For one, the consumer is bound to be more hostile, given the circumstances.

“In the store, someone’s not going to kick the cash register during a bad experience when there’s a cash register operator there,” Clarke said. “Unattended, that’s a different story, because no one’s there.”

Another complicating factor is the literal environment. Many unattended payment experiences occur outdoors. Take car washes, for example. The natural conditions are more hostile — rain, sleet, snow, wind, etc. — but so are those rendered by the business — soap, suds, etc.

“These kinds of unattended payments often require a very robust hardware solution because of their situations,” Clarke said. “That’s another reason why it’s important to work with a payments vendor who offers a wide range of options.”

There’s also the challenge of providing support in unattended payment settings. If a consumer needs help at an unattended payment kiosk, there’s no one physically there to assist them. That makes the user-friendliness imperative, Clarke said.

“These aren’t point-of-sale systems that you train up your operators to work with,” Clarke said. “With unattended payments, you’re making your customer into an employee, so it has to be an immediately intuitive user interface that anybody of any age can instantly engage with.

“It all goes back to giving customers a good experience. If it’s a good one, they’ll come back again. But if it’s not, they probably won’t.”

Simplicity Is King

Unattended payments are one of those things where less is more — specifically when it comes to the number of actions needed to complete a transaction.

“Don’t overcomplicate it,” Clarke said. “Keep it simple. You need to be asking yourself, ‘What are the fewest steps we can have?’”

Even removing a single layer of the process can make a palpable difference. Clarke mentioned one soda vending client he and Payroc had worked with that removed the very first step from its process — the “Push to start” prompt on the machine’s touch screen.

The More Intuitive, The Better

One axiom in user design is, “Don’t make me think.” That should be a lodestar when crafting unattended buying experiences, Clarke said.

“Think of it like using your mobile phone,” he said. “When you launch a new app, you don’t think — you just know how to use it. You know to swipe from right to left to see the next page. You know to swipe from the bottom up to exit.

“Make use of existing intuitive design tropes — don’t try to come up with new conventions. If users have to think, you’re losing them.”

Use Data as User Feedback

The key to good user experience is leveraging the user. That doesn’t necessarily mean conducting surveys or focus groups, Clarke said. Oftentimes, that’s prohibitively difficult for ISVs, given the degrees of separation between them and end users.

But sales numbers can be just as informative, Clarke said.

“Do a before-and-after comparison on a device-by-device basis, so you’ll know it’s apples-to-apples,” he said. “If you had a point of sale that did 1,000 transactions in a month, then you upgraded to an unattended kiosk and it did 1,200 transactions a month, you’ll know it’s working and has resulted in a 20% increase.”

Cater to Mobile

One of the most significant trends in payments right now is the move to mobile. Consumers are increasingly comfortable with shopping experiences that allow them to pay with their mobile device. Many feel most secure with experiences that conduct the entire payment process on a customer’s device as opposed to Tap to Pay or other options that require payment hardware on the vendor side.

This is something ISVs should have top of mind, Clarke said.

“How can we get more transactions via mobile? That should be a key focus, because that’s where people are increasingly more comfortable,” he said. “Because of that, it’s really important to have a partner with an omnichannel solution, particularly one with a roadmap that supports this trend toward mobile.”

Unattended payments are only growing in presence, popularity, and priority. A recent study from PYMNTS found 84% of U.S. consumers have embraced unattended payments alternatives, while 66% prefer them over traditional, staffed points of sale.

The takeaways for ISVs are clear: Unattended payments must be one of your top focuses. This isn’t about preparing for the future — unattended payments are the present.

Are you working with a payments solution provider equipped to help you deliver user-friendly, converting unattended payments options for your clients that grow their business and yours? You could be, and you should be.