Fintech Spotlight
February 25, 2021

Fintech Forecast: 3 Trends to Watch This Year

It’s finally 2021, and what a doozy it’s been already! A lot has happened in fintech already, but we’re optimistic about what’s yet to unfold over the next year. The industry has had an explosive year in 2020 that’s only going to continue to grow throughout 2021.  While keeping up with fintech trends can feel like drinking from a fire hose, here are three trends we’re forecasting to watch grow in 2021:

Buy Online, Drive Up for Pick-up

As social distancing took hold last year, retailers wanted to find a way to boost sales while minimizing foot traffic. Retailers responded by quickly shifting the emphasis on in-store experiences and ramping up their online and mobile capabilities to make it easier for “Buy Now, Pick-up In-store,” which had become an increasingly popular option. It played a pivotal role during the pandemic, as they expanded to “Buy Online, Drive Up for Pick-up” so consumers wouldn’t have to step in store. 

Retailers like Target and Walmart and restaurants like Chipotle and Domino’s had strong applications and processes that made it fast and simple for customers to place and obtain orders. Even as storefronts eventually ease back into greater foot traffic, we still see this trend continuing to take off in 2021 for the sheer convenience it affords consumers.

East Meets West for Digital Payments

Asia has been far and away the global leader for innovation in digital and mobile payments, especially in China and India. From WeChat Pay and AliPay to RazorPay and Paytm, mobile payments have been embraced relatively quickly. One survey found that by the end of 2017, 47.1 percent of China’s rural populations were using mobile payment services such as WePay Chat and Alipay and by 2018, 92% of residents in China’s large cities were using them as their main means of payments. S&P’s research found that Indian mobile-payment transactions grew 163 percent to $287 billion in 2019. And that’s only continued to accelerate during the pandemic.  

Meanwhile in the US, contactless payments and digital wallet adoption rates had been fairly low prior to COVID-19, even with over 80 percent of Americans owning a smartphone. The pandemic has ramped up American adoption of mobile payments: Apple Pay saw a 15 percent growth, fueled by increasing contactless payments adoption during COVID-19. We see the US on track to embracing more mobile, contactless payments this year by adopting some of the best practices from Asia, like the concept of a "SuperApp." 

SuperApps like WeChat started out by offering chat and expanded to offer a variety of other features including payments, becoming the main way for people to do everything. And by everything, we mean everything from reserving spots in a playground during covid or a table at a restaurant to finding and paying for parking. They could also use these chat apps to generate QR codes for paying friends and favorite merchants. We will start seeing more of this type of "SuperApp" in the US, and it’s already starting with the revamped Google Pay app, Cash app, and PayPal. You’ll also increasingly see the use of QR codes for payments, expanded payments and shopping experiences within social and widgets. 

Greater Payments Platform Integration

As more technologies try to become “Super Apps,” we’ll also see more companies integrating with payments platforms to facilitate more transactions and purchases. It’s part of the movement where all companies will essentially become a fintech company, offering integrated payments within their applications. Payments platforms (like Branch’s Employer Payments Platform!) offer APIs as well as low code-no code widgets to create more seamless transaction experiences within their apps. This can range from in-app shopping experiences for consumers to in-app payment experiences for gig workers.

Accelerating when and how people get paid will not only continue to be a priority for Branch, but also for companies across industries. Companies are also increasingly interested in how payments platform integrations can also expedite transactions to pay for services and needs in real-time. There are so many sectors that have slower, less frequent paycycles that leave their employees footing a lot of upfront expenses before they get paid, ranging from logistics and the gig economy to even the creator industry. To remedy those issues without having to build complicated payments systems, we’ll see more companies integrate with a payments platform to ramp up payments time and expand their payments offerings.

These are just a few (among many!) trends that will take hold this year—and we'll be keeping our eyes on what comes next.

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