Opinion Series

Andrew Doukanaris: digital payments in a post-covid world

March 22, 2021

The Opinion Series aims to share knowledge, provoke debate and stimulate thought and conversation about relevant industry topics. The blogs reflect a range of perspectives from our team here at Pomelo Pay. We discuss digital payments in a post-Covid world with our Chairman, Andrew Doukanaris.

Andrew Doukanaris is a very experienced individual in the Fintech and Payments sector. Having previously worked in London, Singapore and San Francisco, he has been responsible for global payments, loyalty, strategy development and deployment across 40,000 outlets worldwide when working for the Chevron, Texaco and Caltex brands. Andrew is passionate about making payments easier and more transparent for consumers, merchants and banks. He has previously spoken and panel hosted numerous events internationally and is a regular contributor to various committees from Brexit to the future of payments.

Hello Andrew, welcome to the Opinion Series. We’re excited to talk about digital payments with you.

Of course. Digitalisation is changing the world and the pandemic has accelerated this, so I am looking forward to discussing the topics around this.

Recently, Boris Johnson announced the roadmap to getting the UK out of the lockdown. What is the best way for British businesses to implement measures that can protect both customers and revenues as the UK unlocks?

People want to feel safe and secure and that means businesses will need to take a holistic approach: it's not just about payments, it's also about providing people with multiple options to pay.

Take a shop for example, where you queue up to try some clothes on. And then queue up again to pay. Where is the convenience for the customer? We should be able to scan items and integrate the whole shopping experience so you don’t have to queue time and time again.

I went to the supermarket yesterday and people were bunching-up. The social distancing was typically falling apart around the check-out. Even when you go to a restaurant, if the bill is more than £100, then you have to take the terminal with nowhere to wipe your card before putting it back into your wallet. It all falls apart at the last minute despite having to wear a mask and take other precautions.

But if you go into an Apple store there isn't a counter and employees have handheld devices for you to pay. We're used to it already, so it's just getting people over that friction hurdle. The shopping experience, the payment experience and the checkout experience all needs to be joined-up and improved.

How do you think customers and merchants have responded to payments in the last year?

Consumers have had much more power on how they want to pay. And people adapt fairly quickly when they have no choice. In turn, the merchant has had to adapt, rethink and realise that they have to give more options to take payments, including accepting digital payments. For example, if one coffee is £2 and the lower limit was £5, there would be a problem at the check-out, so eliminating this lower card limit solves this problem.

Absolutely, we’ve all had to adapt during the pandemic! What do you think will play a vital role in helping to instill customer confidence in the post Covid-19 world?

Feeling safe and secure is the most important after the year that we’ve had.

Let’s take an ecommerce and a shop – there needs to be an omni-channel experience whether you are at home or in the store. Consumers want to feel more comfortable and they hope that the experience is the same across online and offline channels – secure, safe, that there is no fraud and things won't cost more to buy in a shop than online as well as generally having a clean environment.

Click and collect or drive-throughs are brilliant too because you are keeping people safe by taking their shopping to their car.

And then we have bars and restaurants. Pre-Covid, there were always groups of people packed together. Some places have introduced ordering from a table. Customers will ask themselves “can I order before I get there?” post-Covid. The theatre and cinema are great examples of this. Everyone rushed for their interval drinks. It will be tricky, but you can take some of the pain away by pre-ordering so it'll be safer. Going forward, we need to look at how we can build these outlets to accommodate that.

And with these new measures being introduced, do you think QR Codes will become a mainstream payment method in 2021?

It's taken a long time for people to trust new technology. First it was a cheque, then it was a signature, then it was a pin number and now we're saying “don't worry about a pin… just tap”. So, telling people to use their phone to make payment because you don't need a card anymore isn’t something that will happen overnight as people need to feel comfortable and familiar with it.

Covid has definitely accelerated the usage of QR codes – they may have been around for a while but they have typically been used more in industry rather than with consumer-facing payments. And the NHS track and trace system has been based on QR codes too, building familiarity. It takes time for people to adopt and adapt but, yes, we are definitely getting there and seeing more of the QR codes on a daily basis.

Aside from Covid, merchants realise the benefits of QR codes, because they’re not having to invest in a terminal too.

Lockdown measures have propelled businesses to accept contactless and digital payments. Was going digital a temporary solution for businesses during Covid-19?

For some, maybe. But businesses should realise how much easier it is to manage their business digitally rather than spend three hours or so simply counting cash. I think for a lot of businesses they'll stick to digital payments rather than going back. Of course, they have to accept cash as it's a legal tender, but they’re probably less comfortable doing so now. It’s the customer that’s driving this change too because they want things to be cashless and merchants will have seen the benefit of that.

We must admit… it’s definitely easier and quicker when it’s a cashless check out! On average, a Briton now goes 44 days without handling cash. Will cash usage increase again post-lockdown?

Billions have been spent over the years in the digital payment industry on marketing and advertising and it took a pandemic to move from cash to digital payments by 20% in one year. It just goes to show that people are willing and able to and the technology is there to handle it. If you think 7,000 transactions are being handled in one second and where it was a few years ago, to where we are now, it is phenomenal. We want people to continue in a safe, secure and manageable way when it comes to their money and being paid. Hopefully that number increases when shops reopen.

A lot of British SMEs have been quick to adapt the way they do business and their payment systems in response to Covid-19. And there’s a lot to keep up with! What’s your advice to SMEs who are entering a post-lockdown world?

If you're an SME, go for the latest technology. It provides convenience, attracts a bigger base, you bring more people in and it's no secret that if you go into a store with a card, you are more likely to spend more than with cash.

Don't make things difficult for both the customers and yourself. Cover all grounds for your customers and save yourself the time of counting cash at the end. The turning point was three years ago when paying by card overtook paying with cash – the technology was there before Covid but has only just been brought to the surface because of the pandemic.

About Pomelo Pay

Pomelo Pay is a hardware-free digital payments service provider, founded in 2017 by a team of financial services and tech specialists. As a principal member of Mastercard, regulated by the FCA, and with PCI at Level 1, it is a trusted partner of businesses, big and small, across the UK and Asia.

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