Link By Stripe

This is about Link by Stripe, and how works to solve the problem of checkout friction by capturing certain customer information.

Let’s start by outlining the problem and then how Link goes about solving it.

If you are selling digital products, the only thing you need at checkout is the customer’s email address.

But if you are selling physical products then you have to ship them. So you need the customer’s address to ship the goods. There’s no way around this.

That slows down checkout. Or in the jargon of ecommerce, it causes checkout friction.

Checkout Friction

Checkout friction is bad for sellers because every customer has two trains running in opposite directions in their mind.

One train is shouting, Buy this thing.

The other train is heading in the opposite direction and coming up with every idea it can think of to stop the first train reaching its destination.

It’s shouting Hang on. Not so fast. I am going too fast. It’s saying:

I feel uncomfortable.
Do I really need this thing?
Can I afford it or is it too much money?
Can I get it cheaper elsewhere?
Is this the best product?
Should I just check it out a bit more?
Is this a reliable seller?
Will I regret this?

Etc, etc.

And that’s a customer who is already at the checkout.

So what is a seller to do?

Frictionless Checkout Is Great

Sellers cannot convince customers that a complicated checkout is a great experience.

Sellers can ease customers’ doubts about whether they are a reliable seller. They can do it with a fast, well designed site. They can show social proof from satisfied customers. And they can write thorough descriptions of the products. They can also have plainly visible contact details, and guarantees. They can also use a responsible tone in the writing.

But a seller can’t tell a customer it is a wonderful experience writing out their address at checkout. That’s true especially when that customer has visited a hundred sites to buy things. And now they have to write their details yet again.

If a customer thinks it’s a pain to fill in their address at checkout, then it is.

Do You Remember The ‘Fast’ App

Do you remember a couple of years ago that a company named Fast tried to speed up checkout? They invented an app that worked by customers filling in their details once, and then they didn’t need to fill in their details again on any other website using Fast.

Fast didn’t take off. There are reasons for it, including that it was complicated for sellers to set up, but the bottom line is that it failed.

In June last year I wrote It would maybe have helped Fast if it was a one-click installation, but it wasn’t. I wrote this about checkout Friction:

“…There are several ways to reduce friction. One is to already have the customer’s details, or rather, to have the checkout know the customer. Apple Pay and Google Pay know who you are when you are logged into your computer or phone. So they can speed you through the checkout. Then all the store owner has to know is what’s needed to implement one-click checkout.

Shopify has the Shop app that is similar to Fast. As soon as you buy anything from a Shopify store, the Shop app will recognise you in any other Shopify store.

The Fast app tried to do the same, and could be integrated with WooCommerce. But there is a big difference between Shopify and WooCommerce. All Shopify stores are run on Shopify’s servers. Therefore, what is known to one is known to all, because the checkout does not belong to the individual store, it belongs to Shopify.

That’s not the case with WooCommerce stores. which are usually set up on self-hosted sites. That means that all the sites (or a big proportion) would have to use Fast or Fast would not be ‘known’ to other sites. If a significant proportion do not take it up then it fails, to make checkout any faster, and doesn’t help checkout friction at all.

One-Click Installation

It would maybe have helped Fast if it was a one-click installation. It certainly wasn’t when I looked at it. As it was, it didn’t take off and the developer closed it down and published a farewell that included this paragraph:

Sometimes trailblazers don’t make it all the way to the mountain top. But even in those situations, they pave a way that all others will follow. Fast has done that with bringing one-click and headless checkout into the mainstream. Buying online has been forever changed by the incredible team at Fast. The dedication, brilliance and spirit of this remarkable team is unparalleled and will forever be the legacy of Fast.

Fast closed its doors because it didn’t achieve critical mass. That’s not to say another app couldn’t accomplish what it didn’t manage to do. Stripe backed Fast, and I wondered at the time why Stripe didn’t use a similar integration themselves. And they did.

Stripe Introduces Link

So fast forward to a few months ago and surprise surprise, Stripe introduced Link, which does most of what Fast did. Only this time Stripe built Link by Stripe to be activated by store owners with one click.

And today Stripe went further when it published this statement:

We’re writing to share upcoming changes to Link, which increases conversion for businesses and is included in your current Stripe Payment Element integration. Link expedites checkout for customers by saving payment details that can be used across hundreds of thousands of businesses on Stripe.

To encourage customers to try Link, we’ll pre-tick the box that lets your customers save their information. This will let them autofill their payment and shipping details for future purchases. These fields will be marked as optional and are not required to complete checkout. If they decide to not save their payment information, they can skip these fields or untick this box. They can also choose to delete their account at any time in the future.

So now Link by Stripe is a viable competitor to Shopify’s Shop and runs alongside Apple Pay and Google Pay. All of this reduces those most carefully guarded assets, the customers intent and the customer’s attention. In other words, cut down the time for the customer to change their mind.

And the big deal with Stripe is that it already powers thousands of stores.

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