I am intrigued by last week's announcement from UK payment processor VocaLink and Australian financial software vendor eWise that they are collaborating to build an online banking transfer payment system for the UK. Online banking transfer systems make it (fairly) easy for online shoppers to authorize payments through online banking by integrating the payment details into their bank's secure online banking site. The customer is routed directly from the merchant's site to the bank to authorize the payment and back again.
In the Netherlands, the iDEAL online banking transfer system has been highly successful. It's now used by some 10 million Dutch online shoppers for about 5 million transactions a month. But the UK's online shopping market is different to the Dutch one in a couple of important ways. Firstly, debit cards can be used to pay online in the UK. Since almost all adults have a debit card, paying online is not a big problem in the UK, unlike many other European markets. Secondly, UK Net users have always been relatively complacent about online security compared with other Europeans. That means that one of the primary attributes of an online banking transfer system -- more robust security -- may not cut that much ice with British online shoppers.
Forrester has long argued that any new payment system needs to overcome three hurdles to succeed: providing a clear improvement over the existing alternatives, driving consumer and merchant adoption, and developing a viable business model for all parties.
I've been analyzing consumer technology uptake for years — helping retailers, for example, understand the barriers to and drivers of online buying behavior. Forrester's Technographics® research shows that preferred online payment methods differ greatly between countries, and companies need to understand this complexity of payment options and how that affects consumer behavior.
Unlike in North America, where the top payment methods tend to be similar in the countries surveyed (the US and Canada), the payment preferences of online buyers in Europe differ both between countries and from their North American counterparts. For example, the popularity of prepaid cards is unique to Italy: Roughly a third of Italian online users have taken advantage of prepaid cards. Global organizations need this detailed understanding of consumer payment preferences across markets in order to be successful internationally.