Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A quick point about buyer psychology

There are multiple things I need to worry about beyond just fire fighting, but the thing I keep getting back to is users' mindset and how we are impacted by it. It fascinates me to what extent and how much deeper we need to go in understanding customer psychology. I wrote in the past about how much easier it is for people to steal online because of anonymity and distance from actual face to face human contact; one of the folks here at Klarna equates this to an open cookie jar in an empty room. Would you take one?

Most people would. That's the amazing, oh-so-human day to day situation we need to work with. The difference from your usual eCommerce payments risk situation stems from the fact that instead of trading tokens of trust issued by other financial institutions (issuing banks in the case of credit cards, for example) we basically establish and sell trust between buyers and sellers on our own, based on our data and inference (more on how this impacts the multiple facets in a payments business - maybe in a future post). That's a very different ball game when not only is the customer's identity not a given, but their mere ability or willingness to pay could be in doubt.

So instead of focusing on identity verification given a credit card (with a sprinkle of repeat offenders and hackers on top) we must look at a broader spectrum of credit and abuse issues. And the question about the customer's current and future mental state (future being upon receiving the request to pay) determines our ability to approve a purchase no less than the question whether this is a real person or not. The levers we need to pull, then, expand beyond identifying bad guys. Can I instill financial responsibility in a first time buyer  through a well designed buying experience? Will the busy businesswoman forget about our payment request in her busy schedule?

The other interesting thing is that since Klarna owns the stack (we issue credit, acquire merchants, manage reminders to pay) I have many more touch points with the customer. That calls for more negotiation and, actually, relationship building that both sides are interested in (buyers keep coming back to Klarna-powered checkouts). That's a plus in many ways since I can control the buyer's experience and correct earlier mistakes, be them false positives or false negatives. But the question remains - and it's a complicated one - how do you impact the buyer's mental state within a very short sequence of clicks and without hurting conversion?

Have I mentioned that I love my job?

(BTW, we're hiring)