There has been a huge shift toward online purchasing in recent months with many predicting that the current pandemic has changed consumer behaviour for the longterm.
A new survey by PayPal* has found that 76% of consumers bought products online in 2019, and 33% said they would buy more online in the future. The survey also found that globally, 18% of European consumers said that they are now shopping online for the first time due to COVID-19, and this increases to 25% in the US and 21% in the UK.
Recent PaySafe research ** found that these consumers are turning to new payment methods during COVID-19, and that shifting priorities when selecting a payment method is a significant contributing factor.
Who is the online shopper in 2021?
One of the main drivers for the increase in eCommerce is that consumers are now shopping online because they either cannot, or will not, shop in physical stores; they are turning to online shopping to avoid queues and to take advantage of home delivery.
This new demand for shopping online, resulting from repeated lockdowns, has brought new, previously reluctant online shoppers to the eCommerce sector. These new shoppers often have different consumer priorities which are forcing eCommerce merchants to think differently about the payment options available at their checkout.
At the same time, seasoned online shoppers have begun to reevaluate their online profiles and Paysafe research shows that almost 90% of consumers now have concerns about fraud as well as their online security.
The research cites an increase in consumers’ concerns “that there are more fraudsters operating during COVID-19, trepidation caused by shopping on unfamiliar sites, and greater concerns about their financial health generally” as reasons for this shift. **
Changing attitudes to cash payments in 2021
While we know that cash remains the only means of payment for almost half the world’s population who do not have a bank account, it is interesting to see that cash still remains central to the payments ecosystem in spite of the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, with 50% of consumers stating that cash is the most reliable form of payment during a crisis. **
“Despite the social upheaval created by the pandemic, this hasn’t diminished the importance of cash to consumers.” Jan Marc Kuelper, VP Strategic Business Development USA, eCash
However, consumers appear to be in two minds - on the one hand, 72% of global consumers are not comfortable with the idea of not being able to access cash; this is especially true for the consumers in the US (60%), Bulgaria (53%), and Germany (52%) who say that cash is the most reliable method of payment in a crisis.
On the other hand, the use of cash as a payment method has dipped as many consumers have feared that cash might not be safe to handle during the COVID-19 pandemic due to it being a potential transmitter of the virus. (Although despite loud statements from the WHO declaring that cash can be handled safely, many stores have opted for contactless payments only).
But for a growing market segment of cash users; whether by choice (security conscious consumers) or by necessity (unbanked consumers); cash payments remain the payment method of choice for the foreseeable future, and the move to online shopping has not affected their desire to pay with cash.
The research carried out by Paysafe states that globally 40% of consumers would buy products online using cash if it was easy to do so, and 36% of consumers say they would do more shopping online if they could pay easily with cash. This preference changes by geographic location, but it shows that the demand for an online cash payment option has not diminished. For example, 47% of consumers in the US would use cash to make online payments if it was easy to do so, and 43% would shop online more if they were able to pay with cash.
A growing role for cash online
COVID-19 has certainly altered the way consumers use cash; but it has evolved the relationship rather than ended it.
While it may be the case that cash will become less relevant on the high street, both now and when COVID-19 is no longer impacting our lives, the inverse is true online. This is mainly due to the fact that consumers are increasingly looking to use payment methods where their financial data is not shared.
Regardless of the shift from in-store to online shopping, consumers are clear that this doesn’t alter their preference for keeping cash central to the payment ecosystem. This is however, dependent on it being easy to do so; when consumers that said they would be shopping online more often following the COVID-19 pandemic were asked why, two thirds (65%) said it was because it was more convenient to do so. So ease and convenience are clearly the focus for this new group of online consumers, and online businesses will have to adapt their businesses accordingly to offer the most seamless user experience including at the checkout. ***
In addition, when asked about their daily use of cash, 93% of European consumers surveyed said that they were still taking cash out of ATMs. When asked about potentially using cash to make payments online, 40% of consumers said that they would like to do so if it were easy. For 36% of consumers, being able to make online purchases easily with cash would actually change their shopping habits. “This could make cash a game-changing addition to the checkout for online businesses; a differentiator for consumers that are committed to shifting their allegiance to eCommerce but still prefer to use cash, and an enticing proposition for consumers that are committed to cash but would change their shopping habits to buying online if they could keep cash central to their spending.” ***
Embracing the latest in cashtech innovations, like Pipit pay-in-person and integrating alternative payment methods into the online checkout should be strongly considered by eCommerce businesses as they look to futureproof and strengthen their market position as we move beyond COVID-19.