Cashless society: By 2024, digital wallets will eclipse all other payment methods

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After a year of profound disruption and lessons learned, retailers are working to rebuild smarter in 2021 as they adapt to rapid changes in consumer behavior.

The pandemic accelerated a global shift in consumer preferences away from cash toward fast, safe, and convenient digital payments. Contactless cards, e-commerce, and digital wallets are in, while cash is quickly fading into the sunset.

This begs the question: Are we careening towards a cashless society?

Adapting to the way the world embraced new technology and pivoted into a different environment is key for providing consumers with a choice of safe, secure payments – and key for merchant survival.

What does the future of payments look like?

Find out how the pandemic impacted consumer payments around the world and how retailers are adapting.

Download the report.

New research provides insight into how consumer behavior has evolved and how merchants are rebuilding payments to meet consumer needs:

  1. The cashless trend is accelerating
  2. Mobile and digital wallets are becoming widespread
  3. The skyrocketing growth of e-commerce means payment options are more important than ever

Cashless society? More like cash-light for now

We’re not close to being a cashless society – at least not yet. But consumers were already leaning away from cash and toward more convenient cards, digital, and online payments. A dramatic reduction of face-to-face commerce meant cash wasn’t practical in 2020.

The pandemic accelerated cash’s decline by more than three years as cash accounted for just 20.5% of global point-of-sale (POS) volume in 2020. That’s a 32% reduction from 2019.

Merchants should assess their cash acceptance and infrastructure knowing that the decline of cash is a trend continuing into our foreseeable future. The projected decline for cash is an additional 38% between 2020 and 2024.

With the rise of a cashless society, mobile and digital wallets reign supreme 

Mobile wallets gained what cash lost at the point of sale, representing 25.7% of global POS transaction volume in 2020, rising 19.5% over 2019.

COVID-19 sped adoption of contactless payment methods, propelling what was already soaring mobile wallet use globally.

Mobile wallets, which are generally used on smartphones, will account for more than a third of global in-store transaction volume by 2024.

Online digital wallets are even more dominant and will eclipse all other payment methods combined in global e-commerce by 2024, rising to account for 51.7% of transaction volume.

Determining which mobile and digital wallets a merchant accepts should largely be based on region and geography. Payment preferences remain localized, so it’s important for merchants to determine what’s suitable for them to implement, and benefits their consumers.

Do you know the difference between how your 21 year-old and 65 year-old customers like to pay? This podcast episode proposes that understanding these generational payment preferences is key to future-proofing your organization:

E-commerce is essential commerce 

As the pandemic shuttered physical businesses, consumers dollars flowed into whatever channels were available. Global commerce gravitated online as home-bound consumers turned to their computers and mobile devices to shop. E-commerce grew by 19% in 2020 over 2019, the highest global growth rate in five years.

The growth rate accelerated the rate of e-commerce penetration by almost three years, with transactions jumping from 8% in 2019 to 10% in 2020.

For example, the use of digital wallets in e-commerce dramatically increased due to the pandemic, rising 44% from 13% in 2019 to 19.8% in 2020.

Our data projects the rapid growth to continue through 2024 at a rate of 31.2% online and 12.4% of share in store.

Social commerce also grew in 2020, with some brands moving towards Facebook or Instagram platforms to enhance the shopping experience and connect with consumers, offering seamless payment methods.

Retailers are rebuilding via partnerships

An e-commerce platform with payment options is key for consumers – having those choices at checkout makes a massive difference when it comes to the consumer experience.

However, as payments become simpler for consumers with the rise of a cashless society, they’re becoming more complicated than ever for merchants. Creating flexible, fault-tolerant payments infrastructure is hard work.

Partnerships with technology and logistics providers can help make ease the process. Payment partners are helping merchants manage a paradigm shift so that payment safety, speed, and convenience are a foundation of excellent customer experiences.

The pandemic forced even the largest global merchants to engage with e-commerce and delivery platforms to engage customers where they were, and managers today are leveraging partnerships to manage a new era of unprecedented risks.

Digital payment options, like digital transformation, aren’t optional – they’re required today

The pandemic was the ultimate stress test of business resiliency. For merchants, rebuilding smarter means creating flexible digital infrastructure that can adapt to a default state of rapid change. They need to be agile as we move closer to a cashless society.

Crafting digital payment solutions for consumers is just the tip of digital transformation. From B2B payments to payment analytics, 2020 showed merchants that digital transformation isn’t something they can put off anymore.

Rebuilding our economies and businesses starts with a clear-eyed understanding of what’s changed and where commerce is heading.

Seamless. Fast. Personalized. Customers today want it all. Can you deliver? Join us for the CX track at SAPPHIRE NOW. 

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Patrick Ashton

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