2021 Consumer Trends: Mobile Payment Adoption is Impacting Rewards Strategy


Whether you call it the new normal or the next normal, here we are. We’ve all been changed by this shared experience, and businesses must adjust their customer acquisition, retention and satisfaction strategies to match evolving shopper behavior.

This pivot is particularly essential to businesses with reward-based programs, such as rebates, cash-back, gift-card-with-purchase offers and more. Why? Because the way people prefer to shop and pay reveals the type of incentives they value most.

Here are the two top shopping trends that can help you assess your customer incentives strategy— and learn what today’s consumers really want.

TREND 1: Online shopping is up—for good

Since Americans started sheltering in place, there has been a 252% increase in online shopping.1 And this consumer trend isn’t temporary—McKinsey reports that over 65% of consumers express a high intention to continue shopping this way.2

Here are a few of their findings:

  • 80 million consumers have switched from shopping for retail products in-store to buying them online.
  • 26 million have shifted to shopping for groceries online instead of in-store.
  • 19 million have shifted from dining in restaurants to ordering from eateries online or via an app3.

This online shopping shift makes a strong case for increasing customer engagement by meeting customers where they are. Give them the online shopping experience they prefer. Enable mobile payments. And increase the use of digital promotional strategies and the digital rewards people prefer. This is how you better connect with consumers in 2021.

Rewards and rewards best practices

Given these new consumer preferences, your 2021 marketing strategy should include digital promotions and rewards. Whether it's online or in-app, use desirable, eye-catching incentives. Your best bets are popular Mastercard® and Visa® virtual prepaid cards or single-merchant eGift cards. People love them, and they offer your brand a great way to connect directly with your customers.

Remember: As more and more people shop online, they’ll naturally favor digital rewards that arrive quickly and satisfy their desire for nearly-instant gratification.

  • Enjoy real-time and fast engagement, creating an instant connection.
  • Optimize prime smartphone real estate in mobile wallets, emails or texts.
  • Keep your reward at their fingertips, so it’s easy to use either online or in-store.
  • Encourage spending the reward back with you for another meaningful touchpoint.
  • Customise Mastercard and Visa virtual prepaid cards with your logo so they work harder for your brand.

TREND 2: Fewer payments happen face-to-face

Masks, hand sanitizer and social distancing are all part of the new normal for the foreseeable future. Along with avoiding handshakes, consumers will continue to avoid cash and, even, the use of plastic cards. That’s why mobile wallets are finally gaining popularity in the US: 55% of American adults reported using them since the pandemic started—up from 35%.1

There’s also pressure on merchants to have in-store POS systems that accept contactless payments. According to a recent PYMNTS and PayPal study3, “60% of shoppers say they would be more willing to shop in stores if retailers allowed them to pay using digital payment technologies, such as digital wallets, QR codes and POS credit options.”.

Meet your customers where they are

As consumers increasingly go contactless, your reward cards can, too. Virtual rewards can be added mobile wallets from Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay. With just a tap of their smartphones, consumers can use their digital rewards—and stay connected to your brand. Plus, digital rewards can be customized with your brand, so your customers will think of you every time they use one of their rewards.

It’s time to talk rewards strategy

Now is the time to adjust your 2021 marketing plans to follow the consumer trends. And the most successful reward-based promotions will meet your customers where they are—online, on-device and in-app.

Our incentives experts are here to help you build a reward strategy that will motivate customers in 2021 and beyond, so let’s start a rewards solutions conversation. To acquire, retain and satisfy customers, send a note or call us at 1300 883 667

1. COVID US Consumer Preferences Study, on behalf of Blackhawk Network, May 2020

2. Consumer Sentiment and Behavior Continue to Reflect the Uncertainty of the COVID-19 Crisis, McKinsey.com, October 2020

3. New Data: Five Payments Innovations For Winning The Digital-First Shopper, PYMNTS.com, November 2020

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