Gearing Up For 2021: Visa's Top Predictions For The Future Of Payments

Taking stock of the digital payment trends that transpired and of those that accelerated in 2020, here are Visa's top predictions on the future of payments.

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By Shahebaz Khan • Jan 1, 2021 Originally published Jan 1, 2021


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The year 2020 has seen many seismic shifts, which besides changing deeply ingrained consumer behavior are also shaping the future of payments. Taking stock of the digital payment trends that transpired and of those that accelerated in 2020, here are Visa's top predictions for 2021.

Prediction 1: The evolution of credit card benefits. In 2021, we will see a distinct evolution in credit benefits shifting from travel-specific offerings to everyday items as global uptick in credit usage reaches new heights and COVID-19 continues to ground travelers around the world. Even if your next trip is to your couch, these benefits will help you make the most of your time at home in 2021 until we can resume traveling.

Prediction 2: E-commerce IRL (in real life). The mainstream emergence of integrated commerce, the ultimate customer experience. Visa's Back to Business Holiday Study found 45% of UAE consumers plan to shop half or more online, 34% of them plan to shop mostly in store or "In Real Life" (IRL, for short) but with some online and just one in five (21%) plan to shop exclusively IRL. In an unprecedented year for e-commerce, driven by the general need for companies to provide online buying options, curbside pickup and new forms of delivery, among others, 2021 will further push integrated commerce toward becoming not just a trend but commonplace. Less friction, new technological advancements for app-centered buyers and a multi-channel commerce strategy will allow businesses to be even more nimble and meet the constantly evolving needs of their customers. And it's not just traditional or large companies joining in: around the world, governments are raising contactless limits, and small businesses are using this agility to their advantage.

Prediction 3: Buy now, pay later is here to stay. With the acceleration to digital-first experiences, we can add installments to the list of consumer expectations for speed, flexibility and convenience in how they pay. The "buy now, pay later' trend is now becoming popular in UAE and KSA, particularly with the roll out of startups such as Spotii, Tabby and Tamara that allow customers to make purchases without paying the full amount upfront. Expect to continue seeing growth in the new year as consumers look for the flexibility to shop what they want, when they want, without breaking the bank.

Related: Three Payment Plans To Increase Cash Inflow For Your Business

Prediction 4: Digital payments becomes the growing default way to pay. There is no reverse gear on 2020 in terms of the evolution seen within the digital payments industry around the world. The use of contactless payments became part of the public health response to COVID-19 and we have no reason to believe this will revert to pre-COVID 19 status once the world returns to its new normal. As part of the expansion, point-of-sale payments and financing platforms will each undergo major transformation to ensure digital-first options are the option, as well as a rise in digital wallets becoming a preferred method for consumers to make purchases.

Prediction 5: Tap to Phone. As contactless becomes the default payment experience around the world at the point of sale, Tap to Phone will enable micro and small businesses to enter the digital economy with the simplicity of an app. Tap to phone enables sellers to accept contactless payments without the need for a payment acceptance terminal. We're seeing early stages of this product growth and expect 2021/2022 to be big years for growth as contactless consumer usage continues to grow.

Prediction 6: Digital marketplaces are the new main streets for SMBs. Small business owners are always looking for ways to branch out beyond their local community, especially now when in-person shopping and COVID-19 regulations have drastically altered the way SMBs stay connected to customers. In 2021, the addition of marketplaces as a new digital "Main Street" for small businesses will be imperative to their survival. Not only will they use such marketplaces to gain exposure, but also to reach new leads, provide 24/7 access to products and create new customer service experiences for digital-first customers.

Prediction 7: The small business response to fraud activities. Card Not Present fraud activities will continue to rise but take on added meaning for fraudsters in their abuse of e-commerce and a lack of authentication options. Given the shift to online-first offerings, small businesses will also need to take note of this trend as they are not as equipped as big firms.

Related: Keeping It Real: Lessons From 2020 (Through The Lens Of Dubai's Startup Ecosystem)

Shahebaz Khan

General Manager, Visa UAE

Shahebaz Khan is Visa’s General Manager for UAE.

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