With the pandemic triggering lockdowns one after another, customer behaviours have radically changed as the world aimed to avoid all unnecessary face-to-face contact. 

This renewed global focus on safety and hygiene provided the perfect ground for certain digital payment trends to enter the picture with a bang. So, it comes as no surprise that as much as 70% of consumers have used a new shopping or payment method for the first time since the start of COVID-19. 

We’ve gathered the top seven payment trends in 2021 that are set to change the world of finance as we know it – and with that, how you can approach payments as a small business.

Contactless payments

Contactless payments saw a huge increase in 2020 and continue to be on the up. According to a 2020 Visa survey, 75% of all in-store payments are now contactless, following the need to reduce touch points as much as possible. 

As a result, contactless limits rose to accommodate for this change – first to £45 in March 2020 and by October the 15th the limit will rise again to £100. Find out more about how this contactless increase can benefit your business. 

By April of this year, Visa reported processing one billion additional touch-free payments (where previously consumers would have needed to enter their PIN). And a staggering 83% of people in the UK now use contactless payments.

As the data suggests, contactless is a key payment trend for 2021 (and beyond) that no small business should overlook. You can potentially lose a huge chunk of your customers if you fail to offer them the option to pay with contactless (according to the same Visa research, half of millennials wouldn’t shop at a place that doesn’t offer them the option). 

Making sure you’ve got the right card machine to accept contactless payments is paramount in 2021 – hop on this trend in style with a Dojo card machine for fast contactless transactions.

And speaking of contactless…

Wearable payments

This generational shift towards more digital payments can also be found in the exponential rise in popularity of digital wallets. They safely store credit and debit card information in a digital version of a physical wallet – globally digital wallets are almost as popular (39%) with consumers as credit and debit cards. With Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay emerging as the leaders when it comes to both in-store and online purchases. 

This, in turn, has contributed to the rise of wearable payments – recent advances in technology have enabled payments to be invisibly added to wearables. In the US, 19% of consumers currently use a mobile wallet on their smartwatch, and 33% say they’re likely to consider doing so. 

Additionally, the surge of internet-connected devices opens up potential objects that can be converted into payment devices. 

Today, wearable devices include anything from wristbands, fitness trackers, watches and even clothing. In the UK alone you can find a wide array of bPay-enabled watches designed by popular brands such as Guess and Timex. 

Quick to use and easy on the eye, contactless wearables are especially popular for big events as they remove the burden of handling cash. Recently, big sport events like the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup tournament saw the use of Tovi Sorga bracelets across the sports arena. 

Is your business set up for this newest fashion accessory? As long as your card machine accepts contactless payments, you’re good to go too.

Multi-location payments

Even if you only operate from one business location, adopting multi-location payments has the power to boost your business. Accepting multi-location payments allows you to serve more customers faster as you don’t just rely on your till to do the heavy lifting – reduce queues and speed up service by taking payments at table, outside, or wherever you need to. 

Gone are the days when one countertop card machine would cut it – implementing a mobile-point-of-sale (mPOS) is crucial to meet the growing demand for mobile payments.

In the UK alone, the cloud-based mPOS market is booming thanks to its infrastructure security, high speed, scalability, and 24/7 services. And, you guessed it, this is another answer to the increased usage of contactless payments. 

With Dojo, you can manage all your locations quickly and easily within your account. Even when you’re on the go, you can see all your transactions and filter them by location (or by card machine if you have multiple ones) within the Dojo app

Our Dojo Go card machines come with seamless mobile connectivity as standard, so you can accept payments outdoors, away from the till and directly at the table thanks to integrated Pay at Table technology. So, if you’ve got a buzzing restaurant, you can manage your front-, middle- and back-of-house payments on one integrated platform.

Omnichannel payments 

Another trend that quickly emerged with the majority of the population being house-bound is the rapid shift to online shopping for everything from household items to groceries. Global online sales increased 71% year on year by the end of 2020, meaning as a business owner you’d be wise to consider an omnichannel approach in 2021. 

