The payment tech most-wanted by British consumers

Attitudes to cash have changed during the pandemic, with the majority of UK consumers now preferring to go cashless.

As the UK marches towards a cashless future, what payment methods are we likely to embrace? Will credit and debit cards be binned in favour of fingerprints and face scans or are consumers still too wary about biometric options?

A survey we ran recently among 1,000 working age consumers suggests that Brits – or at least the younger ones – are ready to adopt new payment technology. Almost half of Gen Z (aged 18-25) say they would ‘probably’ or ‘definitely’ use biometric payment options, while only 22% say they would not (the others are undecided).

47% of Gen Z are likely to adopt biometric payment options

Millennials (aged 26-40) are also mainly in favour, with 44% saying they would pay with their hand, face, cornea or voice, and 29% saying they wouldn’t. Gen X (aged 41-55) are more split, with 39% in favour of biometric payments and 31% against. Boomers (aged 56-65) are the only demographic more likely to reject biometric payments (41%) than they are to accept them (31%).

The reasons the different age groups give for not wanting to adopt this emerging technology vary. The overriding concern among Brits is around fraud; 41% worry their biometric identity could be stolen. It’s certainly an issue that providers will need to work hard to address – it’s one thing having your password or pin compromised but quite another if it’s your fingerprint or voice (the latter are not so easily changed!). 

Gen Z particularly over-index for worrying about having their biometric identity stolen (51.5%), as well as for the possibility that it could put their physical person in danger (38%) – those finger-chopping fears still exist.

It’s interesting that older generations are less concerned about these risks, and have different reasons for objecting to biometric payments. Gen X over-index for saying it makes them “feel like big brother is watching” (41%) and Boomers over-index for simply not seeing any benefit in the technology (42%).

Leave your wallet at home

Providers who are leading the way with biometric payment options include Amazon, who have launched Amazon One in the US, which lets shoppers pay with their palm print at Amazon stores and branches of Whole Foods Market. Meanwhile, Dutch FinTech PayByFace lets people pay by simply looking into a point-of-sale (POS) system, and Fluent.ai provides voice recognition tech that allows people to make payments via smart speakers and devices.

Credit: PayByFace

These solutions mean you can leave your wallet and phone at home – all you need to pay is your body. According to 29% of Brits, that’s a big plus point for biometric payment options, but the main reason given for wanting to make the switch to biometric is that it’s more secure (41%).

Gen Z over-index for choosing biometric payment because it’s a quicker way to pay (40%), while Boomers are attracted to it because it means they don’t have to remember passwords or pins (42%). Gen X, meanwhile, like the idea of biometric payment because “it’s futuristic” (28%).  

Will crypto ever be king?

Crypto currency has long been touted as the future of money but we are yet to see it take hold in any meaningful way. There are still only a small number of retailers that accept Bitcoin in the UK, but the market could be about to open up thanks to a partnership between Visa and 50 of the leading crypto platforms. The initiative will make it easy to convert and spend digital currency at 70 million merchants worldwide using a crypto-linked visa card. 

Credit: Coinbase

Just over 32% of Brits say they would be ‘fairly’ or ‘very’ likely to start using cryptocurrency if it was a widely-accepted form of payment that could be used with a debit card. A further 34% are not sure, while 33% say they’re fairly or very unlikely to use it. 

46% of Gen Z would use a crypto-linked debit card

Gen Z show the most enthusiasm for crypto, with 46% likely to use it and only 15% unlikely, but interest in using digital currency to pay for day-to-day items declines with age. Boomers are the least interested, with 56% of people in this age group unlikely to use it and only 18% likely.  

Currently, just 1% of UK consumers say cryptocurrency is their favourite way to pay for things online, although this is up from 0.5% in January 2020. 

The future of credit

New-style Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) providers that let shoppers pay for their purchases in three or four interest-free installments are changing the face of credit in the UK. Despite the introduction of tougher regulation to control the industry, consumers continue to show growing interest in these payment options.

Earlier this year, we found that almost 49% of consumers would spend more using BNPL knowing that credit checks had taken place. And now there are even more flexible BNPL solutions coming to market. Klarna has introduced one-time virtual debit cards that let UK users buy products at any online merchant, even if they’re not partnered with the Swedish FinTech. Curve is getting in on the act, too, with its planned launch of Curve Credit, giving Curve card users the option to split eligible transactions into installments.

It appears likely that these offerings will be successful; 40% of people say if it was easy to break down any payment into interest-free installments, they would do it ‘fairly’ or ‘very’ frequently. A further 30% are not sure how much they’d utilise the option, indicating opportunity for marketers who can position it attractively.  

Most interested in BNPL are the Millennials, half of whom say they’d frequently use it if it could easily be applied to purchases both online and offline. Meanwhile, Gen Xers are the most undecided (35%), and Boomers are least likely to make use of it (only 22% would do so with any frequency). 

What’s clear, is that the more convenient, quick and secure providers can make digital payments, the more consumers will adopt them. Young people especially are open to new ways to pay, and reducing friction will be the key to winning them over.  

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Bel Booker

Senior Content Writer 

Bel has a background in newspaper and magazine journalism but loves to geek-out with Attest consumer data to write in-depth reports. Inherently nosy, she's endlessly excited to pose questions to Attest's audience of 100m global consumers. She also likes cake.

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