The coronavirus response has already created payments' future

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Over the past few decades, digital technology has changed everything, from the way we communicate to how businesses and consumers pay and get paid. But it wasn’t the experts who drove our largest digital transformation in recent history. It wasn’t Silicon Valley startups, Chief Digital Officers, or public demand. It was coronavirus.

For many businesses, the catalyst for digital transformation was and remains a pure need for survival. Restaurants and retailers that could no longer serve customers in person needed to be able to sell them food and supplies remotely, while keeping payment information secure. That meant implementing e-commerce capabilities in a hurry (if the business didn’t already have these in place) and changing their payment processes for the foreseeable future.

Consumers in survival mode have changed their behaviors, too. Shoppers spent significantly more than usual in purchasing categories like health and hygiene products (hello toilet paper), food, and hobbies. Even more tellingly, they are going out of their way to shop online. In a recent survey, 29% of U.S. consumers said they bought food online instead of offline, due to the pandemic. Additionally, 27% bought hygiene products online, and 25% paid online for restaurant delivery or takeaway.

A key question is whether consumers will continue to choose digital channels after life gets back to our (new) normal. It’s likely they will, and that businesses will continue to see the value in retaining these channels alongside traditional payment methods.

In other words, unified commerce will be the natural result as businesses transitioning out of survival mode begin to shift their thinking and envision how these new, more efficient payment channels could help them grow and unlock new customers. Those who were initially resistant to digital innovation and preferred to do things the “old” way are now part of an evolution that is driven by necessity but will be sustained by the many benefits of digital payment channels — like speed, flexibility, and security.

For the payments companies that have and will continue to support businesses during our current phase of survival and necessity, these partnerships forged in the fires of adversity will lead to strengthened relationships and long-term loyalty during the growth phase that is yet to come.

As we weather this ongoing crisis, it can be hard to think ahead to the future potential for collective growth, success, and prosperity. Yet, a massive, accelerated digital transformation — one that has long been heralded as the future and is now becoming reality — offers a way to not just survive the most challenging time we’ve seen in recent history, but emerge stronger on the other side.

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