Customers are concerned about online payment changes

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Retailers say that imminent enforcement of the strong customer authentication (SCA) online payments regulation is the least of their post-pandemic worries — a stance that exposes a stark disconnect with the shoppers they plan to serve as the UK emerges from more than a year of COVID-19 restrictions, according to a survey of retail leaders published today.

When asked to list their top post-pandemic concern, only 12.8 per cent of retail professionals surveyed by Upwave on behalf of Signifyd named SCA. The European Economic Area regulation requires consumers to complete a robust, two-step identification process to make many online purchases.

That’s a marked contrast to consumers’ take on the regulation, which will be enforced in the UK starting in September. More than 46 per cent of consumers said in a companion poll that they were somewhat or very likely to give up on an order that involved the kind of two-factor authentication required by SCA.

Ranking above SCA on UK retailers’ worry list were the lingering effects of COVID-19, the fallout from Brexit and the financial health of their businesses, according to the survey of 250 decision-makers at retail enterprises across the region.

“Given the unprecedented flurry of challenges that brands and retailers have faced in the last year-plus, it’s likely that SCA and all it involves has appeared more theoretical and less urgent than the disruptions merchants were facing in real-time,” Signifyd managing director EMEA Ed Whitehead said. “But SCA enforcement is imminent and merchants selling online are going to want to be ready to maintain a seamless checkout experience. This is a completely manageable challenge, but it requires action.”

For the past 14 months, brands and retailers have been battling very immediate and tangible challenges — lockdowns and forced closures, supply chain disruptions, a dramatic shift from in-store to online shopping, new fulfilment and customs complications with Brexit and the literal existential threat that accompanied the collapse of brick-and-mortar shopping.

The retail survey was published as part of Signifyd’s data-rich report, “State of UK Commerce Report 2021: Redefining Experiences for a New Wave of Customers.” The report recounts the eCommerce boom of 2020 and examines the future of a retail digital transformation accelerated by the pandemic. Among the report’s findings:

Despite the pressures of the last year, retailers are optimistic — the plurality, 26.4 per cent, said their sales would grow between 21 per cent and 30 per cent this year. More than half said they expected sales to be up between 21 per cent and 40 per cent.

UK merchants are ready to spend to fuel their digital transformation. Significant numbers of respondents said for the post-pandemic era they’re investing more in advertising technology (40 per cent), eCommerce platforms (33.8 per cent), payment platforms (33.2 per cent), customer support platforms (28 per cent), and order review and fraud protection platforms (25.2 per cent).

UK retailers are doubling down on changes they made during the pandemic with 30 per cent expanding eCommerce this year, 66.8 per cent expanding click-and-collect in some form, 22 per cent boosting fraud protection and 18.8 per cent using video calls with customers more.

Nearly 83 per cent of consumer respondents intend to shop differently in the post-COVID world. About 48 per cent will continue to use click-and-collect more often and 56.6 per cent expect to keep doing more of their shopping online.

“I think the non-traditional takeover of traditional retail will not only continue but also accelerate,” Ollie Marshall, managing director of electronics retailer Maplin, said in the report. “Online retailers are no longer a minor competition to traditional retailers – now.”

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