Contactless payments and e-commerce are here

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As the one-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic approaches and digital payments play a larger role in daily life around the world, there will be no reverse gear on consumer behaviour as we head into 2021.

In the third edition of its global research study, the “Visa Back to Business Study – 2021 Outlook,” Visa found that the continued small and micro business (“SMB”) shift towards digital commerce will evolve in the New Year and bring an increased focus on areas such as security and fraud prevention, and more emerging payment tools such as ‘buy now, pay later’ and mobile payment acceptance.

According to the study, by the end of 2020, 82% of SMBs surveyed had embraced new forms of digital technology to meet changing consumer behaviours.

Looking ahead to 2021, SMBs are assessing what other payment technologies are critical to meeting today’s consumer expectations, with results led by security and fraud management software (47%), contactless or mobile payment acceptance (44%), accepting payments via mobile device (41%), instalments or ‘buy now, pay later’ (36%) and digital backend payment operations (31%).

“With greater hindsight into 2020, we can clearly see that the digital payment experiences that exceled the most – contactless and e-commerce – were driven out of necessity and have become more habitual in people’s daily lives at a pace not often seen,” said Kevin Phalen, global head of business solutions, Visa.

“If 2020 was the year of contactless and e-commerce, results of this study tell us that 2021 will bring greater attention to security and fraud prevention, and trial of more emerging digital commerce tools that help businesses thrive.”

All markets surveyed have seen a rapid adoption of new payment technologies and changing consumer behaviour related to commerce. Additional findings from the study in Brazil, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Russia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and United States, highlight the depth of the impact in 2020 and expectations for 2021:

The Road to Recovery for SMBs in 2021

  • Contactless Payments Are Here To Stay: The global rise of contactless payments in 2020, spurred by challenges including consumers looking for safer ways to pay amidst the pandemic, is showing no signs of slowing down in the New Year. In fact, in June 2020 only 20% of SMBs surveyed had offered contactless payments for the first time — now, 39% report they have started to accept new digital forms of payments. Nearly three in four (74%) SMBs expect consumers to continue preferring contactless payments even after a vaccine is widely available.
  • SMBs Meet Consumers Where They Are: SMBs have steadily increased their efforts to meet consumers where they are now: online. Globally, 82% of SMB owners have made updates to their operations to meet the increasing demand for digital payments, up from 67% in summer 2020 when the first Visa Back to Business Study was released.
  • The Fight Against Fraud: Tech-savvy business owners (52%) are more likely than their novice counterparts (39%) to invest in security and fraud protection. Recognising the significance of and responding to a potential fraud attack will continue to be a decided advantage in 2021 as the shift to digital sales continues to increase. Despite concern, global fraud rates remain at historic lows, at roughly $0.007 for every $1.00.

New Year Brings a New Era for Consumer Habits

  • Consumer Preference: Almost overnight, consumers put COVID-19 safety measures at the top of their shopping lists, igniting a rapid shift to touchless commerce. Two-thirds (65%) of surveyed consumers would prefer to use contactless payments as much as, or even more than, they are currently, and only 16% say they would revert to their old methods of payments, post-pandemic.
  • Safety-Conscious Shoppers: While the universal focus is on mask use in stores, consumers are also eager to have payment alternatives to handling cash, pens and keypads. 47% of consumers say they will not shop at a store that does not offer a contactless way to pay.
  • At the Card Wash: Card cleanliness remains key for consumers in the fight against the spread of Covid-19. More than three in five (62%) are taking steps to keep their credit cards clean; using disinfectant on their card is the top approach, at 31%.

Regional Insights: Making Moves to Meet Consumers

  • Pivoting to meet the new digital-first era: Nearly all UAE SMBs (97%) and Hong Kong SMBs (96%) have adjusted the way they operate in the past three months, compared to the global average of 82%. In June, just two in five Hong Kong SMBs (40%) were selling products and services online. Now, nearly three in five (57%) are selling more online, compared to the global average of 43%.
  • Consumers are shopping digitally, and with an eye on security and safety: Globally, 82% of consumers have taken some additional action to protect themselves from fraud, with UAE the most likely at 90%. Nearly all UAE consumers (96%, compared to 62% globally) are also taking steps to keep their credit card clean, making them the most likely of all markets surveyed to do so.

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