Mastercard’s Digital Wellness Suite: Curing What Ails Digital Checkout

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For online commerce, the Holy Grail looks a lot like … brick-and-mortar shopping — at least, when it comes to checking out and paying.

That’s because, at the (tangible) store, payment credentials of all stripes are accepted with ease, spanning cash, debit cards, credit cards and mobile wallets — tapped to pay at any merchant just about anywhere in the world. Security? Well, that is leagues better than it once was, with the advent of chip card rollouts that began years ago.

Digital commerce, by way of contrast, is filled with friction, with checkouts that require data fields to be filled, card numbers to be entered and security questions to be answered. Of course, where there’s friction, there’s frustration, and where there’s frustration, there’s shopping cart abandonment.

To that end, Mastercard said today (June 7) that it has launched the Mastercard Digital Wellness program, which bundles a range of services and security features that seek to help firms of all sizes serve digital customers by eliminating passwords, and making checkout more consistent, ubiquitous and secure. Jess Turner, executive vice president of digital payments and labs for North America at Mastercard, told Karen Webster that the Digital Wellness program brings together a suite of offerings that had already been available, including tools to educate merchants to combat phishing attacks and authenticate consumers.

Digital Wellness, as a unified artificial intelligence (AI) and technology suite, she explained, helps “small businesses and independent merchants, in general, have assets that larger merchants have today.” That’s important, she said, in an eCommerce arena where consumers are used to the relative ease of the checkout experience on offer from these larger firms, and where the digital experience from smaller players is inconsistent.

Mastercard said in a release, announcing the launch of Digital Wellness, that it is deploying the EMVCo standard to streamline — and inject uniformity into — the checkout experience across all manner of digital commerce, regardless of the card or device chosen by the end consumer. As has been reported, Mastercard, along with Visa, had announced the standardization of the eCommerce checkout process last year, based on the Secure Remote Commerce (SRC) standard proposed by EMVCo in late 2017, which promotes interoperable and secure payments flow.

Merchants that adopt the “click to pay” standard with Mastercard access via the Digital Wellness program will experience what Turner described as an added layer of security, delivered through both tokenization and Mastercard’s NuData technology.

NuData uses AI and machine learning technology to combat fraud by monitoring online activity across web browsers and pages, pinpointing suspicious activity. Turner explained that the tokenization and NuData features can be used for streamlined guest checkout sales, and for card-on-file business. During the 2018 holiday season, NuData helped businesses globally to identify more than 1 billion irregular digital activities, and, as Mastercard estimated, stopped 99 percent of those fraudulent attacks, saving these businesses over $500 million.

This latest move by Mastercard with Digital Wellness comes against an eCommerce backdrop where, as Deloitte estimated in a study on small businesses in the U.S., enterprises defined as being more “digitally advanced” are four times more likely to notch top-line growth. The read across? Those firms that are less-than-digitally advanced lose out on top-line torque.

The Overarching Theme

Turner said the program — rolling out in the third and fourth quarters to merchants and cardholders via acquirers and payment service providers — pairs Mastercard with a roster of payment processors, including Worldpay, Adyen and others. That ubiquity of the checkout experience, as Webster and Turner noted, takes its cue from shopping in physical stores, where payments are a frictionless and consistent part of the shopping continuum.

By leveraging the Digital Wellness program, with guest checkout as an example, Turner said merchants get identifiers through SRC that can easily attach the card token, post-checkout, to any account that the consumer may decide to establish with that merchant. The program does not seek to replace card-on-file, but does seek to make guest checkout easier.

Through the use of the EMVCo click-to-pay specification, consumers wielding Mastercard credentials do not have to enter passwords when they pay online — which, of course, eliminates much of the friction at checkout.

Enhancing Security, Too

As always, online merchants forever walk a tightrope of security and frictionless commerce.

“Digital transactions are rising, but so is fraud. The more assets we have to help [the merchant] community, the better off everyone is. And making it easy for them to use those assets is equally as important as what they are,” Turner said.

Tokenization, in tandem with NuData, she added, ensures that merchants do not have to sacrifice safety as a trade-off for a better consumer experience. Banks and merchants can educate and help consumers to understand that they are not disclosing any new or personal data.

There is also some level of customization available to merchants — if they or their issuers want to require a consumer step-up for a transaction, that can be part of the experience, too. In addition, SRC can still leverage 3DS 2.0, the security protocol that utilizes authentication methods that go well beyond the realm of the static password, such as biometrics.

“At the end of the day,” she told Webster, “consumers are getting a similar experience, regardless of [the] merchant they go to — whether they are independent merchants or very large merchants. That’s the overarching theme.”

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