Mastercard: 2021 Was the Year of Evolution

Businesses and consumers alike built on their digital payments momentum in 2021, Ron Shultz, Mastercard executive vice president, New Payment Flows, North America found, accelerating the adoption and rollout of new options that transformed customer experience both online and off. Read his thoughts on it in the PYMNTS eBook, “In a Word: 50 Thought Leaders Sum Up 2021.”


By now, we’ve all heard how the pandemic has accelerated the shift to digital payments. But digitization itself is just a means to what people and businesses have been accelerating toward: greater choice.

Payment options have been steadily increasing for years, driven by consumer demand and new technologies that made things like online checkout, digital wallets and biometric payments possible. Then COVID-19 pushed the digital payment revolution into overdrive, with 63% of consumers saying it led them to try a new payment method, according to Mastercard’s New Payments Index.

For many, digital payments are now an everyday habit. A whopping 84% of consumers expect to buy what they want, when and how they want — whether they’re footing the dinner bill via QR code, sending money via smartphone app to family members abroad, buying products online with crypto or choosing to buy now and pay later at checkout. And 60% of consumers are now paying their bills digitally, according to Mercator. Impressed by the speed, ease and transparency of digital transactions, they have no intention of stopping. Companies that don’t offer these choices run the risk of losing business.

In B2B payments, automation is key to unlocking greater choice and efficiency. Early in the pandemic, when no one was at offices to handle paperwork, invoicing and check processing ground to a screeching halt. As a result, 82% of small businesses changed how they send and receive payments, and 51% pivoted their clients to digital payment methods, Mastercard found. Similarly, 88% of technology firms have already implemented payment automation and 46% of larger companies plan to do so in the next year, according to a Mastercard and PYMNTS study. Electronic invoicing, virtual corporate cards, automated accounts payable and bill pay solutions are all top of mind as businesses look to future-proof their operations.

For businesses and consumers, the future of payments is about choice. Consumers are already experiencing the benefits of more options for fast, simple and secure digital payments. And with our open-loop B2B network, we’re simplifying and automating commercial payments globally, with rich data exchanges helping to streamline back-end operations for businesses. Buyers and suppliers can pay with the methods they choose, using a single access point that doesn’t require the adoption of multiple technologies or the exchange of sensitive banking information.

These features help strengthen customer and company relationships, which can lead to more business. Companies can enjoy efficiencies like working capital improvement, visibility into the payment details, and more choices for customers to pay how and when they like.

The shift to digital that started in 2020 became a reality in 2021, and it’s here to stay. Beyond the speed, security and convenience, the greatest benefit to consumer and businesses is that of choice and control — to pay and get paid in the way that best suits their needs.