There are plenty of defining years in the history books, and as 2020 draws to a close, it’s almost certain that the global pandemic will ensure that this year is featured prominently. With events cancelled, launches delayed, and country-wide lockdowns, the way we work has changed forever. Still, for financial technology and surrounding industries, this was also a year of challenge and opportunity.
This December, The Fintech Times is asking industry leaders for their ‘View from the Top’ to gain an insight into the decisions behind the last 12-months. Today, we’re looking at the issue of Contactless Technology, hearing from Brad Hyett, Scott Frisby, Ivo Gueorguiev, and Jeremy Nicholds on their 2020 thoughts, plus a look ahead to 2021. Will there be a Happy New Year? Read on…
During Covid-19 contactless payments have seen an incredible increase, with 709 million contactless in the UK in August alone. A lifeline in the time of social distancing, it makes sense that we have seen exponential growth in the contactless uptake, increasing the already emerging shift to cashless societies. In this View from the Top, companies Phos, Elavon Europe, Paynetics and Judopay outline their own 2020 experience.
Brad Hyett is CEO of phos, a UK based fintech enabling contactless payment technology for global banks and payment businesses. In his opinion, Covid-19 has merely accelerated the shift to a cashless society that was already happening.
“Recent data from cash machine network Link shows that, in the UK, ATM transactions fell by 60%since last year, as we entered our first national lockdown in March.
“Even before the pandemic, cash was predicted to account for just 9% of all payments by 2028. But, given the widespread adoption of cashless technologies during the Covid-19 pandemic, we now need to rethink these estimates.
“The convenience of cash alternatives and the growing rate of online purchases had already initiated our transition towards a cashless society, prior to 2020. Covid-19 has simply accelerated this shift, with social distancing and stringent health and safety measures becoming a major contributor to the surge in contactless payments.
“Forward-thinking businesses are now investing in technology, such as mobile and software Point of Sale (POS) platforms, that enable them to receive contactless payments from customers more efficiently. It is these firms that embrace such digital transformation initiatives that will both deliver a better customer experience and protect, or grow, their revenue more quickly in the race to a new, cashless normal.
“The proliferation of e-wallets has also been building momentum this year and is set to explode in 2021. The global mobile wallets industry is predicted to jump by nearly 50% to reach a value of $1.47tn amid the Covid-19 pandemic, with over 1.7bn people using mobile wallets by 2024.
“While most of us are familiar with Apple Pay and Google Pay, these won’t be the only e-wallets available moving forward. Companies are increasingly developing their own solutions to enable customers to make payments directly on their website, mobile app or in physical stores. This is in clear response to the changing demands we have seen for contactless and cashless payments during the pandemic.”
Ivo Gueorguiev is Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of Paynetics, a regulated e-money institution. He agrees that we’re going to see even more uptake of cashless and contactless payments as we move forward to 2021
“Before this year, we wouldn’t have thought twice about handling cash or using Chip and PIN machines, but we live in a more contactless world now, where lockdowns and decreased footfall have forced businesses to go online in their droves. We won’t go back to ‘normal’ in 2021 – the rates of online transactions will continue to rise and consumers will expect businesses to offer cashless payment options.
“It’s been interesting to observe the resurgence of QR codes as part of this mix. A technology that was once written off is now being employed by a host of different businesses, from restaurants to gyms, and even the NHS. QR payments are an important addition to a payment portfolio for a merchant, as they can offer faster and better customer experiences when incorporated into online shopping platforms and loyalty programmes.
“The concept of ‘paying’ has changed rapidly over the past year. We are increasingly not even present when we pay for things – take Uber as an example, where you register your card in a wallet and can buy a service, but are not actually in the car when you pay.
“Self-checkouts are not a new phenomenon either but, in 2021, we will see their full potential realised and a much wider adoption of this kind of technology. Companies like Amazon have been leading the charge here, with their autonomous ‘Go’ stores where you wave to pay for your goods. This might once have seemed far-fetched for mass adoption, but, in an increasingly touch-free and digital world following the effects of the pandemic, I expect that we’ll start using this technology in a whole host of new settings sooner than we might have imagined.”
Scott Frisby, Chief Strategy Officer at Elavon Europe, a payments company with an international processing platform. He believes 2021 will see the payments landscape constantly change for consumers.
“We expect to see small, local businesses develop similar offers to the Pret A Manger coffee subscription services to build loyalty with customers during this difficult time. However, they will need more support from payment providers to offer this functionality through digital wallets or loyalty apps for example.
“There will be a wider blurring of the in-store and online shopping experience for consumers in 2021 and beyond. Where people pay for and receive goods is continuously changing to meet the need for convenience. For example, in-store, a consumer might check online reviews of a product, pay for it by scanning a QR code and choose to ship home if it’s bulky.
“Open Banking has the potential to enable businesses to personalise services and offers to consumers. They may be able to browse in-store and use their smartphone and be alerted to offers or better prices from physical stores nearby.
“Additionally, social commerce is a valuable opportunity for small and large businesses to grow through platforms such as Instagram with simple, one-click purchasing options, allowing companies to build customer loyalty and boost sales on a local and global scale through their users.
“Alternative Payment Methods (APMs) will continue to grow in popularity. We’re already seeing digital payments options such as QR codes, digital wallets, digital assistants, buy-now-pay-later and in-app payments taking off, but there is plenty more space to grow. Recent research shows that offering even three different payment methods can improve sales conversion for businesses by more than 30%.”
Jeremy Nicholds is Chief Executive Officer of Judopay, an enabler of mobile web and app commerce – helping companies across multiple sectors serve their customers with a better way to pay. For him, 2021 is going to see the rise in popularity of app-based services for making payments.
“2020 has been a difficult year for many businesses and a transformative one for the payments industry. With lockdown restrictions and social distancing measures in place at varying degrees since the start of the pandemic, businesses have had to adapt, altering how they take payments in order to put the health and safety of staff and customers first.
“Reducing the use of cash and the number of touchpoints at the point of sale – such as PIN pads – has been the go-to for many and we’ve seen the use of contactless payments rapidly escalate, with the payment method being adopted by customers that previously wouldn’t have used it.
“Early on in the pandemic, the UK government took notice of the benefits of contactless payments, and the industry increased the contactless spending limit from £30 to £45 to encourage people to use the payment method for more transactions. And with the UK hospitality industry reopening on Independence Day, one tool that became particularly important was app-based commerce, with ‘order at table’ functionalities and other beneficial solutions.
“Not only are apps excellent for minimising contact during the payment process, but the data they offer provides huge benefits over anonymous cash and card payments when it comes to tracking customers if an outbreak occurs at an institution.
“In 2021, the widespread adoption and acknowledgement of the usefulness of apps will likely spur on the growth of app-based commerce. It will continue to play a vital role as we emerge from the pandemic and allow businesses to reduce unnecessary contact during sales with contactless capabilities.
“Judo has continued to innovate throughout the year, and over the coming weeks, as a company we’re excited to be releasing new touch-free payments solutions to businesses that will offer a simple and easy way to pay without the expense of additional hardware.”