Being physically apart couldn’t have been more influential than it was during last year. Social distancing extended to every element of common life, including our payment systems. And as we begin to bask in the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s revelations in the way we pay that are shaping the safety of ourselves and our futures.
This opinion is certainly shared by Jeremy Nicholds, CEO at Judopay – a payments company that supports mobile, web, and app-based commerce; helping companies across multiple sectors serve their customers with a better way to pay. Here he shares his thoughts on the latest developments in paytech and contactless payment systems, and how these are helping the population get back to normal.
Every industry was affected by the events of last year, and as such, most businesses had to adapt in order to survive. Those that didn’t make changes, where needed, were setting themselves up to fail, even for some of the largest corporations. This year will be as transformative as ever as we near the end of a long period of national lockdowns, and with it, we’re all working to get back on our feet and dust ourselves off, adapting to a new normal.
‘Adapting’ was the keyword for last year, as we altered the way we interacted with even our closest family members and friends, but it was paramount to do this in order to stem the spread of the virus. This included how we managed our everyday lives, including how we chose to make payments.
To reduce the number of touchpoints for customers, businesses minimised the use of cash, with contactless payment becoming integral to the shopping experience. So much so that contactless transactions now account for 65% of all face-to-face transactions outside of the US. During the early stages of the pandemic, the UK Government increased the limit for card-based contactless payments from £30 to £45, and it has recently been announced that the limit will increase to £100 in 2021. This supported the uptake of this payment method, even encouraging those that were not using contactless previously to adopt it.
But contactless is not the only “touch-free” payment method, and with a continuing need to maintain social distancing measures, we are likely to see new and more innovative solutions gain ground.
The use of app-based commerce will soar
Mobile applications, or apps, have played a significant role for many sectors, enabling businesses to provide a better buying experience and increase engagement. For example, the ‘pay at table’ functionality that many hospitality businesses offered in their apps enabled customers to maintain social distancing while making it more convenient for customers to pay. But they also helped businesses to identify and communicate with customers if there had been a local outbreak of the virus.
As we looked to apps to support commerce in 2020, this will continue into 2021, where apps will be key to reducing unnecessary contact at the checkout.
The next evolution in contactless payments
While contactless payments have done a good job creating safer and more hygienic ways to pay, there is still the need for customers to get close enough to the payment terminal for the payment to be processed. And this often means that there will be a member of staff nearby, usually closer than the recommended social distance of two meters.
For customers to complete their transactions truly touch-free, they have to do this from a distance. With the roadmap for easing lockdowns in place, we must support safer payments so that customers are encouraged to return. That’s why we expect to see this technology (already available in the market today) take off this year. Solutions such as those using QR codes, where a code is displayed on a device for the customers to scan using their own smartphone, instigating the payment.
How the payments industry can help businesses re-establish themselves
Customers are now comfortable with eCommerce, having spent almost a year indoors to avoid the pandemic. So, many will continue to shop this way even as restrictions ease. It’s therefore important that retailers provide payment methods that are transferable between digital and physical stores.
This is particularly true for small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) who were hit particularly hard during lockdown. They’ll be seeking solutions that will help them get back on their feet quickly and efficiently, without the complications that using multiple payment providers can bring. These ‘innovative’ solutions will also need to be cost-effective, given the 12 months of low revenue and unreliable cash flows most businesses have faced.
If payments providers can offer all of this, they will be contributing to the recovery plans of businesses as they emerge from lockdowns.
A route back to normality
While we’re still in the early part of the year, 2021 looks promising, with vaccinations being swiftly administered across the UK and a roadmap to ending lockdown in place. With businesses and customers having picked up a whole new set of expectations and needs over the last 12 months, this year will be an interesting one but the payments industry will play an important role in easing any anxieties. That’s why we’re expecting to see some true innovations come to light in 2021.