The research indicates that the United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, Singapore and Brazil are especially forward thinking.
One in four small businesses plan to start accepting digital currencies such as Bitcoin this year, a new Visa survey has revealed.
The research indicates that the United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, Singapore and Brazil are especially forward thinking — with more than 30% of merchants in these countries set to support crypto payments in the coming months.
But it's more of a mixed picture elsewhere. Just 19% of small businesses in the U.S. are planning to follow suit, falling to 8% in Canada.
Overall, 73% of merchants polled for the Visa Back to Business Global Study said "new forms of digital payments are fundamental to their growth" — especially as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Some 90% of small businesses that have an online presence said their company's survival during COVID-19 was linked to "increased efforts to sell via e-commerce" — and on average, 52% of their revenue had come from online channels over the past three months.
Cash increasingly fell by the wayside early on in the pandemic, amid concerns that banknotes and coins could cause the virus to spread.
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Of course, there is an important distinction to make here. "Cashless" refers to use of credit cards and mobile-based methods such as Apple Pay — although cryptocurrencies do fall into this category, too. Visa executive Lisa Mundy explained:
"Payments are no longer about simply completing a sale. It's about creating a simple and secure experience that reflects one's brand across channels and provides utility to both the business and its customer. The digital capabilities that small businesses built up during the pandemic – from contactless to e-commerce – helped them pivot and survive and, by continuing to build on this foundation, can now help them find new growth and thrive."
And at this point, it's worth looking at the stats from a consumer's point of view. Some 16% said they are already completely cashless, while 25% expect to have reached this milestone within two years. In a sign that some people remain wedded to paper money, 53% believe they'll be digital only in the next decade. The top benefits cited by shoppers include an easier experience, a reduced risk of robbery, and added convenience.
Here's another intriguing factoid: 59% of Gen Z consumers said they had abandoned a purchase in a physical store because digital payments weren't accepted. In 2022 and beyond, businesses could end up being punished for failing to keep up with the times.
It's fair to say that cryptocurrencies are yet to punch through as a payment method. The volatility of digital assets such as Bitcoin and Ether may be a big reason here — not least because they can easily rise or fall by 20% in the space of a week.
Nonetheless, PayPal now allows shoppers in the U.S. and the U.K. to use BTC, ETH, LTC and BCH at millions of merchants around the world. Visa and Mastercard have also been making a concerted effort to embrace digital assets — with a number of exchanges launching crypto debit cards of late.