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COVID-19 has created an immediate need among consumers worldwide for a digital commerce experience, and small and micro merchants have been stepping up in response.

This is according to results from the new Visa Back to Business study. The card network surveyed consumers and businesses in the U.S., Brazil, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Singapore and U.A.E. to better understand the impact of the pandemic.

The survey found that 78% of consumers have changed the way they pay to avoid physical contact. At the same time, more than two-thirds (67%) of small and micro businesses have adopted new digital technologies – including launching online stores or changing the technology they use at the point of sale.

“Consumers are putting COVID-19 safety measures at the top of their shopping lists and rewarding businesses that do the same,” said Suzan Kereere, global head of merchant sales and acquiring, Visa.

“Historically, we see behavior change at the point of sale as a gradual shift over time. But, COVID-19 has created an immediate need for safer, more efficient shopping experiences both on and offline and consumers are responding by rapidly migrating to digital commerce. We want small businesses to know that Visa is here to help them navigate these new consumer needs and expectations, which will make their businesses stronger now and in the long run,” Kereere said.

The pandemic has driven a significant percentage of consumers to make changes in their shopping habits, the study found. Most (70%) said they had tried a new shopping or payment method, such as curbside pickup, shopping online or using tap to pay in-store, for the first time.

Small business respondents to the survey indicated that they expect another six to 10 months of continued COVID impact before they can return to normal operations. They are most concerned about declining revenue (52%) and attracting new customers (46%). One-third (33%) said they have accepted less cash or stopped accepting it altogether since the pandemic began. And 20% said they had adopted contactless payments methods.

According to the study, facilitating what consumers perceive to be safe payment choices is crucial to maintaining customers. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of consumer respondents said they would switch to a new business that was using contactless payment technology, and nearly half (48%) would avoid shopping at a merchant where they had to make contact with a cashier or a device.

In June, Visa announced that it was launching an initiative to help 50 million small and micro merchants recover from the pandemic’s economic impact.