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Pandemic Payments: Contactless ‘Used By Almost Everyone’ Today

The Covid crisis has undoubtedly changed consumers’ shopping habits—but it’s also illuminated some common ground between the sexes.

At a webinar hosted by the CardLinx Association, a trade group for digital commerce players, payments solutions provider daVinci Payments’ shared data showing that men and women are demonstrating similar behaviors when it comes to paying for purchases during the pandemic.

“It’s not too shocking to see that Covid has been a highly stressful, prolonged and game-changing situation that has significantly narrowed the differences in how men and women shop,” daVinci CEO David Josephs said, adding that “those differences have been narrowed like no time in modern history.”

A survey of more than 1,000 U.S. shoppers conducted on Oct. 1-2 revealed, not surprisingly, that the majority of modern retail transactions across the board are taking place online. What’s more, 74 percent of women and 68 percent of men reported making most of their web purchases via their mobile devices—an increase of 31 percentage points and nearly 50 percentage points, respectively, from June.

Shoppers’ smartphones have become near extensions of their bodies as the long months at home have worn on, offering them a lifeline to the outside world of friends, family and retail brands that they’ve been unable or unwilling to visit in person.

Anxieties about the spread of the coronavirus continue to run deep, it seems, as daVinci’s data also revealed extremely high adoption of contactless payment methods. About three-fifths of male and female shoppers reported making the majority of their purchases through contactless payment services like Apple Pay or Google Pay in October, up from just 19 percent of women and 11 percent of men three months prior.

“At the end of 2019 and earlier in 2020, contactless payments were only used by early adopters,” Josephs said. “Today they’re used by almost everyone,” he added, and most of the surveyed shoppers copped to using these services to conduct the majority of their in-person transactions.

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Loyalty programs have also emerged as a key strategy for retailers during the pandemic, “not just a nice-to-have tool to reward and secure your best customers,” added Rodney Mason, daVinci’s chief marketing officer. Most men and women now expect to be rewarded for their patronage, and “they’re not just looking at a brand anymore and saying, ‘I want this brand, it aligns with me,’” he said.

In looking at two basically equivalent brands with a loyalty program representing their only point of difference, 88 percent of women and 83 percent of men said they would choose the brand that offered rewards, the research revealed.

Amazon is the loyalty leader, Mason said, as 81 percent of adult women and 77 percent of adult men are currently Amazon Prime members. They return to the site for the lightning-fast shipping that’s included with their membership, along with the wide selection of products, competitive prices and music and video content. What’s more, 67 percent of women and 64 percent of men reported that they make about two-thirds of their online purchases on the marketplace, and said that it was their No. 1 venue for product discovery.

Both gender cohorts cited convenience as their top reason for shopping online, beating out price as the primary consideration. “Covid has brought on a lot of extra work and things that people have to do in their everyday lives,” Mason said, from facilitating distanced learning for their youngsters or working from home themselves. These changes have left little time for in-person errands, like stopping by the grocery store on the way home from work.

Cost is still the second-most impactful factor in consumers’ decisions to shop online, as the web offers so many choices that it’s easy to compare prices between retailers and spring for the cheapest option. Safety came in at No. 3, with many shoppers still anxious about the potential for infection at brick-and-mortar stores. Selection was the fourth most-cited consideration, weighing slightly more heavily on female shoppers’ minds than their male counterparts.

There are some areas where men’s and women’s mindsets do deviate, daVinci’s data revealed. All shoppers reported being incentivized by social media, and both men (42 percent) and women (58 percent) reported being swayed most heavily by posts from friends and family, with women ranking their loved ones’ influence higher. More than one-third of consumers from both groups reported being convinced to buy products by ads on social platforms, while professional experts were the No. 3 source for recommendations, garnering interest from 28 percent of women and 29 percent of men. Men demonstrated a weaker affinity for influencers (16 percent) than women (20 percent). Notably, one-fifth of women fingered posts from savings apps as influential, compared with just 10 percent of men. Celebrities ranked last with both genders, with 9 percent of men and 10 percent of women saying these high-profile users’ posts persuaded them to purchase.

Women reported a greater affinity for shopping services than men, with 62 percent of female shoppers inclined to join Instacart, Shipt, Amazon Fresh and other convenience-focused membership programs than men (54 percent).

That could be because men are doubtful that the pandemic’s challenges will prove pervasive in 2021. Most men (55 percent) are confident that normal life will resume by September, while 51 percent of female shoppers do not see a return to the status quo before 2022.

The less-rosy outlook reported by many women could be rooted in the fact that they have faced greater financial strain over the course of the past year. About one-third of all shoppers reported feeling the effects of the economic slowdown during 2020, but 37 percent of women reported making less than they did in 2019, while 33 percent of men said the same.