A typical word cloud from the payment community might be heavily weighted like this - Loop, Apple, bitcoin, e-gifts, Near Field Communication, contactless, mobile wallets, tokenization, and digital encryption.
However, hype and hyperbole does not reflect the reality of how America pays today and what the immediate future trends look like for the adoption of emerging payments. The truth is that this is the year of traditional, digital and mobile convergence in payments according to new research of 1,000 US consumers released by Blackhawk Network.
Instead of abandoning traditional payments such as checks, cash and payment cards, shoppers are using a larger variety of payment options with digital and mobile payments serving as supplements to the traditional cash and card-based payments tools. Convenience of payment methods is driving consumer behavior in payments—more than security or the “cool” factor.
Take legacy payment tools. These tools have a lot going for them: wide-scale consumer awareness and adoption, ingrained behavior and ease of acceptance at POS or the only viable option for the payment (some bills/rent payments/small vendors only take checks). These methods remain popular despite some limitations versus emerging alternatives. Ninety-three percent of consumers have used cash in the last year. Far and away the most used method to pay despite the longer wait at POS. Sixty-eight percent of those surveyed used debit cards, 68 percent used checks, 67% used credit cards and 62% used PayPal.
When specifically asked to select the most convenient payment methods, consumers selected cash (93%), credit cards (92%), PayPal (90%) and retailer-specific gift cards (87%). Ranking most inconvenient were bitcoin and checks.
While traditional methods are still strong, Blackhawk’s research also showed that new payment methods are growing and cash and checks saw the greatest decline in use overall.Sixty-eight percent of mobile payment users report that they are using alternative payment methods more than last year and mobile wallets are now used by 25% of smartphone owners.
Tech-savvy consumers are driving growth in new methods of payments. Showcasing the convergence, consumers place traditional methods of payment into their mobile wallets. Sixty-four percent of users have debit cards in their mobile wallets, 58% have credit cards and 45% have gift cards.
Gift cards, specifically, remain very popular. Eighty-seven percent of consumers surveyed think merchant-specific gift cards are convenient to use, even higher than bank-connected debit cards (82 percent). Additionally, gift cards are now mainstream payment methods with almost half of consumers (48 percent) using them in the last year.
This research provides many lessons for the payments community about the opportunities and limitations of emerging payments competing with a legacy payment system based on cash, checks and card-based tools.
Shrewd companies will continue to offer a seamless and convenient experience for legacy products while vetting and adopting the acceptance of new ways to pay. Consumers are willing to pay in various ways; it is an “and” not an “or” situation and digital-savvy consumers are adopting these methods at higher rates than the general population.
Smart companies will create a payments strategy that maps out a migration to growing digital, mobile and other emerging payment tools to meet future consumer needs. The payment is one of the last steps in the consumer journey, providing a strong brand imprint. No brand wants an abandoned cart or poor impression because a consumer wasn’t able to pay in what they consider to be the most convenient way.
Teri Llach is chief marketing officer of Blackhawk Network.