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Is the Future of E-Commerce Checkout No Checkout at All? This App Is Disrupting Online Payments

More consumers are shopping online than ever before, leading a number of companies to invest in the e-commerce experience, especially the checkout. But e-commerce solution Nate has a different approach to dealing with online shopping: to eliminate the consumer payment experience entirely.

“In today’s world, every bit of mental energy matters,” said Albert Saniger, founder of Nate. “We’ve built machines that fly us across the world and machines that allow us to stay connected to those we love, at the tap of a button. The technology is there. We thought to ourselves: Why not use it to replace the tiny day-to-day tedious tasks around shopping and saving or sharing the things we want to buy?”

The checkout solution marketplace is crowded, mostly by companies looking to help retailers make online payments more efficient. At Nate, the emphasis is on the consumer. The current release phase of Nate is free and simply requires consumers to download the mobile app, sign up and start shopping. Retailers don’t engage with the platform as a partner; instead, Nate shops the website much like a consumer would.

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Nate users browse for items the way they normally would online. Once they identify an item they’d like to buy, they don’t navigate to the checkout but instead “share” the item with the Nate app. The technology then completes the purchase on their behalf, including using any designated accounts attached to their email. In this way, consumers can still earn points or rewards through any retail loyalty programs they are a part of.

“Digital wallets, payment methods and checkout software are phenomenal products,” said Saniger. “They process payments safely and streamline the user experience in the process. Nate sits a layer above that and is built to replace people’s fingers.”

Saniger’s app achieves this by using a combination of automation and artificial intelligence. The program can navigate a retailer’s website much like a human would, understanding where information needs to be provided on various kinds of checkout flow. Even though many companies have simplified their checkout experience into a matter of clicks — or even one-click purchasing — they often still require a login or confirmation. Nate circumvents that delay, by completing the process independently.

Screenshot of the Nate app showing how to complete a purchase
Shoppers can share their item with Nate while browsing and avoid the checkout process altogether.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Nate

In addition to direct purchasing, the Nate app also offers functions for gifting and wishlisting. Users can buy items for friends in a similarly quick process — the platform only requires the recipient’s cell phone number. Once a gift has been purchased, the receiver will get a text alerting them to the present and they will be able to share the most appropriate shipping address. There is also an option to then find out the item or wait to be surprised.

“Sometimes I come across something that makes me think of someone,” said Saniger. “Now I can buy it for them in just a few seconds, even if I don’t have their latest address handy.”

Wishlists don’t involve a direct purchase but let users create collections of items they like, which can then be shared with friends, who can purchase the item for themselves or for the list creator. This concept is in line with similar features that have been rolled out at checkout companies like installment payments company Klarna.

Saniger doesn’t believe that his app is at odds with these other solutions. Instead, he sees any company whose focus is on eliminating friction at checkout as a friend of the company. However, his ultimate vision is for a world of online retail where the payment process itself doesn’t exist, at least not from the consumer’s viewpoint. He predicts a world where the gap between inspiration and action is nearly nonexistent.

“Visual search will allow us to further bridge [that gap],” said the founder. “See a stranger walking down the street wearing a pair of shoes that look awesome? Take a picture, add them to a list. Then any friends who follow that list can buy them at the tap of a button, for themselves or for someone else. The future of checkout is no checkout.”

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