Payment Methods

Remote Payments: The Next Normal

Remote Payments: The Next Normal

It’s an interesting time to be in the payments business. The analytics of the past few months, when visualized, might resemble a murmuration of starlings – masses of tiny data points whirling like birds in flight, buffeted by winds and weather, with no clearly visible endpoint.

What can be learned?

Quite a bit, actually. Surveying roughly 2,100 consumers in late March about how hiding from a deadly germ has influenced shopping and buying in America, the PYMNTS’ April 2020 Remote Payments report confirmed some things we already knew – like the fact that 16 million Americans have lost their jobs, and another 45 million fear losing theirs – and has revealed a good deal of new information about how the recovery will look and, yes, taste.

The COVID moment is also “…an inflection point in the connected economy, accelerating a massive migration in consumer demand from the physical world to the digital one,” the report states. “Consumers living under stay-at-home orders and mandated lockdowns are turning to their connected devices for social, professional and shopping experiences they have traditionally sought in person.”

Store No More?

Given fear of contagion, daily infection stats dominating the media and, of course, coast-to-coast lockdowns, PYMNTS researchers found a major correlation in digital commerce figures.

“The share of consumers who reported shopping and paying for retail purchases online increased from 41.8 percent in 2019 to 56.4 percent in 2020, marking a 34.9 percent increase,” the report states. “We saw the opposite trend regarding their in-store shopping habits, however. The share of those who shopped and paid for retail goods at brick-and-mortar stores decreased from 42.2 percent in 2019 to 32.1 percent in 2020, meaning consumers are 24 percent less likely to make in-store retail purchases now than they were last year.”

Being large can be useful at times like this, and it paid off big-time going into the pandemic, as the analysis shows. “Consumers are particularly fond of Amazon and Walmart, but they shop at these retailers for divergent reasons and typically through different channels,” the report states. Walmart still rules in online groceries, but “consumers who shop with Amazon often do so to make non-grocery retail purchases, which might include clothing, toys and games, electronics and other nonessential items. Our research shows that 8.7 percent of consumers made their most recent purchases on Amazon, for example. They also tended to shop and pay for these items online, with 93.5 percent doing so.”

The shift to online delivery has subsumed a number of growing trends, including new or enhanced modes of payment and delivery. We can only speculate on the effect of a lasting mass exodus to remote shopping and payment.

Digital, Mobile and Remote

Like the malls before them, big-box retail behemoths and spacious grocery stores may be in for a reckoning. Focal questions remain about the extent of these changes, and the timeframe. What is clear from the latest research is that COVID-19 has spurred a societal lurch to online shopping that may augur a very different future than the one businesses planned for at the end of 2019.

Whatever shape the future shopping landscape will take, mobile will be there. “Remote shopping is a major factor driving consumers’ increasing reliance on digital shopping channels, and mobile devices are among the most popular devices used to shop and pay,” according to the April 2020 Remote Payments report. “Our survey found that 53.3 percent of all consumers used their mobile devices to help them complete their most recent purchases, regardless of channel.”



The How We Shop Report, a PYMNTS collaboration with PayPal, aims to understand how consumers of all ages and incomes are shifting to shopping and paying online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research builds on a series of studies conducted since March, surveying more than 16,000 consumers on how their shopping habits and payments preferences are changing as the crisis continues. This report focuses on our latest survey of 2,163 respondents and examines how their increased appetite for online commerce and digital touchless methods, such as QR codes, contactless cards and digital wallets, is poised to shape the post-pandemic economy.