The ABS’ August 2021 retail figures show that despite lockdowns impacting in-store trade, consumer spending is still strong. According to the ABS, online retailing recorded $4.2 billion in sales – the highest monthly online total since 2015.

With a post-pandemic roadmap providing greater clarity for retailers across the country, merchants must now consider how to re-engage shoppers as they move between online and instore environments. New technologies and payment methods can help deliver more seamless and convenient experiences, drive sales and support the industry as it rebounds.

The shift towards digital payment methods

Adyen’s latest earnings align with the ABS retail trade figures, highlighting that despite lockdown restrictions impacting merchant trade in some markets, we continued to see significant growth in retail and online volumes.

As the number of customers who shop online dramatically increases, the pandemic has also accelerated the move away from cash. Consumers around the world are increasingly opting for frictionless and digital payment methods, with Australia being one of the leading countries embracing this trend.

The Reserve Bank’s Consumer Payments Survey found that cash usage has significantly declined over time – dropping from 69% in 2007 to 27% in 2019.  According to data analytics and consulting company GlobalData, Australia is one of the top countries in the world heading towards a cashless society. This is due to the increasing number of digital payment methods. This is also reflected in consumer sentiments, as a survey from ME Bank found that 35% of Australians are happy to give up cash as early as 2021.

The incentive to shift towards digital payment methods has been heightened by the hygiene consciousness that individuals have developed throughout the pandemic. Adyen’s most recent Agility Report found that since the outbreak, 50% of Australians are more concerned about the hygiene of payment terminals and would prefer contactless payment methods. Furthermore, 48% of Australians want retailers to use in-store technology to reduce in-person contact, such as contactless payment terminals.

Digital payments are rapidly advancing, with more than 250 contactless payment methods now available. This includes methods such as QR codes, Pay by Link, tap-n-go, Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL), and digital wallets – all of which are now regular payment choices, driven by shopper desire for seamless transactions and greater demand for secure, contactless, and hygienic payments.

With a payments partner taking the heavy lifting in integrating all these systems in one platform, merchants can be confident to scale – whether that’s in the range of products being offered to consumers, or in the countries it operates – knowing its customers have access to their preferred payment methods, every time.

Technologies supporting retailers in their digital transformation journey

Shifting consumer preferences means many retailers also need to adopt new technologies to make the consumer journey as convenient and seamless as possible. Unified commerce helps address this challenge. It allows merchants to bring together payments in-store, online, and in-app, and access all this data in one platform to deliver better customer experiences.

Take Singaporean fashion retailer Love, Bonito, for example. Its implementation of unified commerce helped the brand create an “endless aisle” experience where customers receive the benefits of shopping online, even when visiting the brand’s physical store. It also means it can better manage stock levels and overheads – offering a wider array of items to shoppers, without needing to physically store them on site.

Merchants should also consider ways to engage with customers that cannot physically reach their stores. This need was what prompted Australian fashion retailer Incu to implement Pay by Link technology to reach customer markets affected by lockdowns and take payments through its sales associates consulting customers over WeChat.

Pay by Link allows merchants to chat to a customer over the phone, via an app or web chat, email, or social media, and afterwards, send them a secure link to pay. Customers opening these links will see their purchases on a personalised screen and can choose from a range of payment options. This method also alleviates consumers’ hygiene concerns as the technology provides fewer physical touchpoints and flexibility for customers who might be wary of shopping in-store.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created significant challenges for retailers. However, the acceleration of digital transformation has meant that retailers can innovate to ensure customers are still receiving a seamless experience online as they would in-store. When planning transformation initiatives for this next normal, retailers should consider the key role that payments can play in supporting customer journeys and driving high quality experiences across every channel.

Hayley Fisher is country manager for Australia and New Zealand at Adyen.