Contactless is booming and people are eager to spend this Christmas. What role could technology play in making sure we don’t tip into the red?
I hope that, by now, you will have exhausted your Christmas budget in good time. If you’re like me, you started shopping back in October (I like to be prepared). This year, shopping looks different: payment mechanisms, online services, delivery logistics, and the retailers themselves all look a little different from this time last year. How has this affected how we buy stuff?
For a start, Covid-19 lit a fire under contactless payments. With basic hygiene standards in the spotlight, we looked to mitigate contamination opportunities. In the US, where contactless had been slow to take hold, familiar names such as Target and Walmart promoted contactless and US shoppers duly obliged: contactless usage grew 150% in March 2020 year over year. It’s a similar story in Scandinavia, with Finextra reporting that the contactless payment ratio has grown from around 57% in early January to 75% of all in-store card payments in late October this year. Here in the UK, we embraced contactless ages ago, and this Statista chart shows no slowdown of how much we love our contactless cards.
This has changed the landscape more than you can imagine. The uptake of contactless is changing transport systems, card issuers, POS terminals, smartphone apps, and so on. New payments startups are popping up around the world. What was once cited as a terrible year for the global payments industry has turned into a heap of opportunities for financial services providers.
Yet, while it’s easier to spend simply by tapping our cards or using Apple Pay (and other mobile wallets), this has been a tough year for many of us. The pressure of gifting at Christmas looms over us, rather unfairly I think in such challenging circumstances. But here we are: the streets are packed again, the shops are (mostly) open and the contactless card limit has been increased to £45.
2021 is set to be a year of financial strain for households up and down the country. While it may be easier than ever to shop online (despite so few supermarket slots available!), we should be wary of throwing our money around willy-nilly. It’s easier than ever to track our spending habits via clever apps and websites, and our advice here at ieDigital is to monitor your spending wisely. We’ve put so much work into researching and developing the technology that makes light work of monitoring your finances that we’d be doing you a disservice if we didn’t impart timely advice.
If you bank online with someone like Monzo or Starling, use their tools to stay ahead of your budget. Many building societies offer dashboard views of your finances too – and if they don’t, get in touch with them to request that they look into doing so in 2021! Push your bank hard, or switch.
SMEs need financial love, too
Back in June, the ITC revealed that two thirds of micro and small firms had been strongly affected by Covid-19. That’s vague, but huge! Small businesses stand to lose and gain (there are always winners and losers), but the upside for SMEs is that technology is adapting to their needs. Many small businesses have suffered in the shadow of bigger rivals when it comes to favourable regulation, government aid and applicable technology. But now more than ever, technology startups are attracting SMEs to undercut big business and gain a foothold and a head start at the cutting edge of what’s capable.
For instance, ieDigital recently announced a 3-year agreement with Cambridge & Counties Bank to help small businesses manage their finances. It’s a self-service model that provides the ability for SMEs to monitor financial transactions and track statements across organisation accounts. And much more. It’s servicing that hasn’t ordinarily been available to small business owners, and it’s technology jumps like this that will make the difference between making a good start to 2021 or seeing your fortunes dip.
I hope you make a good start. 2021 will be a revealing year for us all, but it’s with positivity and a willingness to grasp the technology available to us that will help smooth the journey.
Photo by Markus Winkler