The payments shake up: How buying will change post-coronavirus

Payment being sent from one digital device to another
Ellerd Liem
Ellerd Liem

Director POS

It’s crazy times for retailers and merchants indeed. In-store footfall is unlikely return for a few years, everyone’s eschewing cash, and people prefer to pay with their smartphones because touching a terminal could pose a health risk.

The coronavirus pandemic is shaking up commerce and swiftly changing the ways people buy and sell. Forever.

Here are some payment trends we’re observing, what we predict will happen next, and a few ways on how you can ready your business for new shopping habits in a post-coronavirus world.

Store-based retailers are leaning on e-commerce to ride the recent surge in online buying

Globally, retail foot traffic has sharply decreased rapidly as more stringent health and safety laws came into place. According to live data from Purple, footfall in EMEA fell 22.73% week on week from mid-March to mid-April 2020. According to our friends at Kaleido Intelligence, is unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2025.

And with the drop in shop visits, 2020 saw the biggest decline in-store sales in over 25 years, e-commerce sales are propping up the retail industry:

  • McKinsey & Co estimates that e-commerce transactions have soared 81% in Italy since the end of February.
  • A Kantar study covering Europe’s three largest e-commerce markets (France, Germany and the UK) showed that the number of consumers who do more than half of their shopping online has increased up to 80% since COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Online sales got a boost in almost all global markets, witnessing an annual growth of 9%, a trend which is set to continue well beyond lockdown.

This surge in online buying boded well for web-based brands, but proved to be even more of a boon for businesses that accept payments online as well as on physical point-of-sale (POS) terminals.

During the fortnight of March 22 through April 4, primarily store-based retailers in West and Central Europe saw a 71% year on year increase in their online sales, compared to web-only retailers in the same region (44% increase).

Merchants that accept online payments cater to a growing number of housebound shoppers who purchase everything from groceries to movies digitally today. So if your business is solely relying on in-store transactions, now is the time to explore how you can get paid online.

Plus, there’s the growing perception that...

Cash isn't desirable right now, but it will make a comeback. Sort of.

We ran a consumer survey to find out how relevant cash will be post-pandemic. Surprisingly, cash is still seen as important for shoppers in a post-covid world, even more so among German consumers, with 58% of respondents claiming that they’d still prefer to use cash. 52% of consumers in Belgium, Netherlands, and Germany expected to use more cash in-store once COVID-19 becomes no longer a major national concern. Interestingly, 40% of respondents confirmed that they will use cash on delivery more while making online purchases.

While these figures may be startling, cash usage is unlikely to prevail over methods with less friction. The longer consumer increasingly uses contactless payments for low-value transactions, this trend will continue in the long term, effectively replacing low-value cash transactions in the continent.

Contactless payments are the way to go

Unsurprisingly, contactless payments saw an increase in adoption to stop the spread of physical contact, with most retailers stopping cash transactions completely. In fact, global in-store proximity payments, including contactless card and mobile as well as QR code payments, will account for 43% of total in-store spend in 2022 before reaching 60% in 2025.

The new normal post-coronavirus

Of course, at some point, we expect that the COVID-19 crisis will cease and that things can go back to normal. But what is normal anymore? The new consumer habits we develop now in the name of health and social distancing could mean a very different way of life later on.

As businesses regain their footing and adjust to a post-coronavirus world, you can bet that some things are going to change, possibly permanently. Here are some shifts we see happening in the coming months.

The e-commerce is likely to boom globally as more business move payments online

It’s likely that people who have discovered the benefits of convenient, contactless online shopping (as a result of stay-home laws) will want to continue enjoying them. More businesses, if not all, will need to allow online payments in order to keep up.

Industries such as grocery and pharmaceuticals are gaining unstoppable momentum right now, and it’s only a matter of time before other sectors either follow in claiming a share of the online market, or fall behind.

There's going to be less resistant to digital change

When it comes to technology and other digital innovations of our time, most people have a healthy resistance to change. But the coronavirus pandemic has forced mindsets to shift.

As businesses put measures in place to equip and prepare themselves for future emergency situations and crises, technology will help fill the gaps that many are struggling with right now, in areas such as remote working, distanced customer service, contactless delivery and touchless transactions.

Mobile wallet use can only go up

Mobile payment technology has steadily risen in the past decade, with no signs of slowing down any time soon. In fact, the technology has already made its way to smartwatches, with widespread acceptance.

Applications on mobile devices are also an additional channel for merchants and financial institutions to connect with their customers.

As the world’s smartphone penetration levels rise, so too will the mobile wallet market. Valued at $1.043 trillion in 2019, it’s projected to reach over $7 trillion by 2027.

Product subscriptions thrive

Consumers looking to treat themselves – or someone else – during the pandemic are turning towards product subscription services. This might be a regular meal kit from the likes of Hello Fresh, flower arrangements, to underwear.

We've also noticed an uptake in repeat purchases for general product such as petfood and health supplements for users who want to take out the hassle out of their weekly shop. The upside for the customer, is the convenience of regular delivery and automated payments, as well as personalization.

To merchants, it means a better forecast of revenues, reliable client data and better consumer engagement. According to Kaleido Intelligence by 2023, 75% of businesses that sell directly to consumers will offer subscription services.

Top tips to keep your business in check

All signs point towards digital payments being the next big thing in business, so there’s really no time like the present to start getting real about your online revenue. If you haven’t already done so:

  • Modify your business to allow customers to transact online: even if you start off with limited items for sale, you will at least be exposing your brand online and more importantly, making it accessible to the majority of shoppers today. You no longer have to just rely on in-store visits to get paid.
  • Think about how your business can innovate for the future: as online and in-store payment technologies converge, customers are going to expect less physical interaction in their shopping experiences. Paper ticketing at public transport terminals may give way to open loop payments (where people can use their contactless credit or debit card to pay for travel fares), traditional payment terminals in carparks may cease completely in favour of parking apps. By integrating more online payment technologies in your customer journeys now, you can help prepare your business for what’s ahead.
  • Consider offering subscriptions: these are goods or services that your customers pay for recurringly, but only authorize once in an initial transaction. It’s a nice way of securing future revenue with less barriers.

If there’s one thing we know, it’s that COVID-19 is staying for a little while longer. And if you’re struggling to make digital payments work better for you, we’d love to help.

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