Traditional Payment Methods Losing Ground as Digital Payments Gain Popularity

As 2024 commences, the march of digital transformation into increasingly nuanced areas of our daily lives continues — and payment experiences are no exception. Technology-savvy millennials and Generation Z consumers are propelling systemic change in the ways consumers pay. By interacting with new financial services and digital payments being offered by various brands, financial institutions (FIs) and FinTechs, these consumers are affirming many of the most remarkable accomplishments in the payments space.

However, this has also resulted in an unusual challenge for payment providers: These very same consumers now establish the expectations for payment experiences, and their desire for fast, secure, transparent, and low-cost payment options is compelling a reckoning across the financial industry — one that will favor agility, flexibility, and accessibility.

Cashing Out: Millennials and Gen Zers Advocate for Digital Payments

Cash is swiftly losing its superiority. Amid the ongoing global rise of digital culture, young consumers are increasingly selecting digital wallets and other payment alternatives, compelling businesses to pivot toward contactless and digital payment methods — and come to terms with the digital-forward ethos propelling their popularity.

More than 8 in 10

Digital payments are presenting a demanding challenge for small businesses to master.

With 85% of Gen Z and 82% of millennial consumers urging for contactless digital payments, many small businesses have been left scrambling to keep up. A concerning 27% are stuck in a traditional payments rut, highlighting a significant misstep with a key consumer trend. If businesses want to thrive, they must not only keep their fingers on the pulse of tomorrow’s shoppers but also embrace the digital payment methods they favor.

Americans are reimagining their wallets, and it’s all about digital.

Digital wallets are no longer a trend but a reality of the American payments landscape. More than half of United States consumers are exchanging leather for pixels, fueled by the staggering 91% of Gen Z consumers who are the most likely of all consumers to embrace digital-first payments. However, do not be mistaken: Millennials and Gen Xers are also joining the digital movement, transforming the way Americans pay.

Cash becomes less popular as consumers embrace digital payments.

Already, 24% of U.S. adult consumers are exchanging cash for digital alternatives. Meanwhile, 3 in 5 consumers, including 7 in 10 millennials, envision a future when all payments will be digital. As the sun sets on traditional payments, it is up to banks and FIs to seize the digital day. The question is: Will they rise in time?

Banks and FinTechs Are Revolutionizing the Old Ways of Paying

The digital payments wave is sweeping through the financial sector, compelling traditional banks and FIs to adapt or perish. The competition from payment FinTechs and even retail brands themselves is pushing financial industry stalwarts to reinvent their approach to payments — and even reassess long-standing retail banking models.

94%

Brands are relying on financial services, and it’s effective.

Traditional banks are no longer the go-to for financial services. A recent Vodeno/Aion Bank survey reveals a profound shift in consumer behavior: 52% of European consumers ages 25 to 34 are forsaking old-school banks for the conveniences of brand-offered financial products. This trend underscores a widening gap between traditional banking practices and the digital-first preferences of Gen Z and millennial consumers.

Banks prepare for a payments technology showdown with FinTechs.

The battle lines have been drawn. Traditional banks, under siege from the relentless advance of FinTechs, are responding by embracing innovation. Recent research shows that nearly all banks — 94% — are on the verge of investing in modern payment technologies. This pivot is not simply a response to FinTech challenges but a survival strategy for the legacy banking industry — lest it cede even more ground to these nimble rivals. The move is especially crucial as pay-by-bank payments promise to usher in a whole new disruption of the payments ecosystem.

Payments at High Speed: Pay-by-Bank Is on the Cusp of Changing Commerce

More than just the art of paying is on the drawing board. The underlying concept of transacting itself is being redrawn by the hands of advanced payments technologies. From pay-by-bank tools to the collaborations behind them, the payments industry is witnessing a rapid adoption of these unprecedented technologies in everyday commerce.

Pay-by-bank payment solutions

Banks could stand at the helm of the next digital payments revolution.

Account-to-account (A2A) payments, also referred to as pay-by-bank transfers, could be the new future of payments. This method bypasses the usual debit and credit card networks, instead transferring funds directly between bank accounts, generally in real time. This not only reduces the cost of transactions but also minimizes the risk of fraud by removing the need for users to share sensitive data such as credit card numbers.

