Mastercard New Payments Index: UAE Consumer Appetite for Digital Payments Takes Off

  • 97% of consumers in the UAE are considering emerging payments such as wearables, biometrics, digital wallets and currencies, and QR code, in addition to Contactless, according to the Mastercard New Payments Index
  • Almost 90% of UAE consumers have access to more ways to pay compared to this time last year  
  • 3 out of 4 UAE consumers say digital payments methods help them save money
  • 3 out of 4 UAE shoppers say they are more loyal to retailers who offer multiple payment options, and would shop at small businesses that offer more diverse ways to pay

As the world went into pandemic lockdown in 2020, consumers shifted their spending habits to embrace contactless tap-and-go payments and online shopping. As stores closed and social distancing took hold, retailers worldwide moved their businesses online, embraced e-commerce and explored the potential of new ways to pay. More than a year later, research from Mastercard shows that the adoption of new payment technologies is rising, and consumer appetite for new, fast and flexible digital experiences continues to grow.

The Mastercard New Payments Index shows 97% of UAE consumers will consider using at least one emerging payment method, such as cryptocurrency, biometrics, contactless, or QR code, in the next year.

Over two-thirds of respondents (66%) agree they have tried a new payment method they would not have tried under normal circumstances, but the pandemic has galvanized people to try flexible new payment options to get what they want, when they want it. With this interest and consumer demand also comes a greater expectation for businesses to provide multiple ways to shop and pay. In fact, 62% of UAE consumers say they would avoid businesses that do not accept electronic payments of any kind. Additionally, nearly 3 out of 4 (74%) UAE consumers say that digital payment methods help them save money.

“The pandemic made us think differently, partly out of necessity,” said Craig Vosburg, Chief Product Officer at Mastercard. “To deliver the choice and flexibility that consumers need – and increasingly expect –retailers worldwide need to offer a range of payment solutions that are easy to access and always on.  As we look ahead, we need to continue to enable all choices, both in-store and online, to shape the fabric of commerce and make the digital economy work for everyone.”

Contactless technology was the digital catalyst to explore new payment options because of its fast, secure, and touch-free experience. Between the first quarter of 2020 and the same period in 2021, more than 100 markets saw contactless as a share of total in-person transactions grow by at least 50 percent.  A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, contactless is showing its staying power and dynamism – in the first quarter of 2021 alone, Mastercard saw 1 billion more contactless transactions worldwide as compared to the same period of 2020. All signs point to a continued growth path for contactless, with nearly 7 in 10 consumers globally anticipating using a contactless card this year.

“Consumers today expect convenience and it is up to businesses to respond to this demand. We have also witnessed how small businesses too must be prepared for an omnichannel future.  We foresee that speed and security will play an even more important role in delivering these needs and we expect continued growth of new solutions to provide a seamless payment experience. Together with our partners we are working to enable the ease of acceptance of emerging payments that are coming out strong in a post-pandemic world,” said Girish Nanda, Country Manager – UAE & Pakistan, Mastercard.

Looking to the future, digital currencies and wallets, wearables, biometrics, contactless and QR codes are trending as emerging payments technologies as people’s comfort with them and understanding of them increases and the use of cash decreases. In fact, 89% of consumers in the region have more ways to pay compared to this time last year. The exploding interest in new payment technologies may encourage businesses to expand their options at checkout. The Mastercard New Payment Index found:

  • Cryptocurrency1 Gains Ground – Today consumers can buy, sell, and trade cryptocurrency as a commodity or investment. Consumers are also increasingly showing interest in being able to spend crypto assets for everyday purchases. As global interest in digital currencies continues to accelerate, 5 in 10 people (50%) in the UAE say they plan to use cryptocurrency in the next year, with more than half (63%) noting they are more open to using it than they were a year ago. While consumer interest in cryptocurrency – especially floating digital currencies such as Bitcoin – is high, work is still required to ensure consumer choice, protection, and their regulatory compliance. Earlier this year, Mastercard announced that it will start supporting select cryptocurrencies directly on its network.
  • Biometric Payments are More Trustworthy – Perceptions of safety and convenience have been front and center for people over the past year. 55% of UAE consumers say they plan to use biometric verification methods like gait or walk assessments and fingerprint authorization. 68% of consumers feel safer using biometrics to verify a purchase than entering a pin.
  • QR Codes are Cleaner and More Convenient – Growing markets are leveraging QR-based options as a clean and convenient way to interact with merchants. 56% of people in the UAE expect to use more payment technologies like QR codes in the next year. Consumers also find that that QR codes are cleaner (68%) and more convenient (69%) for in-person payments and have a significant potential to reduce cost of payment acceptance and increase financial inclusion.
  • Digital Wallets Surge in Popularity – The UAE being a standout market in the region in the proliferation of digital wallets has seen the technology surge in popularity. 66% of UAE consumers said they were likely to use digital wallets next year. 57% of shoppers even say that they feel safer storing their card information in one place such as a digital wallet.

To Meet People’s Demands, Businesses Forced to Jump into Emerging Payment Trends

With consumer interest around new payment technologies, the expectation for businesses to adapt for the long-term is here to stay. Over three in four UAE consumers (76%) say that they prefer to shop more at small businesses that have both an in-person and online presence. Furthermore, 78% noted being more excited to shop at retailers that can offer the latest payment methods and an equal proportion (78%) said they would be more loyal to retailers who offered multiple payment options.

As one way to address this consumer preference for fast, touch-free payment experiences, many merchants are turning to contactless payments. 88% of in-person transactions are now contactless in UAE as most merchant categories are seeing an increase as a share of total in-person transactions year-over-year in the first quarter of 2021.

This behavior shift is reinforced by the desire for consumer choice with 83% saying that they expect to make purchases when they want and how they want. Businesses that can provide multiple ways to shop and pay are best positioned to meet these expectations. As the demand for emerging payments and choice continues, it requires a wider range of payment solutions, insights, and products to meet the accelerating enthusiasm for the future state of pay.

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