By Simon Fairbairn
It is hard to dismiss the challenges thrown up by the coronavirus pandemic over the last few months, but if you look hard enough, every trial has a silver lining somewhere. For pretty much all markets and, in particular, for the payments industry, the old adage of necessity being the mother of invention has never been truer.
Right now, with all the turbulence in both the economic and social landscape, it would be easy to throw your hands in the air, signal defeat and declare that it is all just too hard.
However, these are the times when the best of our people and the best of the companies earn their salt. Taking stock of what they do, they push back not just responding to survive but using the challenges as a catalyst for change and innovation. They see it as a moment in time to drive and accelerate change in their business model, the way stuff gets done, and even the means by which we all consume services. The world plainly hasn't stood still; it's just been thrown an almighty curveball we all have to adjust to.
At one level the changes being made are fairly obvious to see and are often immediate reactions with clever, simple solutions that keep us moving forward. Examples include supermarkets with Plexiglas screens to protect their counter staff, a shift to online selling and home delivery, or even the ramp up in contactless payment to avoid the necessity of having to touch something that could be contaminated. While these changes all belong to the canon of innovation, bigger more subtle improvements and changes are undoubtedly taking place.
Take the growth in working at home. Once the domain of the new tech companies, home working has spread slowly to the rest of industry but never quite getting over the line, with issues of trust and productivity still unresolved. That is, until now when necessity forced our hand.
The doom-laden predictions of reduced productivity and slacking employees were demonstrably unfounded, and team morale for many organizations has improved. That could simply be attributed to the relief of not putting yourself at risk, the increased emphasis we have all placed on pastoral care and the greater flexibility we have been given with our daily lives. Nevertheless the trend with the stats is positive.
Moreover, it has triggered the start of the next wave of consideration—why do we have so much expensive real estate? Many a strategy has considered a shift to a smaller, more flexible office footprint built around collaboration and key events. It won't suit all organizations or individuals after the current crisis resolves, but with a proven operating model and significant cost pressure, it is very much on the table, and we will surely see a significant shift over the next couple of years.
On a tech level in the payments industry, the landscape is no different. Companies across our sphere have stepped up to help businesses swiftly mobilize their online presence, streamlining processes to remove unnecessary bureaucracy in order to deliver as quickly and efficiently as possible. This in turn has started to create opportunities that overnight have become new markets demanding more permanent solutions and a development roadmap of their own.
Contactless has grown massively over the past couple of months, which is helping to cement the case for accelerating investment in new PIN-on-mobile or tap-on-phone solutions. Using off-the-shelf mobile and tablet devices, these new mobile payment solutions bring lower cost and higher performance capability into the heart of the payments landscape.
While our current times are troubled, our nature as human beings drives us to look beyond, to continue to keep imagining and use whatever the situation we face as a catalyst for change and as a platform from which to energize our appetite for innovation.
Simon Fairbairn is head of professional services / Ingenico Group EMEA. Take a look around the new Payments Landscape in this Ingenico white paper with a special focus on the impacts to consumer behavior. www.ingenico.com/payment-landscape-new-normal. To reach Simon, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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