Digital payments surge amid safe distancing measures

Digital payments surge amid safe distancing measures

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The coronavirus has totally upended the supply and demand markets. The urgent need for essential products coupled with the fact that governments and regulatory bodies are now discouraging the use of cash, has prompted a swift rise in digital payments. Convenience and security aside, digital payment is now the de facto mode of payment as many e-commerce sites are tightly intertwined with e-payment solutions that make the whole system work.

It is no coincidence that the daily downloads of online grocery delivery apps such as Instacart, Walmart Grocery and Shipt have surged by 218%, 160% and 124%, respectively.

People who are at home for long periods of time need to buy groceries and household essentials more frequently – and they prefer online shopping. Regardless of the level of lockdown being imposed, people tend to avoid visiting brick-and-mortar stores. Shops are taking notice and are rapidly ramping up their online presence as well. Stores that have already started implementing e-commerce solutions are rapidly building scale and capacity to be able to cater to stronger demands.

It is no coincidence that the daily downloads of online grocery delivery apps such as Instacart, Walmart Grocery and Shipt have surged by 218%, 160% and 124%, respectively.

As more consumers continue to stock food and other essentials, the volume of online transactions and digital payments will surge precipitously. In fact, it was revealed that COVID-19 has massively accelerated e-commerce growth to the tune of 77% year-on-year, with a total online spending hitting $82.5 billion in May, according to Adobe report.

“We are seeing signs that online purchasing trends formed during the pandemic may see permanent adoption,” Taylor Schreiner, Director, Adobe Digital Insights, said in a statement.

The future of payments is digital

This observation is consistent with what is happening on the ground. In Singapore, local banks such as OCBC, UOB and DBS are reporting that a significant number of customers have switched to digital banking due to COVID-19.

DBS Bank, Singapore’s biggest bank, noted that more than 100 million digital banking transactions happened this year, compared to the same period in 2019. In addition, digital payments have more than doubled and e-commerce transactions rose by as much as close to 40% in value. It’s interesting to note that there are around 3.3 million Singapore users banking online with DBS and about a quarter of whom are seniors – an indication that the adoption of digital banking cuts across various sectors and demographics in Singapore.

Meanwhile, in China, where digital payments are already in its maturity, COVID-19 may well push the country for the total elimination of cash transactions. In 2008, only 18% of Chinese internet users made online payments. This figure jumped to almost 73% in 2018, which is partly attributed to young people being open to the use of new technologies, according to a recent survey by Deutsche Bank.

Comparatively, China and many Southeast Asian nations have a larger proportion of young populations than Europe and the US. In places such as Japan, Western Europe and the United States, a third of the population still consider cash as a favourite payment method, according to the same survey.

“While we believe cash will stay, the coming decade will see digital payments grow at light speed, leading to the extinction of the plastic card.”

Deutsche Bank’s report, The Future of Payments, neatly summed up where the world is headed when it comes to digital payments: “While we believe cash will stay, the coming decade will see digital payments grow at light speed, leading to the extinction of the plastic card. Over the next five years, we expect mobile payments to comprise two-fifths of in-store purchases in the US, quadruple the current level. Similar growth is expected in other developed countries, however, different countries will see different levels of shrinkage in cash and plastic cards. In emerging markets, the effect could arrive even sooner. Many customers in these countries are transitioning directly from cash to mobile payments without ever owning a plastic card.”

What’s interesting is that even though a significant portion of the population in Western countries still prefer to pay with cash, their preparedness when it comes to digital payments could never be questioned. In the US, digital payments champions such as Paypal, Apple Pay and Google Pay are consistently thriving.

European countries, through its Central banks such as the the Bank of England, the European Central Bank, the Sveriges Riksbank and the Swiss National Bank, together with the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) have initiated assessment of potential cases for central bank digital currencies. These would perform all functions of ‘cash’ and aims to be used by individuals and businesses to make both payments and savings. The task ahead can be daunting and will require enormous effort and commitments from both the governments and private sector organisations involved.

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>> To read more about this story and other exclusive features about the digital banking landscape, download the latest issue of The Digital Banker Magazine HERE.

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