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Future of payments and e-commerce: lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic

Man unpacking delivery package
Man unpacking delivery package   -   Copyright  Photos supplied by Adyen
By Philippe de Passorio, Managing Director France and Italy, Adyen

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors.

In many industries, technology has vastly transformed the way we live and behave. In payments, the way we shop and how we pay continues to evolve. The COVID-19 pandemic highlights how trends in payments can change at a moment’s notice.

Rather than attempting to predict the future, our purpose as a tech-first payments company is to give merchants the tools to adapt and thrive no matter the environment. Here, we draw lessons from challenging times while working together with our merchants to build products that solve for their payment complexity and helps them grow their business.

New consumer behaviours and trends

Amid the upheaval of the pandemic, we saw several longer-term macroeconomic trends persist and accelerate. With social distancing becoming the norm, the shift towards cashless societies developed at speed. Across the globe, merchants have adjusted to this trend, by providing contactless terminals or QR-codes in-store, exclusively selling online, or a combination of both.

Another trend we’ve seen is the rise of new local payment methods. When cash-based payment was the global norm, you would just exchange a good for a coin or a piece of paper. Today, payments are culturally bound.

Some regions favour e-wallets, others favour bank transfer, credit cards and Buy Now Pay Later solutions. To address shoppers’ needs, merchants need the ability to identify and support emerging consumer behaviours as fast as possible.

Over the past year, we also saw increased awareness of the social and ecological impact of consumerism. According to our latest research study, 62 per cent of respondents stated that the ethics of retailers are now more important to them because of the pandemic.

New technologies have a role to play by providing consumers with options to take responsibility for their purchases — for example, offsetting the carbon footprint of their purchases or donating to charities at checkout.

Adyen
Adyen Philippe de Passorio, Managing Director France and ItalyAdyen

Connecting the online and offline worlds

The digitisation of global commerce is increasingly prevalent. The pandemic has shown the resilience of merchants who were able to rapidly transfer their physical volume to digital channels. However, it is unlikely that ecommerce will ever completely replace physical shopping.

Around the world, we saw people rushing to their favourite stores or restaurants when these reopened. Consumers are still deeply attached to the unique experience and the social aspect offered by physical outlets.

Unified commerce, or the convergence of offline and online channels, will continue to be a major theme in the upcoming years. Shoppers expect a single brand experience, regardless of whether they are buying online or offline. A good example is the rise of personalised virtual shopping. From home, a shopper can join a video call with a sales representative to see available collections in the store and receive advice. When the shopper is ready to purchase, the representative sends them a secured payment link by message and the transaction can be settled in seconds.

Unified commerce here to stay

New technologies have become an essential asset to connect the digital and physical worlds, by offering centralised shopper insights on both online and in-person transactions. Omni-channel is already a must-have and unified commerce is the next powerful tool to continue improving customer experience. Our data shows that 50 per cent of unified commerce retailers saw transactions remain consistent during the pandemic.

In the challenging and unpredictable environment of a global pandemic, the key is to remain flexible and agile enough to capture ever-changing consumer behaviours.

Adyen's CEO Pieter Van Der Does will be speaking at VivaTech 2021 on June 17

ReThink is the dedicated opinion strand of Euronews Next, where prominent industry leaders and authorities from around the world share their visions for the future.