Ethoca’s Gaurav Mittal: How brands can stay ahead during the golden quarter


Gaurav Mittal is the Executive Vice President of Ethoca, a subsidiary of Mastercard company, writes for Payment Expert on how companies can continue growth during what is known as ‘the golden quarter’, with transaction volume continuing to elevate. 

The peak holiday sales period, also known as the ‘Golden Quarter’, can provide a big sales boost for many merchants. Mastercard’s research points out that retail is ‘making a comeback around the world’, with many companies seeing increased profits as pent-up demand is finally released. 

That’s good news, but this time of year can also expose shops to greater fraud risk, as well as customers contacting their issuer to contest a transaction, called a chargeback. This can create customer confusion that eats away at a business’ bottom line.

New trends are emerging that make the Golden Quarter potentially more challenging. Running from late October through to January a sales  peak happens in many regions around holiday shopping – including the Black Friday and Cyber Monday events. 

The challenges here are the movement of the holiday shopping period from being a purely in-store affair, characterised by long queues and stampedes for the latest bargains, to being increasingly online. 

‘Cyber Monday’ (the Monday after American Thanksgiving), is now almost as important as the preceding ‘Black Friday’. That means more companies take part, but it also means they need plans in place to protect themselves from fraud and unnecessary chargeback claims – which are more likely with online purchases.

What is different about the 2022 Golden Quarter?

We were hopeful 2022 would be the year when we could put the financial disruption caused by the pandemic behind us and return to ‘normal’. However, long reaching impacts caused by supply chain disruptions and other global factors have caused a longer-term impact on the economy. 

That has meant that the recovery hasn’t been quite as significant as commentators had hoped. Companies like PWC have noted that spending in 2022 is flat relative to 2021. In the absence of growth and with inflation higher than it has been in recent history, businesses need to stay on top of unnecessary expenses. Fortunately, there are some things that they can be mindful of to help keep things on track. 

What do businesses need to consider during the Golden Quarter?

The best outcomes will come if stores are on the lookout for two main things during, and after, the Golden Quarter in any year – and we expect that they will be more important than ever this year:

Preventing chargebacks at all costs

A chargeback occurs when a customer disputes the validity of a transaction with their card issuer. Perhaps – because he / she doesn’t recognize the transaction, does not feel satisfied with the service received or is subject to genuine fraud. Contesting an incorrect chargeback from a customer can be a lengthy and expensive process. Therefore, it’s imperative that brands take steps to reduce the growing chargeback surge from sapping their bottom line.

Prevention is always better than cure, so it’s better to get merchants and their customers working together to prevent disputes from turning into chargebacks in the first place. Real time alerts from issuers whenever a customer disputes a charge allows merchants to potentially reverse the dispute, perhaps by getting in touch with their customer before it turns into a chargeback. In the case of actual fraud, merchants can stop the order fulfilment or delivery and take other steps to reduce losses.

Enhancing the customer experience

Those retailers that focus on their customer experience will win more customers both during the peak holiday sales season and beyond. In fact, chargebacks are a time when merchants may turn a difficult experience into an opportunity to delight the customer, similar to how some merchants have turned the burdensome act of returning online goods into a differentiator by making it easy for the customer. Additionally, they will also reduce the risk of negative experiences turning into payment disputes and chargebacks. 

Providing customers with recognisable purchase transaction details in their banking app, or via digital receipts is an easy way for merchants to add value, while also preventing transaction confusion that can lead to disputes. 

It’s possible to significantly reduce unnecessary disputes and chargebacks by providing details such as an easy-to-recognise merchant name and logo. Ethoca does this with Consumer Clarity and also includes purchase location details and itemised digital receipts, all within customers’ digital bank statements. This significantly reduces unnecessary disputes and chargebacks. 

Offering fast and free shipping and customer-friendly return policies to make it simple for shoppers to keep tabs on their purchase history could also smooth the post-transaction process or ease reordering an item in future.

Countering the risks

We can’t predict how the 2022 Golden Quarter will play out. The shopping season still has the potential to be rewarding for many shops and businesses. Those that embrace what today’s shoppers are looking for, while striking the right balance between fraud management and customer experience will maximise sales and prosper. Technological solutions can help to improve consumer trust and help to make online shopping as painless as possible for both retailers and consumers alike.