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A quick shift is a permanent skill for the payments industry

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Payments industry leaders have much to be optimistic about. The adaptations required to navigate the challenges thrown at us in 2020 have positioned our industry to enter a more transformative era that promises newfound progress, growth and stability.

Identifying and understanding the consumer demands that will shape our industry in the years ahead will be key to making the most of these new opportunities.

The pandemic has replaced years of slow-but-steady contactless payment adoption with an immediate wave of demand for digital/mobile interactions at the POS. While the pandemic has helped grow contactless adoption, the consumer demand for convenience in payments doesn’t stop at the hygienic benefit.

A National Retail Federation (NRF) survey found that 19% of people made their first contactless payment during May 2020 and 57% said they would continue to use contactless payments after the pandemic.

Consumers also want digital payments to be as fast and easy to use as possible, without jeopardizing the safety of their personal data. Payment solution providers can gain a leg up on the industry in 2021 by seeking out technology solution partners that can deliver at scale the speed, ease, and layers of security that consumers demand.

According to The World Bank Group’s Global Findex Database, about 1.7 billion adults remain "unbanked" — without a traditional banking account at a financial institution or through a mobile money provider. In 2021, banks, fintechs and government agencies must work toward bringing more people into the formal economy who currently have limited or no access to financial services. The growth of "converged cards" – state-issued driver’s licenses or IDs with payment credentials – will help support state-subsidized programs, including unemployment, housing and utility benefits, allowing payments to reach those "unbanked" consumers who rely on public sector funding.

Consumers are demanding more accountability than ever regarding how companies are impacting the global environment. A recent Dentsu Aegis Network study found 92% of global customers believe their bank should actively contribute to preserving the environment, and 87% expect their banks to offer a card made of eco-friendly materials.

Industry players that continuously improve their banking products and services to support a sustainable transformation in the payment ecosystem will be those best-positioned to gain value from this shift in customer preference. These innovations could include sustainable payment card bodies, digital services replacing paper, end-of-life recycling of expired cards and offsetting, and more.

2020 has shown that the payment industry is flexible and resilient, and if 2021 throws our plans out the window, we better be equipped to adapt on the fly. To keep up, industry leaders must seek out conscientious technology partners that can provide the secure backbone for traditional and digital payment solutions that are top-of-mind for all consumers.

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