Referring to the seamless integration of multiple payment channels, omnichannel payments offer a consistent customer experience regardless of how they interact with your business (be it on mobile, online, or in-store). Most of all, if you adopt this approach, you’ll enable customers to pay in their preferred channel.

As some customers still feel uncomfortable with in-store shopping, ecommerce is set to continue dominating the shopping landscape – 21% of UK consumers shopped online for the first time due to the virus. Thus, offering a first-class online shopping experience could open doors to more customers.

Prominent examples of businesses that have already jumped on the omnichannel bandwagon include M&S trailing scan-and-go technology (allowing shoppers to skip checkout queues) and Zara enabling shoppers to collect their online orders through automated pick-up points in-store.

QR (quick response) codes, for example, are an easy way to adopt omnichannel payments regardless of the size of your business. 

They allow your customers to make instant payments by simply scanning the QR code of the product they wish to purchase. 

Thanks to the changes in consumer behaviour over the last year, after an initial slow start, QR codes have become more popular in the UK as well. According to a recent survey, 40% of respondents said they had scanned one in the previous seven days, citing bars, cafes and restaurants as places where they used a QR code as a payment method. 

You, too, can boost your profits by handling more orders thanks to a self-serve QR code. Add it to your tables and anywhere customers queue, so they can quickly access your menu upon scanning the code with their phone. If you have ecommerce you can go a step further and accept payments via the same solution for fast and seamless self-service experience.

Buy now pay later options

More and more small businesses are now adopting some sort of a buy now pay later (BNPL) payment method in order to meet the growing demand from younger customers. In short, BNPL allows consumers to split payments into installments to pay off over time rather than pay in full at the time of purchase. 

The numbers speak for themselves: the global buy now pay later market size was valued at $4.07 billion in 2020 and is expected to expand exponentially by 2028. In the UK, 4 in 10 Brits say they have used a BNPL service.

This model is especially popular amongst younger generations, with 54% of millennials and 50% of Gen Z using it, indicating a major change in the way we shop. 

This is due to a variety of factors that make BNPL hugely attractive, such as lack of interest fees, a simplified checkout process, and fast approval options.

Advanced security 

Fraud is an enduring threat that has only been amplified during the Covid pandemic as we transition to a more digital world. With both individuals and businesses being targeted with more sophisticated scams, credit card fraud has emerged as a particular area of concern.  

With this in mind, banks and financial institutions have been working hard at developing new fraud prevention tactics, further improving payment security. From adopting two-factor authentication as a standard to running large awareness campaigns (such as FFA UK’s Take Five campaign), the effort in advanced security has been substantial. As a result, it’s estimated that almost £7 in every £10 of attempted unauthorised fraud was blocked by the banking industry last year. 

Dojo is no exception when it comes to preventative measures and advanced security. All our card machines come with point-to-point encryption (P2PE) as standard. It’s the most rigorous security standard on the market and is recommended by the PCI Security Standards Council.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning

Finally, no article about payment trends in 2021 would be complete without AI and machine learning. The world of financial services has already been using these technologies to their advantage for fraud detection (AI brings the ability to secure sensitive data and enhance fraud management), however, we’re set to see more and more tools embedded with AI in the future of payments. 

For starters, artificial intelligence and machine learning can help dive deeper into a customer’s history and spending behaviour, even predicting future activity. Their adoption is expected to improve personalisation and assist payment activities. For example, voice recognition used to complete smart speakers and in-car payments, could be bolstered by advancements in AI and natural language processing, increasing accuracy and usefulness of voice over time.  

In fact, AI and ML are projected to play a huge part in all of the above trends. From simplifying payments for your customers to improving digital wallet security, AI has the power to transform the act of paying itself. Led by tech giants such as Apple, Google and Amazon, this might just be the one trend in 2021 that has the potential to fully change the way we buy.

These are just seven of the top payment trends we’re seeing in 2021. Staying on top of them will help you take your digital offering to the next level and anticipate your customers’ needs before they even know they’ve had them.

Thriving in the new payments world is easy with Dojo  – we create seamless solutions for effortless payments and give you the tools that put you in control. 

Find out more about our range of card machines or get your online quote today.