4 Trends Shaping Digital Payments in 2021


As the world went into pandemic lockdown in 2020, consumers shifted their spending habits to embrace contactless tap-and-go payments and online shopping. As stores closed and social distancing took hold, retailers worldwide moved their businesses online, embraced eCommerce and explored the potential of new ways to pay.

More than a year later, research from Mastercard shows that the adoption of new payment technologies is rising, and consumer appetite for new, fast and flexible digital experiences continues to grow.

Looking to the future, digital currencies, mobile wallets, wearables, biometrics, contactless and QR codes are trending as emerging payments technologies as people’s comfort with them and understanding of them increases.

Here are four trends shaping digital payments in 2021:

  1. Cryptocurrency Gains Ground
    As interest in digital currencies continues to accelerate, 4 in 10 people (41%) in South Africa say they plan to use cryptocurrency in the next year, with more than half (60%) noting they are more open to using it than they were a year ago.While consumer interest in cryptocurrency – especially floating digital currencies such as Bitcoin – is high, work is still required to ensure consumer choice, protection and regulatory compliance.
  2. Biometric Payments are More Trustworthy
    Perceptions of safety and convenience have been front and centre for people over the past year. 38% of South African consumers say they plan to use biometric verification methods like fingerprint authorization in the next year.In fact, 6 in 10 consumers say they are excited about the potential of biometric verification methods such as gait or walk assessments and fingerprint authorization, and 56% feel safer using biometrics to verify a purchase than entering a pin. Gait or walk assessments can be used to pay based on a person’s manner of walking.
  3. QR Codes are Cleaner and More Convenient
    Consumer desire for clean and convenient ways to interact with merchants will remain post-pandemic, with 46% of South Africans expecting to use more payment technologies like QR codes in the next year.In South Africa, the majority of respondents perceive new payment methods like QR codes to be cleaner (74%) and more convenient (70%) than cash for in-person payments as it is likely that consumers are using their own mobile devices.
  4. Contactless Cards and Digital Wallets Become More Popular
    Driven by hygiene concerns, consumers are opting for contactless payments at checkout. 63% of South African consumers said they used their contactless card, and 52% said they tapped their smartphone mobile or digital wallet more than other payment methods in the last year.This trend is set to continue with 60% of South African respondents saying they are likely to tap a smartphone to pay in the coming year.
Edited by Jenna Delport
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