Despite pay-by-bank’s advantages, the method has yet to fulfill its potential, with just 36% of consumers using it in the past quarter. The main hindrance to its use arises from a lack of awareness of its availability. PYMNTS Intelligence recently revealed that about 33% of Gen Z and roughly 24% of millennial retail banking consumers are unaware of their banks’ A2A payment options. Banks now face the daunting task of beefing up consumer awareness about their in-house innovative payment solutions — a crucial step for achieving wider adoption.

HSBC ‘zings’ past traditional banking norms.

HSBC’s new international pay-by-bank app, Zing, is more than just a payments product. It is a statement. By stepping onto the global digital payments stage, the banking giant is both challenging FinTech heavyweights and embracing an agile approach to addressing evolving consumer demands. The universal accessibility of Zing underscores a broader banking industry trend that is picking up pace: Innovate and adapt to consumers’ insatiable appetite for rapid, secure, and flexible payment options … or else.

Chase and Mastercard team up to reshape the eCommerce payments.

The partnership between JP Morgan Chase and Mastercard aims to enhance and streamline the U.S. payments infrastructure. Their co-developed pay-by-bank tool combines open banking technology with automated clearing house (ACH) capabilities, offering retail businesses an unprecedented pay-by-bank solution that slashes payment processing costs by up to 80% and boosts efficiency for eCommerce merchants. Still, despite their availability and potential benefits, transformative payment experiences such as pay-by-bank remain largely unknown to consumers.

Retail checkouts undergo digital payments upgrade with pay-by-bank options.

The retail checkout experience is getting a digital makeover, exemplified by the integration of Link Money’s pay-by-bank solution by eCommerce solutions provider Bold Commerce. This partnership not only opens the door for retailers to harness the efficiencies of open banking payments but also represents a victory for consumers favoring fast, secure, and flexible payment methods.

Strategizing for 2024: Proactive Steps to Kick Off Digital Payments Adoption in the New Year

The rapid advances in digital payment technologies throughout the last year have reshaped the payments industry in profound ways. As we step into 2024, payment processors and legacy banks and FIs are facing critical challenges. These include:

  • Smoothly integrating advanced technologies like blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI) into existing, often outdated systems
  • Navigating a fiercely competitive market in which consumer loyalty hinges more on service quality and user experience than on brand allegiance
  • Striking a delicate balance between meeting consumer demands and enhancing their payment experiences

The escalating demand for fast, secure, and frictionless payment solutions not only presents a substantial opportunity but also necessitates a strategic recalibration by providers — a new payments resolution.

PYMNTS Intelligence prescribes the following actionable roadmap:

  • Expand digital literacy outreach: Address the digital knowledge gap by investing in consumer education programs to raise awareness about digital payment options. Focus on the benefits and security features of these new payment methods to build trust and confidence among consumers, especially among demographics less familiar with digital payment methods.
  • Embrace consumer-centric innovation: Steer innovation by keeping consumer preferences and behavior at the center of your digital payments strategy. Utilize data analytics to decode consumer spending patterns and build digital payment solutions that cater specifically to these needs.
  • Build a digital payment ecosystem: Prioritize the development of integrated digital payment platforms that connect consumers seamlessly with a multiplicity of payment options. This should include a mix of traditional and modern payment methods, from credit cards to mobile wallets to A2A options and potentially even cryptocurrencies.
  • Leverage AI to offer personalized experiences: Deploy artificial intelligence to analyze customer data, predict preferences, and offer customized payment solutions. We are in the early days of AI, but already it can help devise flexible installment plans or recommend preferred payment methods, thereby enhancing customer satisfaction and fostering loyalty.
  • Explore strategic partnerships: Forge robust collaborations with retail brands, FinTechs, and FIs. These relationships can lead to innovative payment solutions — for example, integrated pay-by-bank tools or enhanced digital wallet functionalities — or, at a minimum, help to foster fresh perspectives that fuel advanced payment solutions. The strategic partnership between JP Morgan Chase and Mastercard exemplifies this potential.

The evolving rhythm of digital payments is a dance of industry innovation and consumer expectations. As we experience a transformation with no parallel in history, one thing is for sure: We are not witnessing merely the last waltz of cash but a tango into the era in which digital payments orchestrate every beat of commerce.

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