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Brands That Don’t Digitize Face Being Left Behind

In A Decade of Digital Transformation in 12 Months, 46 C-suite executives spoke with PYMNTS for its Q2 eBook on what the world will look like as recovery rolls on and the next iteration of normal rolls out. In this excerpt, Kristian Gjerding, CEO at CellPoint Digital, discusses why brands must digitize the entire customer experience to capitalize on the pandemic-induced shift in consumer behavior.

Read the entire eBook here.

There were a lot of changes in the behavior of consumers last year due to the new conditions of everyday life laid out by the pandemic. Take face masks, for instance. Before governments the world over made them mandatory in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, you almost never saw anyone wearing them in western countries. Now, it’s commonplace.

While some might think that as the pandemic ends, the use of face masks will stop, this is certainly not the case. For example, we see in Asia that wearing face masks is not just a flash in the pan, as residents there have been using them long before COVID-19 and will continue to use them long past the current pandemic. I imagine it will be the same everywhere, as a sign that changes caused by the pandemic are here to stay.

The same is true for payments and FinTech. Customers have adopted increasingly digital-first behaviors as a result of the pandemic, from online shopping to buy now, pay later (BNPL), and they are unlikely to drop these preferences. As a result, it should not be a question of what parts of a business that brands might digitize, but rather how they will reposition and restructure themselves in a digital-first era to avoid being left behind.

Contactless is a great example of this. We’ve seen widespread adoption of contactless payments worldwide as consumer behavior has shifted, with demand for nonphysical forms of payments rising. This was partly inspired by social distancing guidelines and global lockdowns. Both accelerated this behavior, leading to a mass uptake of contactless technologies – not just in payments, but also across travel, live entertainment and more.

As a result, the technologies and services that outlast COVID will likely help drive a more contactless experience for customers, one in which they can pay via the method of their choice and enjoy a seamless experience, whether in-store or online.

The financial services and products that arose out of the COVID-19 pandemic helped to usher in a more seamless payment experience for users, so it’s difficult to identify any true “one-hit wonders,” or anything that will fade out. What we can say with confidence, however, is that traditional payment methods such as cash and checks likely won’t stand the test of time. Even back in 2009, when Denmark’s journey to cashless was in its early stages, we recognized the potential for physical money to spread disease. The world has woken up to this reality, and businesses must be prepared for this contactless future to succeed moving forward.

The lesson here is that if brands don’t digitize, they risk being left behind. True digitization doesn’t just mean investing in one element, but rather fundamentally changing many aspects of a business – from payments through the entire customer experience – in order to capitalize on shifts in consumer behavior.

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